About 9.5 million US citizens live and work overseas, so there are many job opportunities out there. Finding a job abroad with no experience can be challenging but it can be done.
If you have a college degree, quite a few doors are open to you. Nonetheless, if you haven’t got a degree, you’ll still be able to find work overseas. There are some unique job opportunities available, but it’s crucial to do your research and be realistic about your expectations. That way, you won’t fall foul to fake overseas job scams or unscrupulous employers.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll highlight some of the most lucrative international job opportunities for people with limited work experience or few qualifications. We’ll also show you how to plan your overseas adventure wisely.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Can I Work Abroad If I Have No Experience?
- 2 Why Should I Teach English Overseas?
- 2.1 Which Countries Offer the Highest TEFL Salaries in 2018?
- 2.2 Countries That Don’t Require a Degree to Teach English
- 2.3 How to Choose a TEFL certificate
- 2.4 Is the TEFL Accredited?
- 2.5 How Long Does It Take to Get a TEFL?
- 2.6 How Much Does It Cost to Get a TEFL Certificate?
- 2.7 Where Can I Find TEFL Vacancies?
- 2.8 How to Avoid TEFL Scams
- 2.9 Questions to Ask your Employer
- 3 Au Pair Jobs Abroad
- 4 Unskilled Jobs Overseas
- 5 Should I Volunteer Overseas?
- 6 How to Plan Your Working Vacation
Can I Work Abroad If I Have No Experience?
Although you may lack formal work experience, you still have a lot to offer potential employers. Consider your strongest skills and attributes and look for a job that meshes well with these.
Also, consider your goals. What are you trying to achieve by working overseas? Will it boost your career? Do you want to travel a lot as part of your job? Is saving money important to you? This should help you decide on the appropriate location and type of work to aim for. In this article, we’ll discuss four overseas jobs that require little – or no – experience.
- English Language Teaching – As a native English speaker, you’ll already have a lot to offer to overseas employers. In some countries, you’ll need a degree to work as a teacher, whereas in others you’ll simply need a TEFL certificate.
- Au Pair – This is not a particularly well-paid job, but it can be a great “first step” for some young people looking to work abroad. You’ll need to have a flexible attitude, and – of course – you’ll need to love kids!
- Unskilled Labor – If you’re looking for reasonably paid, unskilled labor jobs, you could consider working in Australia or New Zealand. Many young US citizens are eligible to apply for a working holiday visa in these countries. You could try your hand at bar work, call center jobs, kitchen work, fruit picking, basic farming…the list goes on!
- Volunteering/Interning Overseas – If you need to earn money quickly, this option won’t be practical. However, if you’re keen to develop your skills, overseas internships in medicine, health, education, or conservation have the potential to boost your career. For example, some careers in the medical sector (phlebotomy) or the natural sciences (ecology) can be competitive to enter, so an internship on your resume may help you stand out.
if you haven’t got any work experience, these are your main options for finding work abroad. Let’s explore each option in a little more detail.
Why Should I Teach English Overseas?
Teaching English allows you to share your expertise with others in a fun environment. Although you’ll work very hard, you’ll experience a huge sense of satisfaction at the end of each day. TEFL teaching affords you leadership skills which can be transferred to many other careers.
In addition, TEFL teaching is a true cultural exchange. In many countries, you’ll work alongside a local teacher in your classroom. You’ll also meet the parents of the children you teach, so you’ll have the opportunity to really integrate with local people.
Teaching English overseas is more flexible than teaching English at home, as you won’t need much formal teacher training to do the job (although you will need to study for a TEFL certificate). Having said that, TEFL teaching is not for everyone.
Ask yourself whether you have the following attributes:
- Patience (with children and other staff)
- Creativity and Flexibility – Could you design lesson plans and tailor them according to the needs of your students? If a lesson wasn’t going to plan, could you recover it quickly?
- Willing to Learn – Learning the local language will help you to integrate
- Organized – Are you prepared to do some admin as part of your role? In some areas of the Middle East, TEFL teachers are required to do lots of admin as part of their role
- Outgoing – If you’re working with younger students, you’ll be teaching English through song, dance, and play – so you’ll need to be comfortable doing this
Which Countries Offer the Highest TEFL Salaries in 2018?
