Moving and working abroad was the best decision I made for myself 8 years ago. In that time, I've worked as a volunteer, a tour guide, a yacht stew, an English teacher and a few more short term gigs in between. I still live abroad, currently in Vietnam, but now work remotely running this site to help get you all abroad as well.
My journey has taken me around the world and working in more industries than I honestly thought possible. And to be blunt, it's been fucking incredible.
I started out as a Peace Corps volunteer fresh out of university and really thought that the only way I could sustainably be abroad was to work for the government. That illusion was busted just a few weeks into my service. Most of my fellow volunteers were older than me and a few had experience working abroad in different ways, mostly as English teachers throughout Asia.
Thus begun a typical pattern for me: Get a job abroad, meet people with different experience, follow their advice, move to a new country, get a job in the industry they recommend. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I realized once I became engrossed in the expat bubble, most of the good stuff came from word of mouth, passed down from one traveler to the other. On one hand, there's a lot of beauty in that way of gathering information. On the other hand, it's an exhausting process that could take you years to stumbled across something that sticks.
Insert Girls Gone Working, your one stop website created to show you the huge variety of work possibilities abroad and also what it's like living in various cities with some helpful expat and nomad tips sprinkled in.
So without further ado, here's 9 of the best jobs abroad based on personal experience and the experience of trustworthy pals.
Typically, people immediately think English teacher but they're forgetting a pretty amazing gig as an international school teacher. Aside from both being teachers, there aren't many other commonalities between the jobs.
-International School Teacher:
The easiest way to understand what it looks like being an international school teacher is to think about a teacher in your home country. Pick that teacher up and put him or her in a foreign country and you've got it. In most cases, the responsibilities and classroom will look the same. You'll teach math, science, literature, etc. just as you would at home.
These teachers tend to also teach in their native language to students who also speak that language. Most are foreign students whose parents have come to that country for business or as expats as well. You might also have local students but with high or fluent levels of the language you teach in.
For example, if you're hired at the American International School in Ho Chi Minh City, you'll teach in English and your students are expected to already speak English as well. But, if you're hired to teach at a Dutch International School in St. Maarten, you'll teach in Dutch and your students are expected to know Dutch.
The requirements to teach an international school will vary but in general, you're expected to be a certified teacher in your home country.
On the contrary, as an English teacher, you're teaching your students English. Personally, I prefer to teach young students, so if you also go that route you'll be focused on teaching them the basics, like how to follow directions in English, numbers, colors, and basic sentence patterns. For older students, you'd focus more on grammar and how to have conversations in English.
In some cases, you might also teach math, science and other subjects, but again, with the goal of teaching English vocabulary to your students.
The requirements to teach English vary from country to country but in general, you're expected to either be from a native English speaking country or prove you have a near native level. Some countries are more lenient on this, especially in Asia. Most schools also ask that you're TEFL certified before being hired.
Head here to browse country-specific guides to teaching English around the world.
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This title also encompasses a wide variety of jobs. Generally, as a volunteer, you'd commit to living and working somewhere for a short period of time, usually 1-3 months. This is simply because most countries allow tourists to be in country for up to 3 months without having to leave and re-enter or apply for a long-term visa.
Volunteering abroad can be amazing or it can be harmful. My biggest tip is before you apply for any type of volunteer work, you're realistic with yourself if you have the necessary qualifications to do the work.
For example, it was a really popular thing when I was in high school for students to go abroad for a week or so and do construction work. Sure, I grew up in a small town and some of the students did have experience working construction but a vast majority of the people who went did not. To be fair I'm not pretending to be better than these high schoolers since I typically begged to go on these trips but my parents always told me no.
I now realize that was definitely for the best. I can hardly nail 2 boards together, let alone be of any assistance building a structure that's meant to be safe for people to be inside. Not only do these types of volunteer programs sometimes attract the wrong people for the job but they can also take away a salary for a someone in country to do the job.
On the other hand, volunteering to help out at a hotel in exchange for free accomodation or teaching a specific skills that locals might not have access to (i.e. teaching English in smaller towns) can be great cultural experiences for the places that host you and also for yourself.
If you're from the U.S. and are interested in volunteering abroad long-term, I'd highly suggest the Peace Corps. For any nationality looking for short-term gigs around the world in a variety of industries, Workaway and Worldpackers are my go-to platforms.
You might also consider getting involved with Nomads Giving Back! They're a great community of nomads providing volunteer support around the world.
If you prefer aim to keep working in your same industry, only in a foreign country, read this article for some tips to make that happen!
