How to find a job in the United States

A guide to job opportunities in the US, finding a job and labour market information.

The US, the original ‘Land of Opportunity’, is always a popular destination for Irish students and graduates. Most Irish students work there under a J-1 visa, where you can visit and take short-term employment.

Labour market information

The US has one of the largest and most technologically powerful economies in the world. However, the global economic downturn pushed the US into recession in mid 2008, resulting in the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Unemployment reached 8.5 per cent in December 2011 (see the Bureau of Economic Analysis).

Long-term problems include high oil prices, inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical fees and pensions. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low perpetuating slow economic growth, and with the Eurozone crisis still unresolved and sharp cuts in public spending due in 2012, there are growing questions about how long the US will continue to grow.

However, the US is officially out of the recession, with its economy growing at an annual rate of 1.7 per cent (in 2011). High unemployment is still causing increased competition for jobs. If you do decide that the US is the place to go, either on a J-1 or something more permanent, do your research and preparation before you go; it will pay off at a later date.

Current opportunities

The fastest growing occupations are in software engineering, science, medicine and health, environmental protection, community care facilities (eg for the elderly) and the computer industry (according to the Department of Labor).

Prospects for foreign workers are best in the high technology fields and niche markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment. Other major industries include chemicals, forestry, iron and steel, motor vehicles and textiles. The economy is overwhelmingly based on service industries, which now account for around 80 per cent of national GDP.

Opportunities by sector

  • Accounting and finance: the financial crisis means that jobs in these areas have been hard to come by. However, recent improvements in the economy indicate that there may be more jobs again in this area.
  • Aerospace: this industry largely escaped the downturn mainly due to the continuous growth of the civil aircraft and military equipment sector.
  • Biotechnology: is creating the most new work opportunities at the moment.
  • Chemical manufacturing and pharmaceutical: opportunities lie particularly in bioinformatics and nanotechnology.
  • Construction sectors: these suffered badly due to the financial crisis, and so stimulus packages have been put in place to revitalise the sector.
  • Health and medical care: opportunities are mainly in R&D (research and development) and for medical practitioners.
  • ICT, computer design and telecommunication: there are jobs available in programming, computer engineering, system analysis, data communication analysis and information engineering.

Useful websites

To find out about Irish companies trading in the States or Irish companies with interests in the States, it is worth checking out Enterprise Ireland. The Ireland Chamber of Commerce United States (ICCUSA) may also be of use in providing local business lists.

Applying for jobs

In the US, the term résumé is used instead of CV. A résumé is a one-page summary of personal, education, and experience qualifications. Most employers will ask for a résumé and an accompanying cover letter.

Online applications are becoming more popular. If you send in your résumé electronically, write a concise, formal email to accompany it.

Use American English spelling; an American spell-check programme can help. If you are a graduate, it is worth translating your exam results into the American equivalent.

The interview process in the US is similar to that in Ireland. Some companies may also require a psychometric test to be taken as part of the selection process. For more information on writing a résumé and going for interviews, see the Job Choices website.

Useful website

The Irish International Immigration Center in Boston has valuable information online on working and living in the US. It provides up-to-date information on the various categories of visa, as well as details on employment opportunities.

Permanent employment may be difficult to find due to visa restrictions. However, there a plenty of temporary job opportunities.

Temporary jobs

If you are going to the States as a student or temporary non-immigrant, you will most likely end up working in tourism, sales or administration. Common places to work at include tourist resorts, amusement parks, hotels, country clubs, golf clubs, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and offices. As you are only allowed temporary work with a J-1 visa, it may be difficult to get a position of a professional nature or one related to your field of study.

Gap year

There are lots of opportunities to spend a gap year in the States, with organisations such as BUNAC, Gap-Year or Gapwork.


Internships are a great opportunity to get practical training in your field of study in another country. If you wish to do an internship with a US employer, you will need an exchange visitor (J-1) or trainee (H) visa. The CIEE (The Council on International Educational Exchange) has useful information on how to find an internship in the US.


Volunteering may come in the form of work experience, which allows you to develop skills, expand your contacts, and increase your employability. Check out BUNAC or Volunteering and Civic Life in America.

How to find a job

Using an exchange organisation

Several organisations offer programmes that help people find short-term work in the States.

The CIEE works in partnership with organisations such as USIT and BUNAC to promote international work. If you are travelling with any international exchange organisation, they provide advice and assistance in pre-arranging work and accommodation. Their directories provide listings from employers wishing to employ summer/part-time staff, and can help take a lot of stress out of job hunting.

Work exchange programmes vary widely in nature. Some programmes allow participants to do any job available; others are restricted to specific fields. For instance, if you are interested in working with children either as an au pair or counsellor at a summer camp, you need to contact an authorised au pair or summer camp organisation, as arranging such an exchange is not possible on your own.

Employment services/recruitment agencies

State Employment Agencies (sometimes called Job Service) operate a network of around 2,000 local offices in major cities around the country. They provide free counselling, testing and job placements. Their addresses are listed in the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages also provides a listing of 16 million businesses in the States and has a complete listing of employment and recruitment agencies.

Job listings in newspapers

Saturday editions of newspapers carry vacancies, and most newspapers also have internet editions. Several newspapers have special employment editions. There are many newspapers published daily and weekly. The main ones are listed below:

University careers offices

Most university careers offices post graduate vacancies on their websites. Even if you haven’t graduated from that particular university, it is worth checking out sites of universities in the area you intend to work.

We would like to thank the careers service at Dublin Institute of Technology for their help with this article. This information was correct to the best of our knowledge at October 2012.