Posted at 11:03 am

The Best Degrees for Working Abroad

So you want to leave the country.  Maybe you’re sick of the weather, the politics, or America’s increasingly pathetic TV programming.   Whatever your reasons, you’re not alone in thinking about an international career.  Living and working abroad used to be a dream reserved for writers, artists, and, well… spies.  Today, thanks to modern technology and globalization, there’s a lot more opportunity for travel-loving professionals of all fields.

But before you break out your passport, remember that official permission – via government visas and work permits – is almost always required.  (You can’t just book a flight to London, and start skimming classified ads at the local pub.)  In many cases, you’ll have to secure a job before you leave the U.S.  And some countries will only grant the necessary permission if there’s a shortage of qualified workers among their own populations.

As good places to start, the following degrees commonly address shortages in international job markets:

Sociology or Public Administration Degrees

You might not get rich working for a global outreach organization or a branch of federal government, but you’ll certainly make a difference.  And you’ll get to see the world. College grads who are versed in foreign policy, international relations, human resources, and nonprofit management are great candidates for international careers as foreign service officers, nonprofit administrators and international relief workers.  While many opportunities are unpaid, volunteer posts, salaried positions are also available.  The U.S. State Department offers some advice on worldwide career opportunities, as does Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

English or Education Degrees

College graduates with a bachelor’s degree in English or education can find plenty of teaching opportunities all around the globe.  International teachers are hired at U.S. military bases, at private schools for the children of Americans who are working abroad, and at foreign schools with English language requirements (which are numerous).  Some international teachers work with K-12 populations and others teach adult students.  Pay rates, benefits, and job requirements vary by country and employer.  (In some cases, teachers need a state-based teaching license.)  For more information on international teaching, check out this resource page from the University of Michigan’s International Center.

Hotel/Hospitality Management Degrees

Global tourism is a vibrant industry, with employment opportunities in some picturesque hot spots – literally, hot spots.  Cruise lines, resorts, and international casinos all rely on college-educated managers – especially those who’ve studied the specifics of travel marketing and multicultural perspectives.  For some tourism careers – like cruise director or beach club manager – you don’t necessarily need a business degree; usually just a bachelor’s degree, a few years of relevant experience, and a winning personality.  But other companies do seek out executives who are specifically trained in hospitality studies.  These graduates can explore work in ecotourism, sport tourism, or other cutting edge ventures – like “glamping,” a.k.a. “upmarket camping,” for outdoor enthusiasts who also appreciate luxury.

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