Finding summer jobs and work experience in the USA

Think it’s impossible to get work in the USA?  Getting an internship or summer job in the USA is actually very feasible through a J1 Visa. For this route you need to get a sponsor.  Employers are rarely sponsors – they are usually third parties.  The USA Embassy J1 Visa website gives full information about finding a sponsor for the J1 Visa.  You can also use brokerage services, such as Parenthese, who will support you through the process and obtain your J1 Visa for you for a fee. 

Once you are accepted by a third party onto their J1 Visa programme, you then have to find your own internship/summer job.  Isn’t it hard to do that as a foreigner I hear you say?  No!  As long as you can reassure the employer in your cover letter that you have your visa sorted and they don’t have to do anything, then you are an equal candidate with American students.

Your work on a J1 Visa needs to be connected to your degree programme.  As a new graduate you can stay up to 18 months, and for First and Second year students you can stay up to 12 months.  Typically it takes 3-6 weeks very active searching to find a paid internship and 2 weeks to find a summer job.  And when I say active, I mean a good couple of hours a day!

US flag

There are lots of unpaid internships out there, but ignore these: you have a legal right to be paid and it is possible to secure a paid internship! Not all adverts state whether they are paid or not.  If you aren’t sure then use to see if the company has previously paid interns.  If you don’t know whether they are offering you a reasonable wage then use this website to compare wages across different companies.  Take into account your living costs too: living in New York for your internship will be much more expensive than living in another part of the USA, so your wage needs to cover that!

So where can you look for opportunities? Simplyhired, Vault and Linkedin are just some places you can look for internships.  Speculative applications also have a high success rate in the USA. For summer jobs which are outdoors look on Coolworks and you’ll find that they often provide room and board for you.  Otherwise you can use and select the ‘USA/CA’ button on the right side of the page to look for housing in the area of your job.

When you are sending off your CV remember that it needs to be one page, with no photo, no age or marital status. Do list your modules and grades.  In your cover letter and CV to help employers, use the American lingo: ‘classes’  instead of ‘modules’; ‘grade’ instead of ‘mark’; ‘resumes’ instead of ‘CV’; ‘scheme’ instead of ‘internship’.  They will ask for your GPA (Grade Point Average).  The Fulbright Commission can help you convert your UK marks to USA GPA: Your cover letter needs to outline your J1 Visa status. Parenthese offer a sample cover letter. Going Global has lots of information about working in the USA, including on writing cover letters and resumes, and interviews.

Abi Sharma

Careers Consultant, Careers & Enterprise Centre


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