There’s one big word when it comes to jobs in the UK: diversity. Spread across four nations, the United Kingdom is a gold mine of opportunities to expand your professional knowledge through working abroad. Whether you’d like to sew costumes at a theater in London, take care of Sir Roger the Elephant in Glasgow, or craft computer programs in Belfast, there is a job in the UK to any interest or career path. As a world leader in economics, salaries for jobs in the UK are very competitive, and there’s no shortage of cultural and natural excursions for you to tackle once you clock out of the office.
The United Kingdom, comprised of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, is a no-brainer destination for English speakers on the hunt for international work. Picking between these four nations can be difficult, but if you know what you’re most interested in exploring, it’ll be easier to choose. If you have FOMO, know there’s also a superb transportation network in the UK, so you can visit the other countries on weekend trips.
England is the largest nation in the United Kingdom and home to the biggest cities with the most job opportunities in the UK, namely London, Manchester, and Liverpool. London is a high-energy place to live and work abroad, with every type of food you can think of (including some of the best curry ever), a great nightlife, and no lack of fancy museums to tour. Though Liverpool and Manchester are smaller, they are no less interesting. If you’re interested in following in the footsteps of the Beatles or getting involved in the film industry, head to Liverpool, the Capital of Pop. If chemistry, technology, or a groovy lifestyle are more up your alley, go hang out with the Mancunians (the peeps of Manchester).
To the north there lies the grand, untamed country of Scotland. From bagpipes to haggis, Scotland is a travelers’ paradise in terms of cultural immersion, and there is no shortage of nature walks to embark on that makes you feel like you’re starring in your own Game of Thrones sequel. Just take note that winters get cold and windy and summers come with midges, so dress accordingly. The two biggest cities in Scotland are Edinburgh and Glasgow, and both offer job opportunities in most fields; although, there is a strong emphasis on science and the arts in Scotland. The cost of living in Scotland is slightly lower than in England, but the cities are considerably smaller and have a vastly different feel.
On the west of the main island lies the nation of Wales. Distinctly set apart from its English neighbor with its Celtic culture and history, Wales is a beautiful place with a predominantly rural countryside. Only a two hour train ride away from London, but with only a third of its population, Wales caters to nature-lovers and upscale travelers, thus providing many jobs in the hospitality sector. If you’re interested in buildings or the performing arts, take your resume to Cardiff, one of Europe's smallest capitals that packs a punch for its size.
Located on the Emerald Isle, Northern Ireland is home to time-worn rocks and old legends. Its capital and most lively city is Belfast, which is home to music-filled pubs, a floating museum, and great restaurants for all. If you’re interested in frequent cultural happenings and the diversity of a larger city, but don’t want to get lumped with hordes of tourists, Belfast is a great option for jobs in the UK. If you also get the Titanic theme song frequently stuck in your head, you’ll be in good company.
Jobs in the UK
Jobs in the UK are aplenty, both in the public and private sector, but applicants should be aware that near-native English fluency is required for most positions. It is also important to note that the British place a high value on punctuality and politeness, so if it’s your habit to show up to work late, be prepared to change your ways.
From Macbeth to The Who to Irish traditional music, the arts have been alive and thriving all over the U.K. for literally thousands of years. This has resulted in a remarkable amount of theaters, operas, and all sorts of fine arts institutions and organizations to work at. However, the amount of people and prestige in this field is fierce, so come prepared with a determined mindset and a stellar routine.
As one of the world’s economic leaders, the United Kingdom is a leader in the fields of business and commerce. From the London School of Economics to Edinburgh, where Adam Smith roamed during the Enlightenment, there are plenty of places to look for jobs in business and finance. A relevant degree and a couple of years of professional experience are highly recommended, but you’re welcome to write your own Charles Dickens business odyssey as well.
The U.K. is a top destination for thousands of tourists every year, making it a hotspot for hospitality and customer service jobs. You’ll most likely find hospitality jobs in the UK in the more touristy areas, like London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Belfast. Experience isn’t as needed for tourism jobs in the UK, but people skills, language knowledge, and patience are big pluses.
Finally, there are families all over Great Britain that are looking for people to take care of their kiddoes. Child care, or au pair, positions are incredibly available and offer numerous benefits. The pay isn’t always the highest, but many families will offer room and board, allowing international workers to spend and save on other things.
Salary & Affordability
In general, expats will find that living and working in the United Kingdom to be a bit more expensive than a lot of other countries. Rent costs more, the exchange rate is high, and going out can be expensive. The pound doesn’t have to be scary, though. The good news is that grocery shopping is very affordable and companies have to pay employees at least the minimum standard of five to six Euros an hour. If you’re able to combine a well-planned budget with some entertainment creativity, life will be just swell. Save pub nights for special occasions though, as an average night out will cost between 20 and 30 pounds.
As with most jobs around the world, the more experienced and more education you have, the higher your salary will be. While this holds true for jobs in the UK, there are still many entry-level positions (especially in hospitality and child care) that will hire applicants with zero to little experience. The standards of living tend to be high across the United Kingdom, so if you treat your income smartly, you will not be left cold and hungry.
Accommodation & Visas
Finding housing and securing a visa are, without a doubt, some of the trickiest parts about living and working in the United Kingdom. Once you get past this bureaucratic hurdle, you’ll be golden.
Accommodation can be a little difficult to manage upon arrival in the UK, as there is already a housing shortage in many cities. Be sure to look for housing near universities, as student housing will be cheaper, though a bit smaller. It is also good to keep your expectations in check. Many times, it can be hard to find housing near your place of work, so learn to enjoy and make the most of your daily commute. On the bright side, the British public transportation system is impeccable and the subway and bus system are efficient and affordable. Just mind the gap!
Unless you are able to get hired by a local company right off the bat and have them endorse you for a work visa, it may be difficult to get a visa if you are not from the European Union. Most people qualify for a three-month tourist visa, but this will not get you far in the job market. Foreigners should check with their local British embassy for all of the proper channels to go through. Also, make sure to check with your employer for what kind of visa you’ll need as they might offer some insight and assistance.
Benefits & Challenges
The varying accents of the UK can be a difficult (albeit fun) obstacle to face. Unlike countries where accents vary by region, towns that are only couple of miles apart in Great Britain can sound like they’re from different continents. This isn’t even taking into account the difference in accents from Wales to England to Scotland to Northern Ireland. We recommend patience, practice, and lots of interaction with the locals to get the local drawl just right. In no time you’ll be ordering your chips and sipping your cuppa like a pro.
British people are some of the most open and funny creatures a traveler can have the pleasure of coming into contact with. Their dry humor can take a little getting used to and you might hesitate to giggle in the beginning, but soon you’ll be rolling on the floor (or, more properly, chuckling daintily behind your hand). The Brits are also incredibly friendly and it is almost a genetic trait to be helpful to those who are in need of it.
Finally, pub culture is something that just can’t be replicated in other places. Whether it’s in a small town on the coast of Northern Ireland, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, or in a crowded raucous one in downtown London, there’s just something about good music, ale, and warm company that feeds the soul. It’s like chicken soup, just with a lot more booze and celebration.
For such a tiny island (islands), the United Kingdom really offers a lot. We really mean it when we say that the UK has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to get a job with aged scotch in Scotland or work with some stock brokers in London, there is an opportunity for one and all. So do your research, then take that leap of faith that is quintessential when going on an adventure, and go find a job in the UK.