Paid Work Abroad: J-1 Visa, Teach, Au Pair, Work and Travel Programs

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Updated for 2024

Did you know there are lots of different ways to explore the world and earn some income while you’re at it? From teaching abroad, to au pair programs, to working abroad, and paid “immersionship” programs, there are plenty of opportunities to visit a new destination without tapping into your savings. Plus, these programs will let you build your resume and make a difference on your adventure abroad. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common paid travel opportunities.

We’re excited to feature First Things Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that offers two-year, fully-paid immersionships to Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, and the Georgia Republic.

Paid Teach Abroad Programs

There are many different opportunities to earn money while teaching abroad, especially if you are certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language: you can visit some of the most beautiful countries in the world and teach in cities or even in remote locations where teachers are limited and schools are overcrowded. Many teach abroad programs have placements open to students on a gap year or just a summer break, graduates on a career break or extended vacation, and anyone else that’s interested in spending time abroad helping to educate others. Your break could become a working holiday. English teaching abroad is the most common program you’ll find, though any opportunity you take will allow you to help create cultural connections, whether you’re working in another country with children or adults. For example, International TEFL Academy (ITA) offers the gold standard in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. They provide the finest internationally accredited TEFL courses both online and in-person in 20+ locations across the globe. ITA certifies 5,000 people per year, and our graduates are teaching in over 80 countries & online.

Au Pair Programs

Au pair – French for “on par” or equal – programs are designed for travelers who’d like to stay with a host family and help care for the children and the house. Au pairs are given a weekly paycheck, and live as part of the family, usually taking on a variety of household responsibilities in addition to caring for children. When applying to become an Au pair, you can fill out a description of yourself showcasing your experience, the number of children you’re willing to work with, and the ages you’d like to work with. Au pairs do not have to be certified or have a degree, but are given extensive training before being placed with a family.

Work Travel Programs

From farming to teaching, there are many different programs to chose from when it comes to work travel. As you may expect, most of the popular ways to work and travel are teaching English to local schools and to businesses whose employees increasingly need to learn the language to interact with clients, vendors, and customers worldwide. However, there are lots of other ways to have a working holiday and earn some income while traveling, including farming and agriculture, seasonal tourism, hotel work, office jobs, and lots more.

J-1 Visa Programs

The J-1 Visa exchange program offers approximately 300,000 participants from more than 200 countries and territories to visit the United States every year with over 1,400 designated U.S. sponsors involved in the program. Participants can teach, study, conduct research, share specialized skills, and/or receive on-the-job training for anywhere between a few weeks to several years. J-1 Visas most commonly include a large cultural component, so participants can become more engaged with U.S. citizens while simultaneously sharing their culture. There are many different companies and organizations that participate in the J-1 Visa program – to learn more about these opportunities, visit http://j1visa.state.gov.

Cultural Homestays

Cultural homestays give you the chance to stay with a family in a country other than your own. As you participate in a work abroad program or paid teach abroad experience, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in a new culture while completing your project or program. Similar to the experience of an exchange program, through a cultural homestay, you’ll become a member of the family as you help around the house, learn the family’s way of life, and even teach your host family and friends all about the culture of your own country through your actions and stories. This is a phenomenal way to get the most out of your experience in a new country!

Ready for an adventure abroad? Read on to learn all about some amazing organizations that will pay you to travel and make a difference!

Maximo Nivel

VolunteerForever

Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel provides volunteer abroad, intern abroad, study abroad, and teach abroad placements in Latin America. So far, 25,000 volunteers, interns, and teachers have signed up with Maximo Nivel, which partners with local organizations in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru to provide high-quality, engaging placements where you can learn, explore, and make a positive impact. There are many choices if you’re thinking of working abroad. If you want to teach English abroad, Maximo Nivel is a great choice: with 3,500 graduates, lifetime job placement assistance, and international accreditation, you will receive excellent training to confidently teach English worldwide.

If you want to earn your TEFL certification abroad while immersing yourself in a culture different from your own, check out Maximo Nivel’s four-week, 150-hour course in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. Modules include Approaches to Learning and Teaching, Critical ESL Techniques, Class Management, Lesson Planning, English Grammar, Teaching Vocabulary, Assessing Learners, and more. This TEFL certification course incorporates 100 hours of in-class instruction, 35 hours of required reading and written assignments, and 15 hours of observation and practical teaching. You also will have the chance to teach hour-long lessons for five days to an actual English class as part of your certification. Click here to learn more and to sign up!