Some English teacher salaries are very generous, even by international standards. Some salaries seem less substantial, but when you compare them to the cost of living in that country – they are a good deal.
The following four countries pay TEFL teachers a healthy salary:
Dubai – and other cities in the UAE- offer very high salaries to foreign teachers. Overseas English teachers in Dubai can expect to earn between 2500 and 6000+ USD per month – along with free accommodation and other perks.
Do You Need a Degree to Teach English In Dubai?
Unfortunately, yes. Along with high salaries come very high eligibility requirements. At an absolute minimum, you’d need a bachelor’s degree (in English studies, education, or psychology) and a TEFL certificate. Some schools will only hire people with a teaching license, and some want to see a few years of classroom experience.
If you’ve earned your degree, you have a TEFL certificate, and you’ve got your heart set on teaching in the UAE – look for jobs in less popular locations such as Sharjah and Al Alin.
Along with its unique culture, Japan can offer some pretty impressive English teacher salaries. For 20-30 hours of teaching per week, you can expect to earn approximately 1,700 – 2,500 USD per month. It’s important to remember that living costs are high in Japan and renting accommodation can be quite tricky. For that reason, it’s advisable to look for a school that provides free or subsidized accommodation.
Do You Need a Degree to Teach English in Japan?
Yes, due to strict visa requirements, you do need a degree (but it doesn’t have to be in English studies). You’re also much more likely to get a job if you have a TEFL certificate. If you’re an American citizen who has graduated and you’re looking to teach English to young learners, you may be eligible for the coveted Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme.
American TEFL teachers are favored in South Korea, as most language schools teach American English. Seoul is a particularly popular destination for TEFL teachers, but it can be competitive trying to secure a job in this region. The monthly salaries are good, ranging from 1600 to 2200+ USD – with generous salary increases after a year. What’s more, you’d only pay about 3% tax on your earnings if you’re a US citizen working as a TEFL teacher in South Korea.
Can You Teach English In Korea Without a Degree?
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to access most of the English teaching opportunities in South Korea – including the government’s official English Programme in Korea (EPIK) scheme. However, EPIK’s sister scheme TaLK accepts candidates with a two-year associates degree. On this scheme, you work in rural areas, for around 3 hours per day (the salary is capped at about 1300 USD per month).
TEFL salaries are a little lower in China but they are still reasonable, and many schools provide free accommodation. Generally speaking, government-backed programs offer 1400 – 1600 USD per month. Some private programs offer a lot less, so do your research before committing to a position.
Can You Teach English In China with No Degree?
Up until a few years ago, it was quite possible to find a teaching position in China without a degree. Now that TEFL salaries have risen in China, competition has grown, and it would be very difficult to secure a TEFL position without a bachelor’s degree. This is also because the ‘Z’ working visa requirements were tightened in 2017. As such, you should be very wary of agencies offering you TEFL jobs in China that don’t require you to hold a degree.
Countries That Don’t Require a Degree to Teach English
If you don’t have a degree, you may still be able to secure a teaching position abroad – particularly if you have taken a TEFL course. The following countries are more likely to consider applicants without a degree:
Employers in Russia will interview applicants prior to departure (via Skype or similar methods). If you’re offered the job, they’ll assist you with visa preparations. Some employers do prefer applicants with English or teaching degrees, but they’ll also consider others who hold a TEFL qualification. Earning potential is 500 – 1,400 USD per month. Schools often assist with housing, so Russia can be a good option if you’re looking for a permanent job abroad with accommodation included.
American citizens can obtain a visa to work as a TEFL teacher in Mexico. Although a degree is often preferred by some bigger employers, smaller employers will consider applicants with a TEFL certificate and/or classroom experience. Earning potential is around 600 – 800 USD per month, which equates to a reasonable local wage.
In terms of visa requirements, Cambodia is one of the easiest destinations to secure a TEFL job for US citizens – you can usually obtain a visa on arrival. Pay varies from 600 to 1000 USD per month, which will allow you to live very comfortably in this part of the world. Most schools recruit locally, so you can search for work once you’ve arrived. A degree is by no means required, but a TEFL certificate will significantly improve your chances of employment.
