Gap Year Jobs:  Paid Work Abroad

What Gap Year Jobs can you do that are Paid Work Abroad?

If money is in short supply, you may have no option but to earn your keep, but in another country.

– you’ll have a ready-made social circle to introduce you to life in that area.
– you may learn work or language skills that will help you later.
– it will inform you about the real world if you are a student and help you decide if a similar career path is for you.
– you will probably have a great, mind-broadening time.

– they don’t call it work for nothing, it’s not exactly a holiday.
– wages for short-term employed foreigners are very low or exist only as ‘pocket money’ in addition to accommodation and food.

A few popular gap year jobs that are paid work abroad


Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) aka TEFL/TESL

It is unlikely that you will get a well-paid job teaching English without experience, though if you’re reasonably articulate any English-speaking traveller can find some kind of TEFL work.

– the TESOL game is very interesting; boredom is not an option.
– it enables you to live in some very exotic places.
– it gives you a huge and immediate social circle, natives and foreigners.
– it is possible to teach with no qualifications but native English (often only voluntarily), though short courses ranging from a week to a month will enable better jobs, better money prospects and most importantly more fun in the classroom.
– a successful lesson will be immensely satisfying.
– pay can be very good in some parts of the world for the well qualified and/or experienced (around 18K pa +).

– pay may also be pathetic, many third world countries requiring a more voluntary approach.
– standing up in front of 10- 50 strangers and ‘entertaining’ them for a couple of hours is not easy and will involve tears from time to time.
– lesson preparation time will take more time than lessons themselves in the early days.

TESOL/TEFL/TESL – more info


British nannies have long been highly regarded but looking after someone else’s children is an unexpectedly  big responsibility.

– live in accommodation with food and pocket money, in what is likely to be at least middle class accommodation.
– use of a car in the USA.
– no qualifications required, though some experience would help.

– long and unsociable hours may be required, especially where night waking babies are concerned.
– you may find yourself taking on a whole manner of chores around the house beyond just looking after the children.
– it’s a big responsibility looking after people’s young genetic assets and parents can be obsessive about child care, not to mention being overbearing demagogues!

Travel Company Assistant(especially Europe and North America):
Many travel companies operating throughout the world seek young people from the UK to work in their lower paid temporary jobs. Accommodation and food are typically provided along with spending money.

– usually find yourself with other similarly aged individuals doing similar jobs.
– usually live in accommodation with food and pocket money, in what is likely to be at least a fun environment.
– 18-30 type holiday places are hard fought for as you essentially become the fun maker, and this can be a riot if you are into that type of thing.
– ski resorts are big on parties, and you can usually find time to ski also.

– the responsibility of cleaning up after, shopping for, or cooking for people is a far cry from the holiday they are probably having.
– pay, other than for the top end holiday rep. type job, can be abysmal (though accommodation and food are usually thrown in, which is of high value if you consider what the tourists are paying! )

Outdoor Work

Especially in Europe, Australia and North America, there are a wide variety of options for activity orientated individuals – with qualifications where relevant.


Surfers and other watersports enthusiasts with good swimming abilities and life guard certification can work as lifeguards on all kinds of beaches where many bathers are to be found, or even as pool supervisors.

– the sun, the Baywatch image, large amounts of water nearby.

– pathetic pay, boredom.

Skiing Instructor

On the piste skiers and boarders are usually well paid but ‘experts’ only are in demand, and competition is high.

– ski or board for a living and get paid quite well for it while looking cool.

– teaching little Jimmy not to break a leg may do your head in.

Crewing a Yacht

Even those with less experienced sea legs but who can cook may find crewing a possibility. Sometimes hanging out marinas in the Caribbean and asking around can be an entreé to this world.

– get to exotic ports for free.
– get fit and a great tan.
– escape traffic, TV and modern society’s trappings.

– boats can be very claustrophobic after even a few hours, let alone weeks.
– a lot depends on your relationship with the other crew, which in a small space is extremely delicate. .
– you can expect to get cold and wet regularly (even in the Caribbean! ).
– probably no TV, serious sound system, films for. . . ever
– unless you are an experienced sea dog for which you may be paid modestly, you will most likely still have to pay for what you use (mainly food).

