You wouldn’t have entered the field of social work if you weren’t a compassionate, caring person. Maybe you feel the need to go where you feel you’ll be of the most use, like an impoverished nation where the majority of people need social services. Perhaps you love traveling and you dream of spending time abroad, but you weren’t interested in the typical careers that usually go hand-in-hand with living abroad. There are opportunities for the American social worker to live abroad while you are still earning your degree or after.
Sign Up For an Exchange Program
Sign up for an exchange program while you earn a degree. Even if you already have an undergraduate degree, pursue a master’s in social work to make yourself a more impressive job candidate. Since you can take classes online, you can earn your degree while abroad, no matter the time difference between the States and your current location.
Your exchange program can be directly tied to your program — you might, for example, take social work classes at a university abroad — or you could spend the time working in another career and enjoying the global experience while you study. Your time abroad will prove invaluable once you’ve earned your degree and start applying for work in your field in foreign countries.
Join the U.S. Military
Join the U.S. military in active duty or reserve after earning your degree as a specialist in social work. The military is always seeking professionals to work both on their bases with American soldiers and off-base with the local population in areas where the need for social services is dire. Depending on your age and qualifications, you might not see combat. You can also become a contracted social worker, meaning you remain a civilian, but you work both at home and abroad to service the military population.
Apply to Work in a Non Governmental Organization
If you’re familiar with social work jobs in the States, you’re aware many of these jobs are government-funded. The same is true for many social work jobs abroad, which means there are more hurdles to pass. Governments are most likely to hire native citizens for positions, unless the job is directly tied to translation or something that requires a foreign worker, like a liaison to American residents.
Your best bet when looking to work for a social work organization abroad is to focus on the non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Like the private organizations in the U.S., NGOs abroad operate primarily on donations and government grants and typically focus on the local area more than governmental organizations. Put your social work education and experience to use in humanitarian work abroad. Possible positions you might find include organizer, teacher, aid distributor, counselor and clinical social worker with an NGO abroad. Your English language skills will be valuable for many positions because, as NationsOnline reports, it’s the most widely spoken language in the world and can work as a crucial “gap” language to translate between two other languages.
Search for Private Contractors
If you’re having difficulty securing work with an NGO abroad, it may be because the organizations feel more comfortable hiring through a placement service that has provided them with reliable workers in the past. Search for work with private contracting services. They may send you to other nations for weeks, months or even years to represent the contracting company. They could provide you with the chance to work in multiple countries throughout your career. If you’re attracted to one country in particular, a private contractor could be a stepping stone, providing a resume-building experience you can use when you apply for work at an NGO in your desired nation.
The Association of Americans Resident Overseas estimates 6.32 million Americans live abroad, and that number does not include those in the military. Pursuing a career in social work doesn’t preclude you from living abroad just because social work isn’t a business-oriented job. Opting to work in a rewarding field that makes you happy will present you with opportunities around the globe. You just need to know where to find them.