International Opportunity Types

Work and Volunteer Abroad & International Careers

Tips for Your Search

Finding Work and Volunteer Abroad Opportunities

Types of Work




Tips for Your Search

  • Starting early and networking are often the keys to success with the international job search.
  • As with any job search, candidates with specialized skills (think languages, technical skills, etc.) are most attractive to prospective employers.
  • Keep in mind that it is very costly for employers to relocate an employee abroad, so most employers prefer to train entry-level employees in their country of citizenship and then transfer them after they have proven themselves as assets to the organization when international posts arise. If you are looking for a long-term international career, look for internships and entry-level jobs with U.S. organizations who have international offices or foreign companies who have offices in the United States.
  • Handshake- Many companies who recruit on campus or post positions on Handshake have career paths that may include international transfers or a great deal of international travel.
  • The Uniworld directory of American organizations with international subsidiaries and international organizations with American subsidiaries is a great resource that is available through the Career Services Digital Resources page.




Finding Work and Volunteer Abroad Opportunities

Basically there are two ways to secure a work or volunteer position abroad: Using the assistance of a program and conducting a traditional independent job search.

1. Using the assistance of a program that will place you in a position and/or coordinates work permits. Many of these programs also provide orientation and on-site support in the host country.

These organizations charge fees ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars based on what they cover (housing, in country trips, insurance, etc.) Depending on your goals for going abroad and your personal situation, a program with a fee might be your best bet, especially if the program covers housing costs. When researching programs, remember that you are the consumer and you have every right to research the "product" (check with the Better Business Bureau), inquire about where the program fees go, and ask to talk with people who have gone through the program. Links to resources for specific programs and tips for researching programs are included below under "Types of Work."

Two organizations that can help with student work permit visas are IAESTE (you will need to first have a written internship offer from an employer) and BUNAC (they can obtain a work permit for you without you already having a job offer in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, or New Zealand.) Penn Abroad might also be able to direct you to specific programs and there are several international internships and service-learning programs sponsored by Penn.

2. Conducting a traditional independent job search using job posting sites (such as Handshake or www.idealist.org); On-Campus Recruiting; applying directly to employers usually through their website; and networking using Penn's alumni database QuakerNet, Penn's international alumni clubs, professors, or other personal and professional contacts.




Types of Work - An Overview

Courtesy of University of Michigan's International Center: http://www.internationalcenter.umich.edu/swt/work/

International Internships - For detailed information and resources, see here.

  • Paid international internships are relatively rare
  • Typical duration is for a summer or semester, though some programs may last a year

Short-term Paid Work

  • Typical types of short-term paid work abroad include childcare (au pair), farm work, though enterprising students do find work of a professional nature
  • Most short-term work abroad programs are for students or recent graduates 
  • Programs of this type offer the best chance for you to earn your way abroad, though there are up-front costs for program fees, airfare and initial spending money 
  • Programs are located primarily in Europe, along a small number of other locations
  • Typical duration ranges from a summer up to a year

Volunteer Abroad

  •   Volunteers usually work together with ordinary, non-elite and sometimes disadvantaged local citizens
  • Types of work range from areas such as education, health, environment, and small-business development to archaeology digs 
  • Typical duration is from 2 weeks to 2 years

Teaching Abroad

  • Teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language (TEFL or TESL) is one of the most accessible options for long-term (1-2 years) working abroad
  • Additional teaching abroad options are available for those with teaching qualifications at the K-12 level in English speaking schools in foreign countries. Some international schools hire interns who are recent grads without teaching certification. 
  • A college degree is required by most programs 
  • Location of TEFL jobs is typically in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Latin America, where ever English is not the native language of the local population 
  • Experience tutoring or teaching is recommended 
  • Typical duration is for at least one year, but some short-term programs exist that offer summer or semester-length placements