Summer Camps in the USA

19-35 year olds (not necessarily students), preferably with some experience of dealing with children and/or a sports qualification can work in USA June-August in kid’s camps. Students can also work on the housekeeping/maintenance side if they have no qualifications.
Accommodation is provided, naturally, and the pay – after deducting the flight – is relatively generous, leaving you with a few hundred dollars at the end of the job.

– a lively job with plenty on the social side.
– unusually good pay.
– study the north American beast in its natural habitat.

– trapped in the woods for 2 months with deranged children? Hmm.
– it’s not exactly exotic.

Farm Work

Picking the harvest off of a wide variety of plants (or just pulling them up) is a popular, though often demanding, way of seeing the world, particularly Europe and Australia/New Zealand.

– out in the fresh air.
– usually get to see the real country.
– keeps you fit.
– hopefully some good wholesome food about.

– European work is getting less easy to get due to competition with very eager migrant North Africans and Eastern Europeans for the jobs.
– females may find they need to arm wrestle or otherwise demonstrate suitable machismo to indicate their manual value!
– sun exposure can be a real problem, no getting away from it when it’s shining.
– pay is at the very best, pretty low, and even this is rare.

Working Down Under

Both Australia and New Zealand permit young people to work in their countries and offer yearlong work visas. The main constraint is that you can work for one employer for no more than 3 months.

n. b. Bad Australia tax news! British travellers working in Australia have to pay tax on their income from July 2016 as they (and all foreign workers) will be considered as non-residents for tax purposes, meaning they will have to pay tax at 32. 5pc on every dollar they earn up to AU$80, 000.
This means that a backpacker who earns AU$10, 000 (£5, 033) in a year, and who previously avoided a tax charge, will now have to give AU$3, 250 (£1, 635) to the Australian taxman. .

Check www. immigration. govt. nz for New Zealand visa application forms, and www. immi. gov. au for Australian Visa application.

– wide variety of jobs, especially good for outdoor pursuits.
– usually a lot of the sunny stuff in Oz, less in NZ.

– the three month rule will give you little time to settle (could equally be a good thing though).
– big long haul travel expenses to get you there and back.

Non-paid work options

Gifts – if you’re lucky some affluent family member may fund all or some of your expenses.

Loan or Overdraft – a loan from relatives is always worth a try, but most realise that it probably won’t get paid back.
You could try a bank, they’ll be falling over themselves to lend you an interest free pittance while you’re at university, but you should only borrow a small amount during the Gap year as you don’t want to start your course already in debt.
Make sure you let the bank know of your acceptance to a full time course (they’ll want proof in writing) otherwise they’ll treat you as unemployed and you’ll have no chance of getting a loan or overdraft.

Sponsorship – if it’s for something worthwhile (e. g. saving small furry animals, children or rain forests) you may get sponsorship from a philanthropic business or local charities such as (in the UK) the Round Table, Rotary or Lions Club.
If you can get yourself any kind of media exposure locally or nationally for your trip then potential business sponsors may become more generous.
Local people who live near you may sponsor you a little each if they like the cause – you’ll need to knock on a lot of doors though. Successfully sponsored gappers say the best system is to fire up a range of money-making activities, and let the funds build.

Gap Year paid work UK

Finding Work – there are plenty of low paid temporary jobs around throughout the UK, particularly during the school summer holidays, so write up a basic but professional-looking CV (Curriculum Vitae/resumé/history of qualifications and work experience so far) and go looking.
Local Newspapers – usually have a job vacancies section once a week, so get the paper as soon as it hits the shops and apply early.
Agencies – get your CV out to your job agencies with the kind of work you are looking for – some specialise in temporary work. It’s likely you’ll be interviewed before they accept you.

Some common paid work

Information Technology New Media Design, Systems Support and Programming

– high pay for programmers and network support, particularly in London and other big cities.
– respected as a skilled member of staff.
– offices from okay to stylish.
– may not have to do the shirt and tie bit.
– might even be able to work from home.

– can be very high pressure work.
– demands considerable skills.

Skills Required: scripting language (i. e. HTML. Javascript), programming language (i. e. ASP, Pearl, Java, C+); systems knowledge (i. e. Microsoft NT, Oracle, UNIX).

Training: it would be unrealistic for you to acquire these skills in a short space of time and courses are expensive, so you really need to have been heading towards a career in IT at school, or at least to have designed some websites. Computer geeks are quids in.


