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Working Abroad in the United States

Historically, the U.S. has always been known as “the land of opportunity.” This may be a bit of a cliché, but in many ways it is still true. Workers come to the U.S. to improve their skills, their education level, their quality of living, and for a new life in general. The U.S. is also a wonderful place for students to work abroad for a summer or spend a gap year. There are ample opportunities for part-time or seasonal jobs, and working in the United States gives individuals time to explore the country, while supplementing travel expenses and gaining international work experience.

Locations

Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital has job opportunities for almost every job seeker, and recent economic studies rate it as the area of the U.S. that has the highest number of jobs available across all industries and professions. The federal government and military are huge employers, and law and lobbying is a major industry. Within the city and its suburbs, there are academic and research job opportunities at several universities, including Georgetown, George Washington University, and American University.

There are also major healthcare providers and research centers, including the Washington Hospital Center, National Children’s Hospital, and the National Institute of Health. Washington D.C. is also a major media center and supports a high-tech industry corridor between the District and suburban Dulles Airport. On top of everything else, for part-time and entry-level workers, there’s a thriving service and tourism industry too.

Seattle, Washington gets high marks for combining economic opportunity with livability, provided you don’t mind the rain. It’s a center for computer sciences, aviation and aerospace production, and research, and it’s the gateway for international trade to Asia as well as cruises and wilderness excursions to Alaska. Seattle is also home to Internet retailer Amazon and cutting edge coffee technology, Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Tully's were all founded or are based in Seattle. Major universities in Seattle include the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific, and Seattle University.

Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the past few years, Raleigh has consistently been ranked as one of the top places to begin a business or pursue a business career. The cost of doing business in the area is low, and the region is growing steadily. The technology, healthcare, and education industries are key employers. The city is part of the North Carolina's Research Triangle, one of the largest and most diverse concentrations of cutting-edge start-ups and research centers, especially in the field of biotechnology. It’s also in the center of several major academic and cultural institutions, including Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, and The North Carolina Museum of Art.

Jobs Abroad in the United States

A little more than 15 percent of the U.S. labor market is filled by foreign-born workers, and most of those jobs fall at either end of the job spectrum. There are high-skill, generally technical, very specific, and highly-compensated jobs in the United States, for which potential employees are often recruited. On the other end, there are jobs that are physically hard, low-skilled, and at the bottom of the wage scale, such as agricultural, housekeeping and cleaning, retail and fast food, and landscaping and non-union construction jobs. 

The more fluent you are in English and the higher your education level, the better your chance of working abroad in the U.S. in a higher-paying position. Geographically, the highest number of jobs in the USA are available in the West or Northeastern parts of the country, and several industries stand out as areas in which workers will be in demand in the future.

Healthcare. Thirteen of the 20 occupations with the highest projected rate of growth are in the healthcare field. These jobs in the U.S. encompass a wide range of required training and projected salaries (which are typically on the higher side). Job titles such as personal care aide, registered nurse, and physician’s assistant are the most popular and are in the highest demand.

Retail Sales. Retail sales work abroad in the USA is one of the most fluid and easily attainable jobs. It is not particularly high paying as the median salary averages around $10 an hour. Sometimes it is supplemented by commission bonuses and employee discounts, and it is a good first job and typically takes place in a clean, secure environment. Retail jobs in the U.S. can be a career stepping stone, and shifts are generally flexible enough so the job can be fit around other responsibilities (such as family needs or school). 

Computer & Information Technology. This is one of the most rapidly expanding and changing industries in the U.S. and worldwide. IT or computer jobs in the United States range from computer programmers and computer support specialists to web designers and software developers. Though some moguls famously dropped out of college and started multi-million dollar franchises in their garages, most jobs abroad in the USA require at least a two-year technical degree or a bachelor’s degree. Starting salaries (although these depend heavily on the position and the size and location of the company) are typically quite high, and jobs provide enough room for advancement and salary increases.

Salary & Affordability

Salaries and the cost of living vary widely by geographic region and by whether the setting is rural or in a major metropolitan area. Either way, the cost of living in the U.S. is lower than in many European countries, but higher than in many other areas of the world. Education and age matters when it comes to pay scales. Typically, those with a bachelor’s degree will earn nearly three times as much as those with only high school degrees.

Each state has a different set minimum wage, and hospitality or restaurant jobs may be lower due to earning tips. Federal minimum wage is tough to live on comfortably no matter what part of the country you live in. Typically, the larger the city, the higher the living costs. The most expensive cities are Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Mid-sized cities in the Midwestern region tend to be more affordable. Depending on what type of work abroad in the USA you are seeking, it is best to also bring along savings.

Accommodation & Visas

Housing is generally plentiful and affordable for workers who fall in the high skill range, and often housing is subsidized or arranged by employers, particularly if the employer is an academic, research, or high-tech organization. Sharing an apartment with roommates is the best way to cut costs while living comfortably.

Seasonal workers typically have more of a challenge as they are generally at the bottom of the pay scale. Seasonal agricultural workers face the biggest challenge since they are often moving from location to location, in rural areas where options are limited, and can be sub-standard. Seasonal non agricultural workers, such as natural or amusement park employees, resort employees, or those in the tourism industries may find options to be limited as well, but in many cases they will have access to dorms or subsidized housing on site.

Visas to work abroad in the USA vary according to the job and skill level. One of the most issued, most coveted, and the most highly-compensated is the H1B, given to workers with specific in-demand skills, such as computer systems and software engineers, software developers, electronic engineers, researchers, and medical specialists. These are issued for three years, with an option to renew, and an option to convert to permanent resident status. Seasonal agriculture and non-agricultural workers can be issued a one-year visa that can be renewed for three years.

Employers must get certification for the jobs offered, and employees must verify their immigration status. Up-to-date information on visa types, regulations, and the application process is available through the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or U.S. Embassy offices.

Benefits & Challenges

  • Limitless Opportunity. The country and its options have no limits or boundaries. Working abroad in the U.S. can be the first step to a rewarding career in almost any field, or it can be a temporary stop, a job that finances what amounts to a vacation in a country with more things to see and do than can be managed in a lifetime.
  • Ample Preparation & Research Needed. The U.S. is a vast place. Competition for jobs, especially in high-paying industries or the biggest metropolitan areas, is stiff. The U.S. economy is just emerging from recession, and is still uncertain. Whether it’s a summer job, an internship, career enhancement, or a permanent move you’re looking for, your move will take research and preparation.
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