11 Great Types of Working Holiday for School Students

Image shows three young women busking.

Image is of a sign which reads "not all those who wander are lost."
We have often waxed lyrical about the benefits of using holidays productively, and we continue on that theme today with a look at the various types of working holiday you could undertake in your summer holidays.

It’s often said that a change is as good as a rest, and although the activities on this list all involve plenty of interest and fun, they also help you build valuable skills and experience that will help your CV stand out from the crowd. These working holiday ideas are aimed at those of you aged 16-18, as this is the time to start developing your CV and thinking about how you can enhance your university application.

Volunteering holidays

Volunteering holidays are enjoying a surge in popularity of late, and the good news is that there are some that will accept under-18s (if you’re 18, you should be able to apply to any of them without a problem; under-18s are generally considered on a case-by-case basis). Whatever your interests, you’re sure to find a volunteering opportunity among the hundreds of options for foreign travel (only a handful of which we’ll have room to discuss here); but you don’t have to go abroad if you don’t want to.

1. Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Image shows a class of ESL students in Thailand.
Teaching EFL is also a great way to work out whether teaching would suit you as a career.

Whether you’re aiming for a career in teaching, or you just want to add some work experience to your CV prior to going to university, a volunteer holiday spent teaching abroad is a brilliant, productive and worthwhile way to spend your summer. You’ll make a real difference to the lives of underprivileged children and see a bit of the world at the same time. You’ll need to be 18 for most courses, so it could be the ideal thing to do in the summer before you go to university. Just one of a number of organisations running these trips is i to i. You don’t need to have any teaching experience, and you can choose from a number of destinations, including primary schools in Zanzibar (Tanzania), Kerala (India), Xi’an (China) and even as far afield as the Galapagos Islands or a Nepalese monastery. Trips last between two and six weeks (or longer, if you want), and start at less than £500 (excluding flights). You’ll work Monday to Friday, so as well as teaching, you’ll have weekends off so that you get to do some sightseeing and absorb the local culture.

2. Conservation holidays

Image shows a young woman in Madagascar with a snake around her neck.
Working in conservation offers a huge variety of possibilities.

Orangutans in Malaysia, sea turtles in the Caribbean, elephants in South Africa, rainforest in the Ecuador – the trend for ‘responsible travel’ has given us a wealth of conservation volunteering opportunities that make worthy use of holiday time. Choose between wildlife conservation (animals) and ecological preservation (the environment) and get stuck into helping protect the planet’s most endangered species and habitats from the threat of extinction or deforestation. One company offering these sorts of holidays is Kaya, which offers both wildlife conservation holidays and environmental conservation projects. An example of a project you could get involved with through Kaya is this project in Ecuador, focused around sustainable economic and community development, which costs £960 for two weeks and includes a range of activities including environmental education, forestry research and organic gardening. You’ll also get time off to explore Quito, the city in which you’ll be based.

3. Humanitarian work and community projects

Image shows Kenyan schoolchildren being taught in a Unicef tent.
Schoolchildren in a makeshift classroom in central Kenya.

The other main strand of volunteering work popular with students on their summer holidays is community and humanitarian work, which typically involves engaging with poor rural communities and working to improve infrastructure and schools. An example is Camp Kenya from Camps International, during which you’ll visit the small rural settlement of Makongeni on the south coast of Kenya. Activities include improving the school by building new classrooms, improving sanitation by helping to build toilets and washrooms in family homes, and teaching English and basic computer skills to the local children. Camp Kenya is marketed as “the ultimate gap year experience”, but you can spend anything between two weeks and three months on it, so you could do it in your summer holidays if you wanted to. Prices start at £880 excluding flights, and in your time off you’ll be able to enjoy activities such as scuba diving, a safari and mountain trekking. Other work you may do as part of this trip is elephant conservation, while you can also take on the big personal challenge of scaling Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, or second highest mountain, Mount Kenya.

4. Camp America

Image shows a group of students trying to push over a large tyre.
Summer camp is an American tradition

Fancy spending your summer working in the USA? One way of doing so is to take part in the legendary Camp America, which allows you to participate in a great American tradition as a member of the support staff. As a Counsellor, you’ll provide support to the children on the camp and help run a huge number of different activities such as arts and crafts, sports, music and outdoor pursuits. As part of the ‘Campower’ programme, your day will be a bit more structured, and you’ll get involved in things like cooking, housekeeping and general maintenance, without having to take direct responsibility for the kids. In both roles, you’ll get plenty of time off to enjoy the camp experience for yourself. You’ll need to be 18 to take part in Camp America, and you’ll need to be able to work for a minimum of nine weeks; but if you plan to travel out just after your A-levels, you’ll have time to do it in the summer before you go to university. It costs £731 in total and it’s fantastic life experience, as well as looking good on your CV. As a bonus, you’ll also get paid ‘pocket money’ at the end of your camp experience of up to $1,200.