On Maximo Nivel’s English teaching volunteer program in Latin America, you will immerse yourself in the culture of Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru while helping local students develop and improve their English language skills. For two to four hours each day, you will teach grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, speaking, writing, and listening skills to primary, middle, and high school students. Your specific tasks will vary depending on project needs, but can include creating lesson plans, teaching classes, helping with tutoring, and organizing educational games and activities. Learn more and sign up here!

International TEFL Academy (ITA)

Another opportunity to check out if you’d like to get paid to teach abroad is International TEFL Academy (ITA), which has provided online and in-person TEFL training and certification classes since 2010. To start, ITA offers extensive pre-enrollment guidance from expert advisors to match you with the best program for your interests. After that, you’ll be enrolled in an internationally accredited and high-quality TEFL course, which will open you up to paid English teaching jobs all over the world – and with lifetime job search guidance plus an array of other valuable resources for students and alumni, ITA’s community is here to support you long after you’ve completed your TEFL training.

International TEFL Academy’s 11 week online course is a great way to earn TEFL certification before traveling abroad. This experience includes 150 hours of online lessons plus 20 hours of live teaching practice with ESL learners over 11 weeks, with about 10 to 12 hours of training per week. You can also choose specific tracks to focus on, including Young Learner and Business English, depending on the type of English teaching placement you’d like to pursue abroad later. Once you’ve completed this class, you will be qualified to become a full-time, paid English teacher abroad – here are a few of the awesome destinations where you can get paid to teach English abroad!

Teach English in Argentina

Native English speakers with TEFL certification can get a good job teaching English in Argentina. A 4-year degree may give you an edge in the job market, but isn’t required. With amazing cities like Buenos Aires, great cuisine and a culturally vibrant atmosphere, Argentina offers a work-life balance that attracts many foreign teachers. Wages average around $700 – $1,500+ per month.

Teach English in Spain

ITA can assist with job placement in Spain, one of the most popular destinations in the world for teaching English. You need a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate, which you can get through International TEFL Academy. Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona offer the most options for English teachers, and teaching jobs are usually a part of a government program such as the Cultural Ambassadors Program. Pay ranges from $1,800 – $3,000+ per month.

Teach English in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

A center of trade and commerce, cities in the UAE such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are some of the most sought-after destinations for English teachers. To get a teaching job in the UAE, a bachelor’s degree is required (master’s preferred). You’ll also need TEFL certification and preferable some experience to help you have an edge over other applicants (due to a competitive job market). Expect to make between $1,800 – $5,000+ per month, with 20-25 teaching hours monthly. The nice aspect of teaching jobs in the UAE is the benefits, which can include free housing, airfare and health insurance, as well as paid vacation.

First Things Foundation

As a First Things Foundations “field workers”, all of your travel expenses will be fully covered and you will also be paid a monthly stipend during your two-year “immersionship”. 

First Things Foundation (FTF) is a non-profit organization that partners with local leaders to build sustainable businesses and communities in developing countries. FTF is different from other volunteer organizations in that its field workers (international volunteers) commit two years of their lives to living in the communities they are serving; all expenses are fully covered by the program. This allows field workers to develop deep relationships with the people they are working with and to better understand the needs of the community.

FTF has 15 projects in 4 countries (Guatemala, Sierra Leone, the Republic of Georgia, and Mozambique). These projects are all led by locals in the communities that FTF works in. FTF’s field workers have worked on a variety of projects, including starting businesses, building schools, and providing healthcare. FTF field workers are not afraid to get their hands dirty: working on farms, sanding wood, and kneading dough are some of the ways that they integrate into the local community and become familiar with a new rhythm of life.

FTF covers all travel costs and operations expenses (food, local transport, accommodation, etc.) for its field workers. In addition, field workers receive a monthly stipend of $375. FTF also has international medical and evacuation insurance for all of its field workers.

FTF is looking for volunteers with a desire to better their souls by undertaking a serious challenge, an adventurous attitude, and a willingness to learn new languages, make fun of themselves, and be made fun of. Field workers typically have completed 4 years of college or have an equivalent amount of experience. If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding volunteer experience, the First Things Foundation volunteer program is a great option. FTF field workers have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others and to learn and grow in ways that they never thought possible.

