Learning Abroad Center

Work Abroad

Working Abroad

Defining Work Abroad

  • Participants are paid
  • Positions are most common in non-career related work in the service and tourism sector or teaching English
  • Generally do not require the specific skills often necessary for internships
  • Not eligible for academic credit or financial aid

Steps to Working Abroad

  1. Read through the information and resources on the WIV web pages
  2. Set Goals (Length of time abroad, Finances, Types of work desired)
  3. Revise your resume or CV appropriately for the country in which you will be working
  4. Apply directly to a work abroad program or for a specific position abroad

    Legal Issues

    Questions to Consider

    Short-Term Work Opportunity vs. Long-Term Career Overseas

    • When do you want to go overseas: Now or a year from now? What is a realistic timetable?
    • What's more important: a prestigious career-oriented job or actually being overseas? In other words, are you willing to be a nanny or a hotel clerk as along as it is overseas?
    • Do you want or need more education before you go? Do the jobs you're interested in require a master's degree or teacher certification?
    • Do you need to get more experience in your career field before you try to find a job overseas?
    • Are you willing to volunteer or do you only want a paid job?
    • Are you considering going to just one country, one of several countries, or anywhere so long as it's overseas?
    • Have you been overseas before? If not, are you ready and willing to handle the cultural differences?

    Remember, the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to find a short-term or long-term job overseas.

    Things to Consider for Short-Term Work Abroad

    • Desired length of time abroad
    • Finding a position through a work program or independently
    • Financial situation
    • Desired location(s) and desired type of work
    • Goals for working abroad

    Long-Term Work Abroad

    Getting Started

    There are many resources to help you realize your dream of working abroad long-term. Before you begin, it is important to know the reality of working abroad.

    Those who find career-related work often start off working for an international company in the United States and are transferred to an office abroad.

    It can be very difficult to obtain a work permit to work legally in a foreign country. Employers usually have to prove that there are no national candidates qualified to perform the job and that the foreign worker is uniquely qualified. This is one of the reasons that Teaching English abroad has become one of the easiest and most popular ways to work abroad for an extended period of time.

    But don't let this discourage you. Many people are successful at finding long-term work abroad, but it does take perseverance.


    To obtain resident and legal work status in a country, usually:

    • You must already have a job waiting for you
    • You must have means to live in a country without working
    • You fulfill government criteria to establish a business
    • You are descended from or married to a national
    • You have lived legally in the country for a number of years for a reason acceptable to the government
    • You are willing to pay a fee to an organization that will assist you in obtaining a temporary work visa. Then it would be up to the employing company to sponsor you for longer. It is not guaranteed that the company you temporarily work for will sponsor you permanently. (e.g., BUNAC, USIT, Alliance Abroad)

    Long-Term Work Abroad Options

    US Department of State Foreign Service

    Foreign Service Specialists and Officers work at over 265 government posts worldwide, including embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions. To learn more about the Foreign Service, including the required Foreign Service Written Exam, visit the US Department of State Careers website.

    Learn more about long-term work abroad.

    Common Fields of International Employment

    Now that you know the reality of working abroad and have started to think about what you're looking for in an international career, start thinking about some of the fields where international employment is more likely:

    • Business & Banking
    • Criminal Justice/Law
    • Consulting Firms
    • Government
    • Healthcare
    • Infrastructure/Public Service
    • International Education
    • Nonprofit and Relief/Volunteer Agencies
    • Public Policy Initiatives
    • Technical Fields
    • Travel Industry

    –Adapted from Career Services at the College of St. Benedict/St. John's University

    Additional Resources