Vacation schemes and work experience

How to fill a gap year

6 Sept 2023, 14:00

Taking time out after you graduate will broaden your horizons and can help with job hunting on your return.

Scuba diving as an activity

Taking time out after your studies doesn’t mean putting your feet up after all your hard work. There are many great opportunities to boost your confidence and experience and improve your CV. Most tend to fall into one of the following areas.

Work experience

You may want to get experience of employment. For some careers, such as journalism and social work, it is advantageous, or even necessary, to gain relevant work experience prior to professional training. Getting paid temporary work can help you earn money to fund further study or travel.

Voluntary work

Opportunities exist locally and overseas and can range from working with your local volunteer bureau to global organisations.

Short courses

You may want to gain new skills or brush up on existing ones. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) courses are always popular, as are courses in areas such as word processing and other IT skills.


You can travel purely for the cultural experience or you can combine travel with voluntary or paid work experience, eg through the Australia Working Holiday Visa scheme. You can arrange paid or voluntary experience through various specialist organisations, or arrange things as you go along.

Work and travel exchange programmes

Organisations such as USIT , the Council for International Educational Exchange and BUNAC organise programmes in a wide range of countries. They help with visas, job listings and offer support and advice for people wanting to work for three to twelve months.

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL)

This is a great way to spend time abroad as many countries have English language schools. It’s useful for learning a new language or brushing up on one you have already studied.

Expeditions and voluntary work

If you have skills that would be useful to a developing community you can consider volunteering.

Tips for a successful break

  • Talk to your careers adviser about the options.
  • Research your options carefully.
  • Clarify your motivations and what you hope to get out of your time out.
  • Check government websites for destinations to avoid and ones that are safe.
  • Keep a record of your experiences and the skills you have gained.
  • Consider combining your options – you can travel and work, for example.
  • Check out graduate recruitment and postgraduate study application cycles to ensure you don’t miss out on anything when you return.
  • Keep in touch with your university careers service.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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