Field Worker Program in Guatemala

First Things Foundations has been hosting field workers in Guatemala since 2016. Currently, they have project sites in Momostenango (aka “Momos”) and in Chichicastenango, two towns that are located 5 to 6 hours northwest of Guatemala City. Both Momos and Chichicastenango have become increasingly popular tourist destinations for travelers to Guatemala who want to have a Mayan experience.

Past successful projects in Guatemala include:

  • Finishing construction and fully equipping a community run school
  • Procuring essential medications for a community pharmacy
  • Supporting local emergency relief during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Partnering with local entrepreneurs to start and expand their businesses

As with all FTF projects, the type of volunteer work typically falls in the realm of community development or social entrepreneurship. As a field worker, you’ll spend the first 8 months immersing in the local community to understand their needs before identifying a project to work on. Learn more about this exciting, two-year paid immersionship here.

Field Worker Program in Sierra Leone

Since 2017, First Things Foundation has been hosting field workers in Sierra Leone to support community development and social entrepreneurship projects. Currently, they have a project site in Kailahun, a small town located in the eastern part of the country. Kailahun is a peaceful and welcoming town with a slower pace of life than the capital city of Freetown.

Some of the past and current projects that FTF field workers have worked on in Sierra Leone include:

  • Helping to build a community church
  • Bringing fresh water to small villages
  • Rebuilding a collapsed school
  • Supporting a village savings co-operative
  • Expanding the medical services provided by the Orthodox Mission in Freetown

If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding volunteer experience that will allow you to make a real difference in the world, the First Things Foundation volunteer program in Sierra Leone is a great option.

Field Worker Program in Mozambique

Mozambique is a new projection location for First Things Foundation. Currently, they have a project site in Corrane, a small town located a few hours southeast of the major city of Nampula. Corrane is a diverse town with a significant internally displaced population due to the conflict in Cabo Delgado.

FTF field workers are currently in the process of establishing themselves in the community, meeting their neighbors, and learning Portuguese and the local dialect of Makua. They are also working to identify projects that they can support in the community.

As with all FTF projects, the type of volunteer work typically falls in the realm of community development or social entrepreneurship. As a field worker, you’ll spend the first 8 months immersing in the local community to understand their needs before identifying a project to work on.

Here are some of the unique value propositions of the First Things Foundation volunteer program in Mozambique:

  • Opportunity to make a real difference: Mozambique is a country with a rich culture and history, but it is also a country that has faced many challenges in recent years. By volunteering with FTF, you have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others and to help build a better future for Mozambique.
  • Immersive experience: FTF field workers spend a significant amount of time immersing themselves in the local community. This allows them to develop deep relationships with the people they are working with and to better understand the needs of the community.
  • Support from a team of professionals: FTF has a team of experienced professionals who provide support and guidance to field workers throughout their service term.
  • Opportunity to learn and grow: Volunteering with FTF is a challenging but rewarding experience. Field workers have the opportunity to learn new skills, develop their leadership potential, and grow as individuals.

If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding volunteer experience that will allow you to make a real difference in the world, the First Things Foundation volunteer program in Mozambique is a great option.

Field Worker Program in the Republic of Georgia

First Things Foundation has just begun deploying field workers to the Republic of Georgia. Currently, they have a project site in Akhaltsikhe, a small town located a few hours southwest of the capital of Tbilisi. Akhaltsikhe is a diverse town with a significant Armenian population.

One of the active projects that FTF field workers are working on in Georgia is supporting the growth of local business and community projects, which includes helping entrepreneurs to start and expand their businesses, as well as providing assistance to community-led projects. As a field worker, you’ll spend the first 8 months immersing in the local community to understand their needs before identifying a project to work on for the remainder of the two year immersionship.

