Student Travel: How to Find a Job in Italy

Sunset over a vineyard in Tuscany
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Working in Italy sounds like the ultimate dream, especially for American college students traveling abroad for a semester. With gorgeous landscapes, incredible food, and friendly people, why wouldn't you want to move to Italy to work?

Unfortunately, picking up a student job in Italy isn't as simple as it sounds. If you're an American citizen, you'll struggle to obtain a work visa, and if you're a student, it'll be even trickier.

Like many countries around the world, to gain a work visa for Italy, you'll have to be sponsored by an Italian company. To gain sponsorship from a company, they'll need to prove to immigration that you can perform a job for them that no Italians can. As a student with very little work experience, this is going to be tough to prove.

One alternative for American students, though, is to arrive in Italy on a student visa. Once you've arrived in the country, you can then attempt to convert your student visa into a work visa. Since it's not possible to convert a tourist visa into a work visa, entering on a student visa is your best bet.

How to Find a Job

Once you've established your legal right to work in Italy—or perhaps as part of your application process for a work visa—you'll need to find an employer who can vouch for you while you're in the country. However, finding a job in Italy can be quite challenging, regardless of your citizenship.

Italians are all about family and tight friendships, so many businesses don't tend to hire people they don't know. As a result, you may have better luck as a student searching for work in Italy by getting to know some locals during your first few weeks in the country before applying to jobs around the city where you're staying.

Although some of these jobs your new local friends will tell you about may pay in products (like picking olives for jars of olives), you should be able to find some paid gigs to get you started if you meet the right people. Additionally, you should check the information board in your hostel as they often advertise short-term jobs available for travelers.

Finally, you should be prepared for "interviews" with prospective employers by reading guidebooks about Italian culture, brushing up on your Italian speaking, and researching what to expect in an Italian job interview online. If you want a higher-paying job, you may struggle to find one if you only speak English or don't understand the cultural norms and expectations of the professional Italian world.

Resources and Work Permit Applications

While there are plenty of online resources for applying to job across the country, it's typically a good idea to check city-specific job websites first.

If you're in Rome, for instance, you'll want to browse the classified ads for the city to find non-skilled job postings for secretarial, nanny, and hospitality positions. There are even some job posting websites specifically made for cities like the popular Jobs in Milan website, which lists what's available in the city as well as what to expect for your salary in these positions.

Since Italian work permits are notoriously complex unless you have a company sponsoring you, you may want to look into declaring yourself as self-employed in order to work in Italy while you scope out the work scene and try to find an employer to sponsor you. Working as a translator, a farm worker, or work exchange employee may also be a great way to gain a work permit for the country.

Opportunities for Employment No Matter Where You Go

There are many ways you can make money abroad, no matter where you're traveling, but the top three international employment programs in which Italy also participates are the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF), and WorkAway programs.

If you're looking to make money while you travel and don't have the foundations to work online, taking a TEFL course before you go can help you land a solid gig while in Italy. Once you have this qualification, you'll be able to teach English around the world, which is an excellent way of funding your travels.

On the other hand, if you enjoy working outside and want to immerse yourself in the rural culture of Italy but don't mind working in exchange for room and board, you can join the WWOOF program. Many farms and even some farm-to-table restaurants will hire WWOOFers throughout the summer months in exchange for a place to stay and food to eat.

Finally, WorkAway is all about a cultural exchange, much like WWOOFing except that you won't be focusing on farms alone. You could be helping to build houses for communities in need, you could take care of injured animals, or you could even help renovate an old farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside. You won't be compensated for your time, but you will receive free accommodation and food, so this gives you a chance to hang out with Italian locals, while not having to spend a penny. 

This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.