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How to Gain Vocational Trade Skills through Internships and Volunteering

Written By
By Munira Maricar
Travel Writer
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Ever thought about making good money and living your best life without being stuck in an office all day? And what if we also told you that is it entirely possible to secure a lucrative job without dedicating four years to a conventional college or university education?

Well, learning a trade skill could be your golden ticket! It’s not just about the cash (which can be pretty awesome, by the way), but it’s also about having the freedom to work from different places around the world. 

Numerous individuals are opting out of the traditional academic route and still landing some of the highest-paying roles out there. Remarkably, without possessing a bachelor’s degree, they often earn more than those who have completed four-year programs. 

Let’s dive into some cool trades you can pick up and how to get started on this exciting journey.

Advantages of Trade Jobs


Advantages of Trade Jobs

Trade jobs offer several compelling benefits over traditional corporate roles:

  • Higher Earnings Potential: Many trades offer salaries that compete with or surpass those of college-degree-required jobs.
  • Flexibility and Travel: Skilled tradespeople can find opportunities worldwide, as their skills are universally needed, offering a chance to work in various locations.
  • Job Security: Trades are often in high demand, providing stable career options that are less susceptible to economic downturns.

Learning the Trades

Learning a trade often means joining a vocational training program, which is not only more budget-friendly but also faster than a four-year college degree. For example, trade school might set you back anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, with programs ranging from three months to 18 months in duration. This makes trade school a smart alternative for those looking to avoid the hefty price tag of college.

gap year programs

Beyond the classroom, you can dive into the real world with internships, volunteer opportunities, or apprenticeships. These experiences are invaluable, allowing you to learn practical skills, make industry connections, and even land jobs after you finish your program. Following this path equips you with the experience and credentials that boost your appeal to potential employers, paving the way for a promising career.

And if you’re someone who itches to travel – what if we told you that you could earn these amazing experiences overseas?

Well-Earning Vocational Trades

Dental Hygienist


The main roles of dental hygienists include maintaining oral hygiene, examining the mouth to detect any health issues, and teaching individuals the importance of good dental practices. Their job is crucial in ensuring that patients understand and implement the best methods for taking care of their teeth and gums, aiming to prevent dental problems before they arise. If you have an associate’s degree, you can start training to be a Dental Hygienist. The training can be completed within two years.

Annual Salary can go up to: $100,200 or more
Typical Salary Range: $77,810 to $99,013 per year


Gain experience as a Dental Hygienist abroad with these programs:

  • Dental care internships in Latin America with Maximo Nivel provide invaluable hands-on experience, allowing you to work closely with experienced dentists and hygienists in various settings, from private clinics to public health centers. You’ll not only learn the practical aspects of dental care but also how to adapt to the challenges of working with limited resources. If you’re looking to start getting experience without specific academic prerequisites, try your hand at volunteering in dental care abroad with Maximo Nivel.
  • International dental internships offered by Intern Abroad HQ, are fantastic for anyone aiming to become a dental hygienist. You get to work with experienced dentists in Tanzania, Greece, Peru, and Zanzibar, gaining hands-on experience in various dental practices. These internships not only enhance your clinical skills but also broaden your cultural understanding and professional network, setting a solid foundation for your career in dental hygiene.
  • Dentistry internships with Projects Abroad offer those aspiring to become dental hygienists opportunities to shadow professionals and participate in dental camps in locations like Sri Lanka, Ghana, Argentina, and more. These programs expose you to diverse oral health conditions and treatments, expanding your knowledge and preparing you for a successful career in dental hygiene. 

Web Developer/Digital Interface Designer

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Web developers and digital interface designers focus on creating user-friendly design and functionality in online spaces. This field requires technical skills more than formal education, so self-teaching and short courses are how you can get ahead​​. You can start earning a living as a Web Developer or Digital Interface Designer after amassing sufficient work experience. 

Annual Salary can go up to: $129,760
Typical Salary Average: $ $77,030 per year

Spend your gap year in Australia

Gain experience as a Web Developer or Digital Interface Designer abroad with Intern Abroad HQ’s Computer Science internships. These programs, available in countries like Spain, England, and Australia, offer a gateway to the cutting-edge tech world. Customize your internship for a deep dive into areas such as coding, software development, and e-commerce. With hands-on design tasks, social media management, and web development projects, you’ll expand your portfolio and professional network while gaining valuable international experience.

