Taking a Gap Year to Work: What You Need to Know

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Taking a gap year to work can be a great idea, whether your gap year is before, during, or after college. Gap year work programs can take place in your own city or on the other side of the world, so whether you need some time at home or you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, taking a gap year to work can be a great way to meet your goals.

Gap year paid programs can be a wonderful option for students who are wanting to take some time to explore a career but do not have the budget for a tuition-based program or solo travel. You can also go without a program and customize your own experience by seeking out work experiences in the place or places you want to explore.

Planning on taking a gap year to work? That’s the key word: planning. Whether you’re researching gap year jobs abroad or networking in your hometown, making a plan is the key to making it happen.

woman sitting cross-legged with arms outstretched looking up

Gap year work abroad programs kind of feel like this.

Making a plan

The biggest difference between taking a gap year to work and spending a year at school is, in a working gap year, you are in charge of remembering all those little things that school remembers for you. Things like making sure you have health insurance, keeping immunizations up-to-date, having the right visa (if you’re working abroad), waking up for and getting to work each day, budgeting for your meals and housing, paying your taxes, answering your work emails, and paying attention to the admission or enrollment schedule for your return to school are all up to you!

If your first thought is, “Finally!”, then you are probably a planner by nature who will totally embrace the responsibilities of a working gap year. You may still want to sit down with an advisor or parent to make sure you understand your responsibilities for your gap year.

[Get matched with gap year work programs abroad]

If your first thought is, “But I don’t want to do all that stuff!”, you should listen to yourself—but that doesn’t mean you should give up on taking a gap year to work. It just means looking for the support you need, which could come from organized gap year work programs, from taking on the challenge with a friend, or from living at home and getting some assistance with the everything-but-work stuff while you get your feet wet in the working world. You can do it!

Man standing on mountaintop with thumbs up

Getting paid to work abroad with accommodation got us like...

How to find gap year work programs

Taking a gap year to work will look different depending where you are in your educational career. For students just finishing high school or who are early in their college careers, gap year work programs can be a great option. These programs organize a job experience for which you can apply through the program, and often handle logistics such as housing and transportation.

Some gap year work programs have a fee, especially if you don’t yet have a degree and are looking for experience in a field that generally requires one. You can decide if the fee is reasonable for you. Some programs will have an initial fee, but then will guarantee job placement where you will earn money. This is often the case for TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) programs, which can begin with a certification class and then place you in a teaching job. Some gap year work programs will have no fee and will actually pay you! These positions can have a competitive application process, so be on the lookout for important deadlines, reply promptly to program correspondence, and work to make your application the best it can be.

[Compare programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

To find gap year paid programs or gap year jobs abroad, you can . If you’re unclear on program fees, job requirements, application process, or other specifics, don’t be shy reaching out! The benefit of an organized program is they are there to help you.

woman in front of blue wall smiling and pointing

Working abroad makes us smile, too.

Finding jobs for gap year students without a program

Want to go it on your own? You can do it! If you have a certain career field you’re looking to explore, you can start by making a list of the types of organizations and companies that offer jobs in that field. Get creative! For example, if you want to be a doctor, hospitals probably come to mind first. But what local doctor’s offices? Free clinics? Medical schools? Medical supply companies? Medical volunteer programs abroad? Medical textbook companies? After-school programs with medical training? EMT or Paramedic programs or courses?

Keep brainstorming and ask for help! Put together a resume (there are plenty of free tutorials online, so do your research and make it error-free) and then begin reaching out to your s. You can ask your parents and their friends, your friends and their parents, your teachers, and anyone else you know who might have a connection. You should definitely ask your guidance counselor or other advisor if you’re currently in high school, and if you’re in college, your school may have a resource list for jobs for gap year students. The career center is a good place to start (they can help with that resume, too!) but so are professors who know you and professors in your field of interest.

Don’t forget to look abroad! If you are a fluent English speaker, you may be able to find work opportunities (either paid or atleast free-of-cost) abroad because of your valuable language skills. Reach out and ask!