Nicaragua and Argentina are also popular destinations for TEFL teaching without a degree, but the visa process is not straightforward.
How to Choose a TEFL certificate
As we’ve discussed, most employers will want to see evidence of a TEFL qualification. There are hundreds of TEFL courses on the market, so it can be daunting trying to choose the right one. When choosing a TEFL certificate, pay attention to accreditation, hours of practice, and cost.
Is the TEFL Accredited?
There is no single accrediting body for TEFL courses, so you may need to do some digging to find out whether your chosen TEFL has credentials. If your qualification is accredited by ACCET or the World TEFL Accrediting Commission (WTEFLAC), this is usually a good sign.
The “gold-standard” TEFL certificates are accredited by universities, such the CELTA certificate (accredited by Cambridge University), the Trinity Certificate (accredited by Trinity College) or the TESOL certificate (accredited by SIT). There are also shorter TEFL courses created by universities such as OISE University of Toronto which has a good reputation.
University-affiliated TEFL qualifications can help you stand out in competitive markets such as Japan, Korea, and the Middle East.
How Long Does It Take to Get a TEFL?
Most reputable TEFL certificates take 120 hours to complete. This is split into 100 hours of learning and 20 hours of teaching time. Your course should offer at least 6 hours of assessed teaching practice. If it doesn’t, most employers will not accept it.
Courses that allow you to complete the 100 hours of learning online can be completed in as little as 2-3 weeks – but it’s better to allow yourself 1-2 months to really absorb the material. A CELTA, Trinity or TESOL is usually completed in a month (full-time) or 3 months (part-time). These courses are very intensive and offer a lot more teaching practice than a standard TEFL course.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a TEFL Certificate?
Cost can vary widely, depending on where you take your course, and how much face-to-face contact you have with an instructor.
A good-quality 120-hour TEFL course (with a portion of online learning) can range from 200 – 600 USD. If you are quoted less than 200 USD for a TEFL course, it’s probably not worth the paper its written on. A Trinity or CELTA course costs around 2400 – 2800 USD.
Where Can I Find TEFL Vacancies?
There are several reliable job boards that advertise TEFL vacancies. Direct employers and employment agents post jobs on these job boards.
Dave’s ESL Café – This is one the of the “original” TEFL job sites. If you’re looking for vacancies in South Korea and China – you’ll find plenty on this site. It’s free to set up a profile and apply for jobs. You’ll also find loads of really useful TEFL resources on this page.
TEFL.com – This is a TEFL job search site that’s been running since 1997. The site allows you to make a profile and apply for jobs for free.
TEFL Agencies – There are some agencies that will arrange your TEFL certificate and then work closely with you to find suitable employment once you’ve completed the course. This assistance can be useful, as long as you opt for a well-established, honorable, and affordably priced agency. Always do your research and check out the company before parting with any cash. Reputable agencies will display their address and phone number clearly and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about TEFL teaching.
How to Avoid TEFL Scams
Many TEFL jobs are arranged over the internet. Unfortunately, some internet scammers have capitalized on this – offering fake TEFL jobs to convince you to part with your money.
To avoid being scammed, follow these tips:
- Never pay a deposit to search for vacancies or “secure your teaching position.” There are plenty of websites that allow you to search and apply for jobs free of charge. Reputable employment agencies will not charge you any upfront fees – they often work on a commission basis.
- Avoid companies that offer 100% online/distance learning TEFL certificates. The main point of obtaining a TEFL certificate is to gain some classroom experience.
- If you’re offered a job without any kind of interview or vetting procedure, this is a serious red flag.
- To work in most TEFL destinations, you’ll need to arrange your working visa before you arrive in the country (often with the help of the employer or agent). If your employer or agent hasn’t even mentioned the visa application process, this could be a red flag.
- Is the salary comparable to other adverts you’ve seen for jobs in that region? If the salary is wildly different, this suggests something is not right.
- Always perform a quick Google search of the school and/or employment agency to be sure it exists.
- It’s a good idea to speak with an employment agent over the phone, before allowing them to pass your details on to a school or hiring institution.
