How to work or volunteer internationally

Reforestation work in Madagascar
Reforestation work in Madagascar

Working internationally and getting paid is tough.  Really tough.  Volunteering internationally and not paying for the experience can be tough as well.  I make it a personal rule to never pay an organization, government, business etc. to volunteer for them.  First most of the experience you gain from a trip where you pay to volunteer is inferior to the experience gained when you’re expected to actually work.  It’s also a lot harder to volunteer for 3 months, 6 months, a year if you’re not making money and paying to be there.

That said, volunteering abroad can cost you a bit of money for expenses, plane ticket, etc.  When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably have to cover some of your expenses: food, transportation, etc.  but you still shouldn’t be paying the organization you’re working for.  Think about it this way: no matter how fun the experience is, you’re providing labor as well as receiving experience.

Mostly I can only speak for outdoor and biology type volunteer experiences, which are varied.  If you don’t need to gain any professional experience in these fields, or you want a different type of experience, you can also try the WWOOF program.

If you want to work with wildlife or in the field of exploration though, there are a few options.  My main advice is to start at home, volunteer at a museum, a university, a local park, anything that can give you a little bit of experience.  Having a college background in the field will help enormously as well.  Outdoor experience and training will never hurt either, especially something like Wilderness first responder certification, which will help with any outdoor job/volunteer gig.

Secondly, apply, apply, apply.  You can never send out too many applications for different positions, be flexible and apply for anything you might be interested in.  Rejection levels are high and if you don’t get the position you want, remember, there’s always next year and getting another lesser position will put you in a better place to land that dream job next time.

Below are some of my favorite job boards, check them often, apply to many and don’t give up until you get some call backs!

Explorers Connect– A great place to find positions and connect with other explorers

Texas a&m Job Board– A  job board for wildlife and fisheries jobs and volunteer positions

Society of Conservation Biology– A good conservation biology job board

Stop Dodo– A conservation themed job board with lots of positions in Europe and abroad

Parc place– An amphibian and reptile job board

Primate jobs– A job board for primate biology

American Fisheries– A job board for fisheries positions, mostly American

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