Commercial Diver


For those passionate about diving, becoming a commercial diver offers an exciting, well-paying career. This role involves underwater tasks like inspection, repair, and construction across various industries. While challenging, it turns diving passions into a rewarding job. No formal degree is needed, but specialized training and certification, which can be completed within 6 to 12 months, are crucial for safety and effectiveness in underwater operations.

Annual Salary can go up to: $171,470​​
Typical Salary Average: $68,300

Volunteer Forever - Archaeological Dig & Excavation Programs

Learn how to dive and gain diving experience abroad with these programs:

  • Earning a SCUBA certification through Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru is a fantastic step for those interested in becoming a commercial diver. This program offers PADI certifications, the most recognized diving credentials globally. You’ll explore diverse underwater ecosystems, from volcanic formations to rich marine habitats, all while gaining the confidence and comfort needed for a career in diving.
  • Intern Abroad HQ’s Marine Conservation Internships in South Africa and Costa Rica offer an exceptional opportunity for aspiring commercial divers. These programs immerse you in marine conservation, providing PADI certification alongside hands-on experience in one of the world’s most diverse marine habitats. You’ll engage in regular scuba diving, and contribute to vital reef conservation efforts. This experience advances your diving skills and prepares you for a career in commercial diving with a strong conservation perspective.
  • IVHQ’s Environmental Scuba Diving Volunteer Project in Lisbon combines scuba certification with hands-on marine conservation work. You’ll learn about marine biodiversity, tackle underwater pollution, and contribute to global conservation efforts. Gaining this experience and certification not only enhances your diving skills but also enriches your understanding of environmental protection, making it a perfect blend for future commercial diving professionals.
  • GoEco’s dive programs are perfect for those aspiring to be commercial divers, offering a blend of diving certification opportunities and marine conservation work. From the Belize Barrier Reef to the Great Barrier Reef and beyond, participants can either learn to dive or enhance their skills. These projects not only deepen your diving abilities but also engage you in meaningful conservation efforts.
  • Join Projects Abroad in a cutting-edge conservation project focusing on shark protection in Fiji. Collaborate with scientists and contribute to crucial research through survey dives, while achieving a PADI Divemaster certification. This program is a blend of adventure, education, and meaningful conservation work. Similarly, their Thailand Diving & Coral Reef Protection project also offers a PADI Advanced Divemaster certificate while engaging in vital marine conservation work. Contribute to underwater surveys, coral propagation, and additional land-based initiatives. Experience living on Koh Tao Island, exploring its stunning beaches and vibrant culture.
  • African Impact’s diving internships are ideal for aspiring commercial divers looking to merge their passion for the ocean with meaningful conservation work. These programs offer comprehensive dive training and environmental protection efforts. From researching whale sharks in Mozambique to promoting ethical dolphin tourism in Zanzibar, and more, participants gain valuable skills, contribute to marine research, and experience Africa’s unique marine biodiversity.
  • IVI’s programs in Borneo, Malaysia, cater to both budding and seasoned diving enthusiasts. Their 2-week PADI Diving Course offers an immersive introduction to diving, providing Open Water and Advanced certifications. For those seeking a deeper dive into the professional world, the 8-week PADI Diving Internship transforms participants into certified Divemasters, encompassing basic dives to advanced rescue operations. Both programs are ideal stepping stones for aspiring commercial divers passionate about marine conservation and underwater exploration.
  • If you’re already a PADI-certified diver, you can enhance your diving skills and contribute to vital environmental efforts in locations like Madagascar and Bali. These programs by Volunteering Solutions are perfect for those looking to deepen their dive experience and make a meaningful difference in marine conservation.
  • Global Vision International (GVI) offers exceptional PADI Diver programs, perfect for those pursuing a commercial diving career. Their apprenticeships in locations like Mexico, Fiji, Thailand, and Seychelles blend PADI Divemaster certification with marine conservation. Over 24 to 30 weeks, participants not only advance their diving skills but also contribute to crucial marine conservation efforts. If you’re between 15 to 18 years old, GVI provides teen volunteering in marine conservation, allowing younger enthusiasts to earn their PADI Open Water certification. 