Questions to Ask your Employer
For many people, TEFL teaching is a dream come true. You get to travel, inspire others, and enjoy a slower pace of life. However, the stark reality doesn’t always match up to the dream, especially if you don’t pick your school wisely.
Be sure to ask your employer the following questions:
- How many hours will I work per week?
- How often will I be paid? When will I receive my first paycheck?
- Will any deductions be made from my salary?
- What are my holiday entitlements?
- Do you offer compassionate leave?
- Is accommodation included? If not, how easy is it to obtain accommodation as a foreign worker?
- Are there any other foreign teachers in the school?
- What age pupils will I be teaching?
- Where is the school located and is it close to public transport?
Checking the location of the school is one of the most important things. It’s generally easier to find teaching jobs in rural locations, far away from public transport. These locations have their benefits but may not be suitable if you want to travel to different cities during the weekends.
Most employers will cover these points in your interview but be sure to ask questions if you’re uncertain about anything.
Au Pair Jobs Abroad
If you’re under the age of 30 (or 26 for some countries), working as an au pair could be a great option. An au pair is similar to a nanny. In return for carrying out childcare duties, you’ll receive free accommodation and a modest stipend. You won’t earn a massive amount being an au pair, but it can be a good “first step” towards living and working abroad.
Visa requirements vary between countries; some countries issue specific visas for au pairs, and some allow you to apply for a generic working visa and then look for au pair jobs locally. Visas can take a couple of months to be granted, so it’s important to plan ahead.
Where Can I Be an Au Pair Overseas?
Generally speaking, the following destinations are the most popular:
- Sweden or Switzerland -The highest au pair salaries are found in Sweden or Switzerland – ranging from 160-200 USD per week.
- New Zealand – New Zealand is also a popular destination. Salaries range from 150-180 USD per week.
- Australia – Au pair salaries range between 130-150 USD per week in Australia.
- Germany -According to visa regulations, you’ll need to have a basic knowledge of German to work as an au pair in Germany. Salaries range from 80 – 100 USD per week.
- China –Being an au pair in China would allow you to experience a completely different culture. Au pairs don’t usually stay for a year, so being an au pair in China could be part of a larger trip overseas. You can expect to receive around 30 – 80 USD per week.
Can I Be an Au Pair with No Experience?
Au pairs are not expected to have lots of experience or qualifications. Having said that, you’ll need to demonstrate the following:
- A love for children
- At least a high school certificate (some families may require a degree or childcare qualifications)
- If you’re trained in first aid, that’ll be a bonus
- Some experience with children – whether that be paid employment, looking after your siblings, or voluntary work
- A clear criminal record
- References – a character reference and possibly an employment reference
- Possibly a driving license
How Can I Apply for Au Pair Jobs?
There are several ways you can apply for au pair jobs. For example, you can find an au pair introductions website and set up an online profile. Some introduction sites will let you communicate with families for free, whereas others will charge a small fee. Make sure you don’t pay over the odds for an introduction service.
Alternatively, you could sign up with an au pair agency. These agencies will search for families for you, negotiate a contract, and may assist with the visa application. Unfortunately, unlike TEFL agencies, many au pair agencies charge a fee for this service. However, some agencies charge very reasonable fees for these services. So, before engaging with an agency, ask them how much they’re going to charge you.
Finally, if you wish to be an au pair in Australia or New Zealand, you may be eligible for a generic working holiday visa. It’s possible to travel to one of these countries on a working visa and search for au pair jobs locally. This is riskier as there’s no guarantee you’d find the job you’re looking for. However, it could be a good option for some people.
Things to Consider Before Being an Au Pair
Being an au pair can allow you to live comfortably overseas, but it’s important to be aware of the potential downsides. For example:
- There is little opportunity to save money for further travel. If you find employment in Sweden or Switzerland, there is some earning potential, but most au pairs won’t be able to make savings.
- As with many TEFL jobs, most au pair jobs will want you to commit to a year’s contract.
- When you live with your employers, it can be difficult to distinguish between work time and downtime.
Nonetheless, if you take a flexible approach to work, and you enjoy being around other people, being an au pair could be a great opportunity.
