To start your new life as an expat in the USA, you often have to research career opportunities first. Finding work in the USA is frequently a requirement in order to obtain a US visa and begin the immigration process.
Some expatriates automatically get a job in the United States, due to foreign assignments or a transfer request to their company’s US branch office. However, many "self-made" expats need to find work on their own. While we can’t spare you the time and effort that looking for a job takes, we can help you with information to explore and steps to take.
Firstly, make sure that you know what your current occupation is called in the USA. Knowing the correct title for your desired position is essential, especially if English isn’t your mother tongue or the lingua franca at your old workplace. Even within the Anglophone world, the same title may sometimes refer to slightly different jobs, or similar occupations may be known under another name overseas.
Once you know which terms to use for the kind of work you are looking for, you should check your qualifications and work history. To see if they match up with the usual expectations in the USA, you need to know what kind of academic education and practical training that particular job normally requires.
The US government provides several helpful resources with detailed information for job seekers. They outline job profiles, list alternative designations for a particular occupation, and describe the educational and professional background necessary to start working in this field.
For example, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published and updated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is one of the go-to websites for your research. You can browse by industry/sector (e.g. healthcare), or go through their A to Z index of occupations (e.g. P for pharmacist) to find the sort of work you’re interested in. The tab "How to Become One" (e.g. a pharmacist) on each individual profile gives you a brief summary of expected degrees, as well as professional licenses and certifications.
When it comes to the relevant qualifications in your line of work, an academic degree and some hands-on experience may not be enough to obtain the job you want. Especially if you apply from abroad or are a foreign national who has just relocated, you should demonstrate clearly that you are the right person for the position. Formal certifications will go a long way to prove you are qualified.
This online certification finder lists all the professional certificates for a certain field, and the respective association that teaches the required classes and organizes exams. If you have already arrived in the United States, you might contact the appropriate association and see if you can sign up for a course.
Or you can just get in touch to see if an existing certification from your home country is officially recognized in the USA. This often varies from state to state. So, if you still have immigration ahead of you, it helps if you have an idea where in the USA you’d like to live.
Some (or all) states require licenses for certain jobs. Unlike professional certificates, having a license does not only enhance your chances of finding work. It is also a legal requirement to actually work in that position. If someone doesn’t have a license, such people can even get into trouble with the law.
Again, government websites like CareerOneStop.org can help. Their list of licensed occupations allows you to search by individual state or for the entire USA. Once you choose a specific industry (e.g. Architecture and Engineering) and a particular profession (e.g. Landscape Architect), the site lists all licensing boards by state (e.g. Louisiana). It also tells you what the licensing organization is called (e.g. Louisiana Horticulture Commission).
You can then contact the board and find out how to get a license. If you are lucky, the official license you acquired for working back home can be transferred to the USA.
Business associations for your field of employment are also a good resource to get more information on internships, apprenticeships and traineeships, on education and training, licensing and certifications, recruitment processes, etc. The Career Resource Library features a comprehensive list of professional and trade associations and labor unions, sorted by occupation.
On the following page, we will talk about more resources for finding work in the USA, particularly regarding the labor market situation and vacancies.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.