How to move my unqualified behind to Europe?
November 7, 2009 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Ex-pat filter: How do I get a job in Western Europe without a Master's degree? Is it even possible, or should I suck it up and go to grad school?

Due to the way my life has worked out, I'm an American citizen but haven't lived in the US in nearly a decade, and I have no desire to live there again. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the US, but when I visit, it never feels like I belong there. Right now I'm working in Asia teaching English as a foreign language, but nothing about this job feels permanent to me. I'd like to start thinking of something more long-term. Ideally, I'd like to work in the public sector, especially in non-profit. I studied abroad in Britain during university and I've been on extended holidays to Europe several times in the past, and I'd really love to move somewhere in Western Europe, specifically the UK or Ireland. But -- and here's the thing -- I don't think I have any real qualifications. Here's what I do have:

1. I have an Honour's (4 years + dissertation) B.A. from a well-known Canadian university in History.
2. I've worked in education for the past four years, two years at university level in Canada, two years in a private school in Korea, teaching both English grammar/writing and EFL. I have no problem teaching anything related to social sciences or the humanities. However, I don't have any official teaching certification.
3. I'm a native English speaker, I speak decent French, and I speak elementary Korean.
4. I've lived in four countries including the US, and I've been to 20 countries around the world.
5. I'm in my twenties, I'm a fast learner, I'm good with languages, I'm highly sociable and love working with people, and I'm very open-minded.

In all honesty, I don't even know where to begin looking for jobs. Do I have any hopes of landing a job in Europe with this, or should I go to grad school? I've been looking at several grad programs in Sweden and Norway that may lead to non-profit work. I'd love to move to Europe but I have no idea if I want to go back to school, especially since the only subject I really ever loved was History -- a field that doesn't lead to a wide range of career opportunities if I get an MA in it.

I'm posting anon because I'm embarrassed at how naive all of this sounds. Any and all advice would be much appreciated, even if it's just you telling me I need to get my lazy bum to grad school.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The most crucial piece of information is missing here - do you also have EU citizenship? If you don't, finding someone to sponsor your visa in this economy is seriously slim. I'd recommend doing your graduate degree in Europe and working your visa/job connections from there. That's how most of my North American friends who live and work in Europe did it.
posted by meerkatty at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2009

I've only scanned your _long_ question, but from that I am under the impression that you're not telling what job you want to do. So: of course, there are lots of jobs without a master's degree being a requirement in western Europe.

So to be constructive: answering whether you need a master's degree probably depends a lot on two things: what job do you want to do, and in which country?
posted by oxit at 1:55 PM on November 7, 2009

If your concerns are primarily work visa restrictions (you don’t have EU citizenship, or a permanent residency visa), you should start by scanning work visa requirements for each country. Getting a Master’s degree in the country that you want to work and live in would almost definitely pave the way to a work visa, but I also know that for United Kingdom specifically, you only need a Bachelors and have to be earning about USD 36 000/ year for at least a year. This will get you a work visa that would let you stay and work there without a company sponsor.

If your concerns are finding a job – well, then just identify the sector you are interested in, look up job listings and apply to those jobs! You should be prepared to fly to the country for an interview.
posted by moiraine at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2009

I'm assuming you're asking in terms of work visa restrictions.

A Masters would be a great help in getting a work visa in the UK. There are two main ways you could get a visa as a skilled worker from outside the EU: Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 1 doesn't require a job offer, and your eligibility is assessed on your income and qualifications. You can then work in any job that will have you.

Tier 2 is a sponsorship visa. You need a job offer, and your prospective employer needs to prove that they have advertised the job thoroughly (there are various specific hoops they have to jump through). In this economy, it is not realistic to expect you would get one of these . [I need to renew my visa; it's proving easier for my employer to raise my salary so I qualify for Tier 1, than to sponsor me under Tier 2. A prospective employer who doesn't know you is unlikely to take the risk, they'll just hire a local].

Oh, noting Moraine's comments: a Bachelor's degree is no longer sufficient under Tier 1, the requirements were changed earlier this year. (And are again under review with a view to further tightening).

Info here, the first two bold links are the ones you want.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:58 PM on November 7, 2009

I've heard that Tier 1 rules have recently been changed - so if you do go for a masters' degree, make sure it's one that qualifies!
posted by Mike1024 at 3:20 AM on November 8, 2009

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