Unskilled Jobs Overseas
If working as a teacher or an au pair doesn’t appeal to you, you could look for unskilled work in the hospitality, customer service, or farming industries. Many young American citizens are eligible to apply for a working holiday visa to Australia or New Zealand. Salaries for unskilled jobs in these countries are reasonable and will allow you to save a bit of money if you live frugally.
Working Visa Australia: Am I Eligible?
If you are an American citizen, aged 18 – 30, with no criminal history, and have at least a high school certificate, you may be eligible to apply for the Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462).
This visa allows visitors to stay in Australia for up to 1 year. Visitors are free to work in most industries. However, because this is considered a travel and work program, you should not usually stay with one employer for more than 6 months.
If you work for three months or more in Queensland or Western Australia (in hospitality, fishing, forestry or agriculture), you’ll usually be allowed to extend your visa for an additional year.
You can begin your application online but make sure you allow a couple of months for everything to be finalized.
Popular Jobs for Backpackers in Australia
Once you’ve arrived in Australia, it’s not too difficult to find work. You can browse online job sites or respond to local advertisements. For example, casual jobs are often listed in backpacker magazines. Some of the most popular jobs for visitors include:
- Bar Work – Bar work is readily available, especially in tourist hotspots along the East Coast.
- Working in a Café – Café culture is big business in cities like Melbourne and Sydney – with plenty of coffee houses open 24 hours. It possible to find work as a barista, kitchen hand, waiter/waitress or “all-rounder.”
- Call Center/Telemarketing Jobs – Call center jobs are popular with backpackers and tend to pay slightly more than hospitality roles because they offer the opportunity to earn a commission.
- Harvest Workers – Fruit pickers and farm hands are required throughout the country, for most of the year. This type of work is sometimes advertised on job sites or can be found through an agency. You’ll often be provided with free accommodation giving you the chance to save a bit of money.
Hourly rates for the above-mentioned jobs range between 15 and 25 AUD. Living costs can be quite high in the larger cities, and many visitors consider food prices to be quite a lot higher than in America. Having said that, if you live frugally, share accommodation, or seek jobs with free accommodation, the earning potential is good for unskilled workers in Australia.
Working Visa New Zealand: Am I Eligible?
If you’re aged 18-30, have a clean criminal history, and you have the equivalent of 4,200 NZ to support your move to New Zealand, you may be eligible for the USA Working Holiday Visa.
If you are granted this visa, you’ll be free to work in most industries for a period of one year. You’ll also be eligible to study or taking a training course for up to 6 months.
While Canadian and British citizens are permitted to apply for an 11-month extension to their working holiday visa, American citizens are not currently permitted to do so. American citizens may be eligible to apply for a 3-month extension if they complete 3 months work in the agriculture industry.
Jobs for Travelers in New Zealand
There are a fair few jobs that travelers can get involved in. The main options include:
- Ski-Resorts – Ski resorts often recruit porters, wardens, or lift operators during high season.
- Face-to-Face Sales/Marketing – Extreme sports are big business in New Zealand. You can often find work selling sporting activities to tourists.
- Coffee Shop Work – or anything related to hospitality.
- Deck Hands or Boat Staff – It’s possible to find unskilled work on boats.
- Farm Work – Travelers often find jobs in the dairy industry.
- WWOOFING – This last one isn’t really a “job”, but many travelers choose to participate in WWOOFING to enrich their overseas experience. In exchange for working on a farm or small holding for 2-6 weeks, you’re offered free food, accommodation, and cultural exchange. Many travelers choose to do this when they’re between jobs, or they want to escape urban living.
Can I Get a Job in Ireland Without Experience?
There is an agreement between Ireland and America, which allows certain US citizens to work freely in Ireland for a period of 12 months (and vice versa). This is referred to as the US-Ireland Working Holiday Agreement.
However, the eligibility requirements are quite specific for this programme. You must be studying for a degree (associates degree or higher), or you must have graduated within the previous 12 months.
Should I Volunteer Overseas?
For some people, volunteering overseas could be a worthwhile opportunity. Overseas internships have the power to boost your career while improving the lives of others.
