Browse our university guidance

What's on this page

People busy at work around a desk

Careers after studying abroad at University

Once you have graduated from your degree course at university, your focus will move from your education to your career after university. As an international student, this is particularly important as you will also have to consider whether you wish to remain in the country of your studies, or to move home or elsewhere to begin your career.

In this article, we outline some considerations that will help you approach planning your career after graduation.

Assessing your goals

During your studies you will have gained lots of skills that can be put to good use in your future employment. You will also have been able to identify your strengths and interests more clearly than at the point of beginning your studies. You can take skills assessment tests, such as those offered by the UK national career service, to learn more about things that you are good at.

Use this information to start honing in on particular areas that interest you, and the kind of roles that you would find fulfilling in your career.

Exploring career options

Careers related to your degree

Once you have graduated, the first area to begin looking at for ideas for your career is subjects related to your degree. Whilst you were studying you may have built a good idea of what it is you enjoy about the subject you picked to study. It may be that you wish to choose to focus on this area in your career.

Ideas may not initially appear straightforward, but if you consult with your university they will be able to suggest some good places to start. When you start looking, you may find that work areas begin to suggest themselves.

Some examples include:

  • If you studied design, you may be interested in careers in fashion, product design, advertising, marketing and publishing.
  • If you studied languages, you may be interested in pursuing careers in tourism and hospitality, teaching or business.
  • If you studied information technology, you may be interested in careers as a software engineer, a data analyst, a consultant or in web development.
  • If you studied nutrition, you may be interested in a career as a nutritionist, food technology consultant, catering, or a dietitian.

Careers that you have not considered

If you have decided upon graduating from university that you wish to pursue a career in a different direction to that of your studies, you will find that many of the skills you have picked up in your degree are transferable to a wide variety of roles.

Consider what you consider the best qualities that you would bring to the workplace and use that to help you choose a potential career. For example, are you very organized? Are you highly creative? Are you a good communicator?

You may find that your skills lend themselves to careers that you hadn’t even considered before you began your studies, such as human resource management, teaching, marketing, hospitality or even sales.

You can research industry trends and the demand of the current job market to work out where opportunities exist that may interest you.

The importance of networking

Building a strong professional network can help your career development and starting networking after your graduation is a great way to get a head start.

Networking involves building a list of friends and contacts in the industry in which you wish to pursue your career. This could include:

  • current and former classmates from your degree course
  • your teachers and professors
  • former work colleagues
  • recruiters who recruit in the industry
  • even friends and family who work in your chosen field

You can build your network in many ways, including:

  • Online networking services such as LinkedIn
  • Keeping in touch with your former colleagues and classmates
  • Joining industry and trade associations in your area of interest
  • Attending careers fairs and other networking events in your area of interest
  • Contacting recruitment agencies
  • Contacting alumni members from your university

You can use your network to raise your professional profile, making people aware of your presence in the industry who may keep you in mind when roles become available. Many roles may not be advertised in the traditional sense, so having a wide range of contacts can give you the inside track and to improve your chances of learning of potential job opportunities.

Internships and building your work experience

  • Highlight the benefits of gaining practical experience through internships, co-op programs, or entry-level positions.
  • Discuss how internships can help international students adapt to local work environments.

As a recent graduate, you may be keen to build up a portfolio of work experience to help you land a good future role. You can gain practical experience in the workplace by applying for internships and entry-level positions at an employer in the industry in which you would like to work. Whilst these positions may either be unpaid roles, the main benefit to you is the work experience that you will gain, and be able to add to your resume.

As an international student, an internship can help you to adapt to a work environment in your new country, which will be different to the environment that you became accustomed to during your studies.

Other ways in which an internship can benefit your career include:

  • Helping to build your professional network
  • Giving you access to valuable mentors in your roles
  • Building a list of referees to add to your resume
  • Build your confidence in a working environment
  • Access to job opportunities

Graduate schemes

Many jobs require that you have studied for a bachelor’s degree, and these are generally referred to as graduate jobs. Graduate schemes differ in that they are typically offered by large private companies, charities and public sector organizations with the aim to take onboard new graduates every year and provide them with training and experience to begin work.

You can find graduate schemes in a variety of different manners, such as following your favorite companies on social media, asking your university careers service for advice, or contacting a company directly.

Whilst some graduate schemes recruit all year round, most will begin recruiting heavily at the end of the academic year, so in the UK and the US, this may be around September and October.

Become self employed

During your studies, you may have decided that you have a business idea that you would like to pursue. Becoming self employed requires a lot of dedication and can eat into your personal time, but it does have a lot of advantages. You will be your own boss, and therefore are able to take the credit for any of the success you enjoy, and you will have the independence to choose your own projects.

Your university will be well placed to offer advice and support if this is a route you are interested in pursuing, with many offering start-up advice for their graduates. You could also consider asking other self-employed people for advice and guidance.

Self employment may not be suitable if you intend to stay in the country in which you studied, as your short-term visa restrictions might limit the extent of the ambitions of your business.

Clarify your visa requirements and immigration restrictions

International students who wish to pursue employment in the country in which they studied will have to consider any restrictions imposed on them by their study visa. Some countries allow you to apply for extended visas upon completion of your studies.

In the UK you can apply for a Graduate visa if you have successfully completed your bachelors or masters degree and you are currently in the UK on a Student visa. This will allow you to remain in the UK for at least 2 years, during which time they can look for employment of any kind.

If you are living in Australia and have graduated with a degree, you can apply for the Post-Study Work stream visa, which allows international students to stay in Australia for between 2-4 years, depending on their qualification, during which time they can look for employment of any kind.

International students in the USA on a F-1 student visa can apply to stay for 1 year on a OPT visa extension, which is intended to allow students to gain practical work experience in a field related to their area of study. Students can qualify for a 2 year OPT visa extension if they studied a STEM-related field (Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology).

Make sure your language skills are ready for the workplace

As an international student, if you are studying in a second language, you may have had to improve your language skills as part of the entry requirements to enroll on your course. It is likely that your language skills will have improved during your time at university, both academically and socially, and this should help when it comes to seeking employment abroad.

If you feel like you need to address your language skills further as you look for employment abroad, consider taking private language courses, or short language courses at university. Another good option is to simply get out and be part of the local community, engaging in plenty of conversations with locals.

In Conclusion

It will help your career aspirations to be proactive in your planning after graduating from university. By building a professional support network and looking in the right places, you can follow your passions and make a career out of doing both something that you enjoy and something that you are good at.