Construction Equipment Operator

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Construction equipment operators are crucial in infrastructure projects, handling machinery like bulldozers and cranes to ensure efficient, safe completion. Gaining experience on construction sites, even in non-machinery roles, is beneficial, offering insights into overall site operations and safety practices. While formal education isn’t required, vocational training or certifications, completed in 1-2 years, boost employability. This career suits those interested in a hands-on approach to shaping environments.

Annual Salary can go up to: $88,319
Typical Salary Average: $48,290 


Gain experience on construction sites around the world! 

  • Volunteering in construction and renovation with Maximo Nivel in Latin America offers hands-on experience on construction sites. You’ll learn both traditional and modern building methods, working directly on projects that improve housing and schools. Guided by professional foremen, you’ll engage in various construction tasks, gaining practical skills while making a tangible impact. This demanding work includes mixing cement, laying bricks, and more, providing an invaluable learning opportunity and a deeper understanding of construction work.
  • Intern HQ’s Construction & Architecture Internship in London and Civil Engineering Internship in Bali offer incredible opportunities for those aiming to become Construction Equipment Operators. In London, you’ll dive into the heart of the UK’s construction sector, gaining practical skills in project management and safety compliance. Bali’s internships immerse you in civil engineering projects, from planning to execution. Both programs provide hands-on experience, mentorship from experienced professionals, and insight into global construction practices, making them ideal for building a solid foundation in construction.
  • IVHQ’s construction and renovation projects worldwide offer aspiring construction equipment operators practical experience alongside skilled tradespeople. These projects involve a variety of building-related tasks in locations such as Fiji, Laos, Nepal, and more. Volunteers learn valuable skills in real-world settings, contributing to essential infrastructure improvements and gaining insights into construction work. No prior experience is needed, making these projects a solid foundation for a career in construction.
  • GoEco‘s construction and renovation volunteer programs provide practical experience in building and renovating vital community infrastructure like schools and community centers. Volunteers gain hands-on skills in various construction tasks in diverse settings like Bali, Cape Verde, and Nepal.


  • Projects Abroad’s building projects offer an excellent foundation for those aiming to be construction equipment operators. By participating in constructing schools and daycare centers, volunteers gain firsthand experience with a focus on ethical practices. These projects not only provide practical construction experience but also emphasize the importance of making a long-lasting impact in communities. Whether rebuilding in Nepal or developing educational facilities in Tanzania, these programs are highly beneficial for aspiring construction professionals.
  • IVI’s Renovation & Construction Programs abroad are excellent for aspiring construction equipment operators. These programs offer practical experience in developing communities by building and renovating essential facilities like schools and libraries. From laying bricks in Cambodia to assisting with earthquake recovery in Nepal, volunteers gain hands-on skills. Working alongside skilled tradesmen in countries like India, the Philippines, and Fiji, participants contribute to meaningful community development while honing construction skills critical for their future careers.
  • Volunteering Solutions (VolSol) provides enriching Construction & Building Volunteer Projects, perfect for those aiming to become Construction Equipment Operators. These initiatives in communities like Ghana, and India, allow volunteers to engage in meaningful construction tasks under expert supervision. With no prior construction experience required, these programs offer valuable hands-on experience and the chance to contribute to the development of educational facilities.
  • GVI’s construction volunteering programs are an incredible opportunity to engage in projects that enhance infrastructure in needy communities, offering hands-on experience in construction techniques and equipment usage. Volunteers not only contribute to vital community development but also learn practical construction skills, understand new cultures, and impact educational outcomes through creating and improving facilities in Nepal and more.

Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN)


Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care under the guidance of registered nurses and doctors. Responsibilities include monitoring patient health, administering basic patient care like changing bandages and providing support and comfort to patients. Training to become an LPN or LVN typically requires about a year to complete. This makes it an attractive option for those looking to enter a rewarding career in healthcare without the extended time commitment required for some other medical professions.

