How to Work Abroad – Five Suggestions

As we head into the final few months of the spring semester, many soon-to-be graduates are thinking about what they will be doing next year. It’s the question that their parents, friends and family members all continually pester them with: What will you do next?

For many graduates, traveling abroad to work in a foreign country is an attractive alternative to staying in the United States and getting a “regular” job. Working abroad simultaneously gives new grads work experience and language experience. Furthermore, for those who have dreamed of traveling and having a few adventures, there’s no better time to do it than at the beginning of one’s career, when new homes, families and careers have yet to be established.

How do you work abroad as an American citizen? Here are five suggestions for Americans who want to work abroad.


BUNAC is an organization that specializes in helping recent graduates and young professionals to work and live abroad. BUNAC helps students and graduates to line up the right paperwork, visas and job arrangements to work abroad. At the time of writing, American citizens working through BUNAC have the option to work abroad in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or Ireland.

2. Join the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps is a decades-old program designed by the U.S. federal government to provide both aid and cultural exchange in poor areas abroad. Working for the Peace Corps is not anything like working through BUNAC; in the case of the latter, you will find yourself in a Western, English-speaking country in working conditions much like those in the United States. In the case of the former, you will likely be in a third-world nation, which may or may not have basic luxuries like running water and continuous electricity.

Not everyone who applies to the Peace Corps is accepted. At any given time, the Corps is looking for individuals with specific skills that can be used in poor and/or remote areas abroad. For example, if you speak sign language, the Peace Corps might be able to place you in a school for deaf children somewhere in Africa. If you are an environmental engineer, the Peace Corps can place you somewhere in need of fresh, clean water.

The vast majority of Peace Corps positions require four-year degrees; in fact, only 10 percent of the positions in the Peace Corps are open to those without a four-year degree. However, in certain cases, an associate degree supported by several years of work experience can make up for the lack of a traditional degree. For example, a nurse with an associate degree and five years of work experience is much more likely to be placed somewhere within the Peace Corps than a nurse with an associate degree and no work experience.

3. Teaching English Abroad

One popular option for new grads is to teach English abroad. There are numerous programs in a variety of countries that are hungry for native English speakers and will pay handsomely for English teachers. In most cases, you don’t need any teaching experience to get one of these jobs. Generally, you just need to be a native speaker of English and have a four-year degree.

From teaching elementary school students in Chile to high school students in Korea, jobs teaching English are available on almost every continent. Teaching English abroad is a great way to see a foreign country from the “inside,” all while learning a new language and teaching English to local citizens.

4. Work as an Au Pair

If you like children but would rather play with them than teach them English, being an au pair might be a good way for you to work abroad. An au pair is essentially a live-in nanny who stays in a family’s home to care for their children. Typically young females, au pairs enjoy their living expenses being covered while earning an additional $100 per week. Although $100 per week isn’t much, it’s enough extra cash to see the local sights while you live abroad.

5. Work for the Federal Government

Besides the Peace Corps, there are other ways to work abroad under the U.S. government. Virtually all governmental departments have at least a few job opportunities abroad. For example, the U.S. military is a huge and global organization. From psychologists in Japan to pool lifeguards in Italy, the U.S. military employs hundreds of thousands of Americans at military bases around the world. Although many of these civilian employees of the Armed Services work in the United States, there are also many positions open abroad.

Another example of working for the federal government abroad is working for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) employs many U.S. citizens to work and live abroad to study diseases and health problems. Many of the areas where the CDC sends employees are remote, third world countries — perfect for a young professional with a sense of adventure.

These five suggestions represent a good starting point for anyone interested in living and working abroad. Before jumping in, do some research ahead of time to find out what kinds of requirements there might be and what types of experiences others have had. For instance, the quality of job experience and pay varies greatly for individuals who teach English abroad. Conduct your own investigation before coming to a conclusion about which agency would be best for you.