3. Medical Industry
If you're a trained veterinary or nurse, you can take your experience around the world.
These gigs seem to range from permanent positions to one or two months so it really depends on what you're looking for. The most important key to getting hired abroad is that you have relevant training, degrees and/or documents to prove you can do the job you're applying for.
It's also important that you speak the native language or a common international language, depending on the region.
Learn more about how to work abroad as a veterinary nurse here.
Or find out how to get hired as a registered nurse abroad here.
4. Tour Guide
Being a tour guide is a great job, especially for an outgoing person that enjoys being surrounded by new people. Tour guides typically have high energy levels and are good at getting the party started.
My time as a tour guide in the San Blas Islands was by far the most fun job I have had. Although, to be honest, after 8 months of it, I was absolutely exhausted. This type of tour was fast paced with a high turn over of guests, meaning, I was always meeting people at height of their excitement. By the time the guests were worn out, they were going back home but I was receiving a new, excited group. If that sounds like fun to you, most popular tourists spots have a lot of opportunities but in my experience, they're usually filled in-person.
For a more slow paced but incredible experience, being an overland tour guide sounds like a dream job. As an overland tour guide, you'd travel with the same group of tourists over multiple countries or even throughout entire continents. Tours range from a month to 6 months. Since it's all overland, that means you or your co-guide drive the bus that everyone travels in.
Sound like a job for you? Learn more about how to become an overland tour guide.
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While I was tour guiding, I kept meeting great guests who all worked on yachts. Working on a yacht had never occurred to me before (this was before I had heard of Below Deck) and I was very intrigued. Once I decided to get out of guiding, I headed to France to give yachting a chance.
There's a lot of work opportunities on a yacht, especially a mega yacht. The yacht I worked on was about the size of a football field and I'd guess had at least 30 people working on it.
Most people new to the industry would start off as a stewardess, deckhand or chef. A stewardess takes care of everything on the interior- think housekeeping and service. A deckhand takes care of everything on the exterior, keeping the boat sparkling clean to the public and making sure you sail and dock smoothly.
The yachting world is a great one to dive into if you have a keen eye for detail and follow directions well. In my experience, it's a strict industry, based a lot on outward appearances, but you get paid well and have all your living expenses covered while you're onboard. You also get to travel to a lot of amazing places, although the amount of time you'd be able to explore these places varies greatly based on your boat owners and captain.
Check out this detailed guide to learn how to get hired as a yacht stewardess.
6. Au Pair
An au pair is a nanny or live-in sitter who comes from a foreign country. Typically as an au pair, you live with the family you work for, giving a great chance at fully immersing into the local country.
Most au pairs are hired to not only look after the children, but to also teach the children something. For example, another language, a sport, or music. Your responsibilities, salary, and the amount of time you're expected to work varies greatly from country to country and even family to family.
7. Scuba Dive Instructor
This one has always been a not so secret dream of mine. I love the idea of taking my job to beautiful tropical locations and getting paid to dive.
Before you get too excited, this is one of the hardest jobs to get, as it takes a while to accumulate all of the training it takes to become a certified instructor. A lot of people choose to work in exchange for free dives to knock out two birds with one stone.
A key tip to getting hired abroad as a dive instructor is by having a wide range of experience. Meaning, you've dived in a variety of conditions giving you the expertise to lead with confidence.
Read the complete guide about becoming a PADI Certified Scuba Dive Instructor here.
8. Yoga Instructor
There are actually a few different avenues you can go about to teach yoga abroad. First things first though, make sure you have some sort of certification to back you up, unless you plan to teach only informally to friends.
To work abroad as a yoga instructor, you could teach informally, at a studio, at a hotel or resort, or host workshops on-the-go as you travel.
The first and last option, would be the most informal and require the least amount of set-up, although, it would require you to consistently market yourself to your peers and find spaces to host your classes.
By working at a studio or resort, you would need to have at least a basic certification and be fluent in a language or two that most locals might not know.
To learn more about getting hired abroad as a yoga instructor abroad, read our guide.
9. Work & Holiday Visas
While not a job per say, these visas allow you to legally find work in a variety of industries within the country. Some countries have requirements as to what type of work is required or more likely, what type of work you're not allowed to do but for the most part, it's a pretty open agreement for you to come and work a year or so.
A variety of countries offer work & holiday, or sometimes called working holiday, visas but the most popular options are Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
They each have different requirements but for the most part the visa process is up front and done online, unlike many other visa applications that require a lot of back and forth at embassies.
And there you have it, a cheat sheet to some of the best jobs abroad!