[Download this ebook STAT: How to Kick A$$ on a Gap Year Before College]

What to ask gap year paid programs

Sometimes gap year paid programs can feel too good to be true! Paid work abroad with accommodation? Is this a dream?

Taking a gap year to work abroad is a big commitment, and while a little risk is part of a great adventure, you can mitigate your risks and make sure you find a good fit for you by asking the right questions! So get ready to jump at that amazing opportunity for paid work abroad with accommodation, whether it’s teaching English in China or working on a ranch in Australia, but do your research first. 

woman standing in sea of bubbles

What if everyday could look like this? 

Some questions to ask might include:

  • Fees and costs: What are the total costs for the program? What’s included in these costs? What am I responsible for providing on my own? Is health insurance included? Is my flight included? What does your typical participant spend during the course of the program?
  • Housing and meals: Are housing and meals included? If so, can you send me photos of the housing and give me examples of what’s available for meals? If not, can you give me an idea of what housing is available and what it generally costs for participants? Is there any help available in arranging housing?
  • Visas and payments: Do I need a visa for this position? If so, can you help me to get it? How much do I get paid, and when are payments made? How am I paid (for example, digitally or by check)? Have you ever had participants who haven’t been paid, and if so, why not? What happens if I need to leave early?
  • Health and safety: What happens if I get sick? Am I responsible for medical costs if I have any? Have you ever had anyone have to leave the program from being sick or hurt? Have you ever had any safety problems, such as a robbery? Is there support staff available to help me if I have a problem?
  • Alumni and reviews: Where can I find independently hosted reviews of your program? Can you put me in touch with alumni who’ve participated before? 
  • Work expectations and schedules: Can you give me a detailed idea of what’s expected of me? How many hours will I work a week? Is there any flexibility? Is supplementary work I have to do from home included in those hours? Is there significant travel time? Could you give me an idea of what a typical work week would look like?
  • Certifications and experience: Will I earn any special certifications for my experience? Can you give me an idea of what skills I might gain that I could include in my resume? Are there opportunities for continued work? Do you have any partner organizations that hire alumni from your program?

These are just some examples of great questions to ask, but if there’s anything you want to know, just ask, and don’t stop until you get a clear answer! Once you find a program you like, check it out on your own as well, by searching online and asking if anyone from your school has participated before. The more you know, the better prepared you can be!

[Say Wha?! Free Gap Year up for Grabs]

Jumping at salt flats

What we’re really saying is… you should be taking a gap year to work (and play) hard.

How to evaluate gap year jobs abroad

Evaluating jobs for gap year students, whether home or abroad, can be tricky! Planning well, using your s, talking to references, and asking questions are all important steps in the process. We highly recommend scouring reviews and educating yourself on the “fine print” of work abroad gap year programs. The best thing you can do is have a deep understanding of all of your options before you pick the one that’s right for you.

But when it comes to gap year jobs abroad, you also have to think where you want to spend your gap year. The wilds of the Arctic? A tiny mountain village in Nepal? A tropical island beach in Thailand? Paris, France? The possibilities are endless, so don’t just research your job options—research your place options too!

Here are a few recommended gap year work programs to get you started:

  • Want to stay stateside? Get paid to volunteer in an American city and make a difference in the lives of children and teens with .
  • Train for a guaranteed job placement as a ski instructor in Canada with EA Ski and Snowboard.
  • Get TEFL certified with International TEFL Academy and get paid to teach English abroad.
  • Perform across Italy as part of a traveling theater troupe with Theatrino.

GoAbroad’s Online advisor can help you to consider your goals and suggest programs or locations that are a great fit for you. By thinking both what you want to be and where you want to be, you can find the perfect way that taking a gap year to work can work for you!

[The 5 Best Gap Year Destinations RN]

Gap year work programs: The perfect combo of work & play

It is paramount that your experience abroad is not a useless string of seconds devoted to pursuing endless pleasures and not actually doing something that matters. That’s what makes gap year work programs great—you’ll learn new skills, make a little money, and return from your “year off” with more insight and benefits than if you’d simply traveled or toured around the world.

Taking a gap year to work just makes sense.

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Topic:  Before You Go