Volunteer placements are unpaid, and you’re expected to cover most of your own expenses, so ask yourself whether you can afford to volunteer overseas. Some people choose to volunteer for a few weeks or months, before seeking out paid employment in another country.
Pick your Placement Wisely
Make sure that the company organizing your internship is not overcharging you. Always ask the organizers where your project fee is being spent. Also, ask them if previous volunteers have made a positive difference to local communities while working on this project.
In the last few years, overseas volunteering or “voluntourism” has got a bad name. Some unscrupulous companies charge huge fees for voluntary work that offers little benefit to local communities or to the people volunteering.
As such, do your research and select affordable and ethical volunteer projects from well-established travel companies and not-for-profits. Websites like volunteerforever provide details of meaningful opportunities.
Types of Voluntary Placements
There are many types of voluntary placements to choose from. Often, they’ll fall into one of the following categories:
There are many conservation projects that focus on rehabilitating injured animals or researching animal behavior. Other conversation projects allow volunteers to gain hands-on ecological research experience which can be useful for breaking into this niche employment sector.
Education and Special Needs
These placements allow volunteers to teach or mentor pupils in schools or other institutions. Teaching internships are offered in poorer parts of Africa and Asia, where governments are unable to fund TEFL salaries. These placements can be useful for volunteers looking to move into teaching, mental health, or social services careers.
Sports and Coaching
Volunteers develop their leadership skills by encouraging local children to engage in sports. These opportunities are usually found throughout Africa. Often, volunteers work closely with children who are marginalized or socially isolated – encouraging them to build their confidence through sports.
Health and Medical
These voluntary placements can increase your awareness of global health issues. Some overseas internships allow volunteers to shadow doctors or nurses in hospitals. Some specialist internships are targeted at trainee doctors and surgeons whereas other health internships are suitable for anyone looking to enter the medical field.
Some medical careers that don’t require a degree – phlebotomy, sonography, and medical coding – can be difficult to enter without relevant work experience. As such, volunteering overseas could boost your chances of finding employment as a phlebotomist, sonographer, or medical coder. Medical internships are often available in Greece, Nepal, and several other countries.
If you decide to do a voluntary placement overseas, keep a diary of the skills you learn during the trip. This information will be very useful when you make job applications in the future. When a tricky question arises in an interview, you’ll be able to provide a unique response that differentiates you from other candidates. If you don’t keep a diary, you might forget about some of your achievements.
How to Plan Your Working Vacation
So, you’ve decided you’d like to work abroad but you’re apprehensive about organizing your trip. Perhaps you’re not even convinced you’ll be able to find a job with such a limited resume.
Let’s recap the points we’ve discussed in this article, so you can secure that overseas job:
- Choose Your Job Role – Consider all the information discussed in this article and decide whether TEFL teaching, being an au pair, casual work, or volunteering (or a combination) might work for you. If you’ve decided to try teaching overseas, you’ll need to start studying for your TEFL certificate.
- Choose Your Destination – Visa requirements will partially determine your options. Even once you’ve narrowed the list down, you’ll probably still have several destinations to choose from – so do your research and choose wisely.
- Search for Jobs – Decide whether you’re going to search for employment yourself or approach a job agency. Either way, it’s time to update your resume. Even if you’re lacking formal work experience, you can highlight voluntary experience, personal achievements, and qualifications on your resume. Ask a friend to read through your resume to check there are no typos.
- Check your Budget – Moving to another country will cost money, so make sure you’re fully prepared. Make sure you’ve got enough money for a flight and one month’s living costs. Many TEFL jobs will reimburse your flight, but not until you’ve been working for 6 months or more.
If you’re going to be seeking a job on arrival, you should save up a bit more money to cover yourself in case you don’t find a job immediately. If you’re opting to volunteer overseas, make sure you can afford all the associated costs.
- Apply for your Visa Early – Some visas can take months to process so don’t leave it to the last minute to apply. Many visa applications require official supporting documents (certified ID copies, transcripts, criminal records checks) so start collecting the documents as soon as you can.
Finally, and most importantly, take the time to enjoy your trip. Even if the financial gains are not fantastic, you’ll gain a lot of friends, skills, and experiences if you choose to work overseas.