– you talk to lots of people in person or on the phone
– commission is reasonable if you are good enough.

– immense pressure to sell so it ceases to be fun when the sales aren’t happening.
– people can be unbearably rude, and telesales are the worst.

Skills Required: gift of the gab; to look smart if a direct Sales representative (beards, mustaches, long hair, tattoos, piercings not usually welcomed); excellent telephone manner if doing telesales; persistence and self confidence in your ability to close the deal; not taking no for an answer.
Training: on the job or experience for the better jobs, some of which have high potential earnings.

Bar none

– plenty of social activity.
– there’re lots of jobs available during the summer after you’ve finished your exams, especially in touristy places.

– unsociable hours as evenings and weekends are usually busiest.
– your local could be about as exciting as watching beer ferment.
– there may be a lot of tobacco smoke around.
– having to deal with drunken louts.

Skills Required: basic numeracy, basic knowledge of drinks (good cocktail bars will want you clued up beforehand or to learn in a couple of days).
Training: on the job or need experience.

Office Temping

– readily available through specialist temping agencies.
– usually sociable 9-5 type hours with lunch.
– generally clean, smart offices.
– looks good on a CV for future white collar work.

– some tasks can be just as repetitive and dull as washing dishes.
– just like school you will probably need to wear a tie.

Skills Required: computer literacy, especially with PC’s running Microsoft Office type software; touch typing an advantage and necessary for the higher wages which often entail high speed database entry or secretarial type duties; a good telephone manner.

Qualifications needed for the better pay:
Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations in IT are nationally recognised and respected.

Key Skills Levels 1 to 4 – aimed at 16 to 19 year olds which you may already have from school.

CLAIT (Computer Literacy and Information Technology) – a very popular and useful certificate, now joined by New CLAIT, CLAIT Plus and CLAIT Advanced, aimed at the web generation and incorporating MOUS (Microsoft Office User Specialist) units for abilities in the Microsoft Office Suite of applications; Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and Outlook.

For mind crushingly boring database entry work or secretarial efficiency you will need touch typing skills at 40wpm or above; impossible with two finger tapping unless you’re an android.

The Pitman Five Minute typing test can be taken anywhere to confirm your motor skills, or an agency may interview and test you themselves.

Training: local colleges throughout the UK do daytime and evening courses towards the qualifications and typing skills mentioned above. You may have to do a quickie before looking for work.
There are programs for your computer which will teach touch typing in your own home.

Shop Assistant

– easily available.
– good opportunities for well-paid Sundays and night shifts.

– some deeply unpleasant uniforms about.
– shelf stacking can be dull and backbreaking while checkouts are just dull.

Skills Required: good customer service, basic numeracy, short legs and long arms for shelf stacking.
Training: on the job.


– entertainment facilities, sporting events and festivals have some glamour.
– you may see some good shows and even celebrities.

– you are not the entertainer you are the dogsbody.
– you may have to deal with thieves, drunks, blaggers and flying bottles.

Skills Required: smart, smiley politeness for theaters; good litter picking action and aerial beer dodging for festivals.
Training: on the job.

Waiting Tables

– like bar work, jobs are more plentiful in the holiday season
– the tips can make a huge difference in the right places (posh restaurants where you are responsible for your own tables).
– you may get fed very well before/after work

– things are always hectic some of the time.
– chefs are often rude and impatient, and so are the customers.

Gap year jobs skills required: smart appearance, basic numeracy, politeness; good restaurants will want you with previous experience.
Training: on the job.

Kitchen Porter

– no trouble finding work, though it is easy to be over qualified for this one.
– you’ll probably get well fed.

– unrewarding and insanely boring.
– greasy and sweaty.
– makes you feel like crap and often treated like it too.
– unsociable hours, usually evenings and weekends.

Skills Required: tolerance of boredom and kitchen Napoleons.
Training: unnecessary, you could be dead and still do these kind of  gap year jobs.

Farm Work

– most often fruit and vegetable picking, so out in the fresh air.
– will probably increase your daily fruit intake.
– can be good for your biceps.

– dodgy climate, though at least rarely far too hot!
– can be back breaking and knee destroying groveling around in the dirt.
– boring.

Gap year jobs skills required: recognition of basic shapes and colours, balancing on ladders.
Training: nursery learnt skills and fruit eating experience will usually have you well prepared, as will the gym for more manual tasks.