Annual Salary can go up to: $75,940 or more​​
Typical Salary Average: $48,070

Intern Abroad Programs

Gain healthcare experience abroad to become a Practical or Vocational Nurse with these programs:

  • Maximo Nivel’s Medical Internships and Healthcare Volunteer Programs in Latin America are phenomenal stepping stones for aspiring Practical or Vocational Nurses. These programs immerse participants in real-world medical settings, offering hands-on experience in patient care, triage, and health education. They are particularly beneficial for those seeking to understand the complexities of providing care in resource-limited environments. Additionally, working in diverse settings, from rural clinics to urban hospitals, broadens perspectives on global health challenges.
  • Intern HQ’s Nursing Internship in Arusha, Tanzania, allows students to work alongside seasoned nurses across various hospital departments. It’s a chance to transfer classroom knowledge to real-world situations, tackling unique healthcare challenges in a setting vastly different from what many are accustomed to. This holistic approach not only sharpens clinical skills but also cultivates a deeper sense of empathy and cultural intelligence, essential qualities for any nurse.
  • Volunteering with IVHQ offers aspiring Practical or Vocational Nurses a chance to grow clinically and culturally. Through programs in over 16 destinations, including a transformative Medical Elective in Nepal, participants gain invaluable nursing experience and personal and professional development, preparing them for a diverse nursing career.
  • GoEco’s Medical and Nursing Program in Sri Lanka welcomes pre-med, medical, and nursing students to engage in hands-on and observational experiences across various medical wards. It leverages Sri Lanka’s free healthcare system to provide access to a broad network of professionals and a high volume of patients, enhancing both practical skills and global healthcare understanding.
Overseas nurse work with Projects Abroad
  • Projects Abroad’s Nursing Internships provide vital practical experience for aspiring Practical or Vocational Nurses, at all levels of their education. These internships in countries like Kenya, Mexico, and more, offer insights into different healthcare systems, allowing interns to shadow professionals and develop key medical skills.
  • African Impact’s Hospital-Based Medical Internship in Kenya offers a rich learning environment for those aiming to become Practical or Vocational Nurses. Customized placements in diverse departments, from obstetrics to oncology, provide hands-on experience and opportunities to work closely with seasoned professionals, participate in community outreach, and learn to navigate healthcare in resource-limited settings.
  • IVI’s Public Health & Nutrition Programs are perfect for those pursuing a career in Practical or Vocational Nursing to gain hands-on experience in nutrition and healthcare, working alongside professionals in resource-limited communities. These programs enhance your practical skills and knowledge, while you educate on healthy living and contribute to meaningful community impact. Ideal for students and qualified practitioners, these flexible placements offer a unique blend of learning and service, making them an invaluable part of your nursing journey.
  • Volunteering Solutions‘ programs in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Ghana immerse participants in diverse healthcare environments. From observing surgeries to participating in community health projects, volunteers gain hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of global health challenges. These programs enhance practical skills, broaden medical knowledge, and prepare participants for a compassionate nursing career through direct patient care and health education initiatives.
  • GVI’s Volunteer Public Health Project in Fiji is a perfect match for those aiming to become Practical or Vocational Nurses. It immerses participants in community health initiatives, working alongside local nurses to improve well-being in the Dawasamu community. This program not only hones practical nursing skills but also enriches personal and professional growth amidst Fiji’s idyllic setting.

The Path to Success

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The journey to mastering a vocational trade involves:

  • Choosing a Field: Select a trade that aligns with your interests and strengths. Consider job outlook, potential earnings, and personal preferences.
  • Undergoing Training: Enroll in a vocational program at a trade school. These programs combine classroom learning with practical, hands-on training.
  • Gaining Experience: Leverage apprenticeships, internships, and externships to gain real-world experience and build a professional network.
  • Earning Certifications: Obtain necessary certifications or licensures, as many trades require them for legal practice and credibility.

Ditch the Desk!

volunteer, teach, and intern in Europe

Trade skills offer a different path that can lead to well-paying jobs and the chance to work in different places around the world. By picking a trade that you’re interested in and getting the right training, you can easily build a successful career that pays more than enough! 

There are many options out there – the most important things are to learn as much as you can, get real-world experience, and keep improving your skills. This way, you can have a great, fulfilling job without being stuck in an office all day and really enjoy what you do.