Here are some of the unique value propositions of the First Things Foundation volunteer program in the Republic of Georgia:

  • Opportunity to make a real difference: Georgia is a country with a rich culture and history, but it is also a country that has faced many challenges in recent years. By volunteering with FTF, you have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others and to help build a better future for Georgia.
  • Immersive experience: FTF field workers spend a significant amount of time immersing themselves in the local community. This allows them to develop deep relationships with the people they are working with and to better understand the needs of the community.
  • Support from a team of professionals: FTF has a team of experienced professionals who provide support and guidance to field workers throughout their service term.
  • Opportunity to learn and grow: Volunteering with FTF is a challenging but rewarding experience. Field workers have the opportunity to learn new skills, develop their leadership potential, and grow as individuals.

If you are looking for a challenging and rewarding volunteer experience that will allow you to make a real difference in the world, the First Things Foundation volunteer program in the Republic of Georgia is a great option.

Global Vision International

Right now, Global Vision International (GVI) is offering you a wonderful opportunity to teach in Thailand. Once you complete GVI’s comprehensive orientation weekend or its 120-hour TEFL course, you can embark on this life-changing experience. In Thailand, teachers are extremely well-respected because it is a necessity for children to learn English. By learning English, these children can secure a good education and future job, and you can play a part of their achieving that success. Through this program, you not only get a wonderful cultural experience, but you also can save money for future traveling endeavors. You will earn between 25,000 to 35,000 Baht (approximately $700 to $1000 USD) per month.

The program itself costs $1,000 but includes the following: comprehensive pre-departure support, airport pickup for orientation and training in Chiang Mai, placement matching service, shared accommodation, welcome dinner, deals during orientation weekend, assistance with paperwork, local SIM with Thai phone number, GVI t-shirt, and several other accommodations.

If you’re wondering how to work abroad, this is a good program to look into. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a recent graduate, on a gap year, taking a break in your education, or simply looking to have a one-of-a-kind experience abroad: this is an amazing opportunity that will stand out on your resume. You’ll gain greater independence, leadership skills, and responsibility, and have the opportunity to meet and work with people from all over the world.

To learn more about this program, please visit http://www.gviusa.com/paid-teaching/paid-teaching-in-thailand/.

What Volunteers Say

I have volunteered twice with GVI and in both cases the experiences are still very much with me. I had a fantastic time, got to meet some amazing people and see some really beautiful parts of the world. I felt entirely safe and looked after, right up from the moment that I booked to the point where GVI put me (sadly) on the plane to come back to the UK. I would recommend GVI as a voluntary organisation to anyone and everyone – just make sure you don’t book for too short a while because once you get out there you won’t want to come back.

-Emma

International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT)

Since 1993, International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) has been one of the world’s leading TEFL and TESOL course providers. ITTT offers high-quality training through an online coursein-class courses in 27 different countries, and a combined course, with more than 100,000 graduates to date. With worldwide accreditation, ITTT offers lifetime job support for all students who successfully complete their programs, including job leads, employer databases, CV and resume review, and much more. Online courses start at $249, in-class courses start from $1,490 for four weeks, and combined courses start from $1,195.

ITTT’s internationally accredited online TEFL courses open up opportunities for working in another country. Plus, they’re open to students of all learning styles, allowing you to earn TEFL certification from home, at your own pace, and with or without tutor support. Courses range from 60-hour introductory programs, to 50-hour specialized ones, to 250-hour TESOL diploma classes. If you’d rather earn your TEFL or TESOL certification abroad, check out ITTT’s in-class courses, which take place in more than 25 different locations across Australia, Greece, India, Japan, and beyond. These four-week classes provide an intensive and immersive experience, and are an excellent gateway to finding a job teaching English in the country of your choice. For example, ITTT’s TEFL training center in Sydney is a wonderful option for you to gain experience teaching in Australia, and then go on to teach in Asia (or anywhere else in the world).

And finally, if you want to combine online training with an in-class experience, ITTT offers that option as well: you’ll start with a 120-hour online education program, followed by one to two weeks of onsite training. For the online segment, you’ll learn about language awareness, teaching theory, and general methodology, and after that, you can take a 5-day in-classroom course in one of more than a dozen locations in the US or Canada, or an 8- to 10-day program in Spain, Thailand, Italy, France, or the US. You’ll receive full TEFL certification after successfully completing both portions of ITTT’s combined course.

If you’re inspired to travel abroad and build your skill sets, there are plenty of amazing opportunities to choose from, and lots of high-quality organizations that will help you find the right program and earn some income.

Want to know more about building your resume while traveling? Check out these articles:

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