5. National Trust

Image shows the house and garden of Nymans, a National Trust Property.
The National Trust owns some amazing properties, such as the house, ruin and gardens of Nymans.

The National Trust – responsible for the upkeep of many of the nation’s most beautiful historic houses and gardens – runs a number of working holidays in the UK for those who would prefer not to go abroad. You could help mend woodland paths at Clivedon, learn the art of estate maintenance at Castle Ward, or even help restore a Victorian home to its former glory at Cragside. Expect to pay around £155 for a week, and look forward to some time off to get to know these stunning properties when you’re not working. There are also courses aimed exclusively at 16-18-year-olds, called Youth Discovery, which enable you to embark on conservation work with people of your own age. To find a course for you, go to the Find a Working Holiday page.

Paid working holidays

Volunteering holidays are all very well, but they’re not much use if you want to spend your holiday earning money for university. It’s a bit harder to find opportunities for earning money during the summer when you’re under 18, owing to employment laws, but here are a few ideas.

6. Internship or work experience

Image shows a young woman in an office, pointing to something on a computer screen.
If there’s a particular company with whom you’d like to intern, send them an email – they may be willing to take you on.

Not all internships are paid, but there are some that are. If you’re keen to start building up experience towards a certain career, the summer is a good time to take on an internship in the sector you’re interested in. You can find a huge number of companies that offer work experience and internships for 16-18-year-olds over at Student Ladder, with representation from numerous industry sectors, including banking, media, science, law and medicine. Don’t forget that as well as being excellent for your CV, such experience is invaluable for university applications, as it shows your commitment to pursuing a particular career and you can demonstrate how your chosen degree course fits in with this aim. It also shows you to be someone with a bit of life experience, and someone who’s proactive enough to take on new challenges to increase your own prospects. In other words: the sort of person the university will be looking for! If you’ve not yet applied for university, or you’re about to reapply, an internship or work experience is a very good way to spend your summer.

7. Busking

Image shows three young women busking.
Busking can be surprisingly lucrative in the summer.

If you have talent in the musical department and your instrument of choice is fairly portable (i.e. not a grand piano or a harp!), why not try making some money from busking over the summer? If you do this in a place that’s popular with tourists you could make good money from your talents. You’ll need to get permission and possibly a licence from your local council first, but once you have this you’ll be able to make money at the same time as doing lots of practice and getting better at your instrument.

8. Be an extra

Advertising, television and movie productions are always in need of extras – the people you see wandering around in the background of shots to add realism to a scene. You probably won’t get a speaking part, but you can earn good money even so. You’ll usually get a free meal, too – and you might be able to spot yourself on camera when it’s broadcast! To get started, sign up to an extras agency such as The Casting Collective – you’ll need to upload photographs of yourself and give details of your date of birth, physical appearance and so on.

9. Fruit picking

Image shows handfuls of strawberries.
Remember, though, you won’t get paid for the ones you eat!

Many crops start bearing fruit over the summer, and farmers need part-time workers to help bring in the harvest. Fruit picking is hard work (you may well get paid based on the weight of how much you’ve picked), and you’ll need plenty of suncream, but it’s also good exercise and earns you money for spending time in the fresh air. You can find fruit-picking jobs both in the UK and abroad on PickingJobs.com.

10. Lifeguard

You can train to be a lifeguard at your local pool or beach if you’re aged 16 or over. A lifeguard is one of the people who sit on those tall chairs by the side of the pool or on the beach, keeping an eye on proceedings and coming to the rescue of anybody who gets into difficulties in the water. It goes without saying that you’ll need to be a strong swimmer to do this job, and there are several possible qualifications to equip you with the skills you’ll need. These include the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ), the National Aquatic Rescue Standard (NaRS) qualification, or the RLSS National Beach Lifeguard Qualification. This kind of work is especially good for your CV because it’s a very responsible position; people are relying on you to keep them safe, and you could even end up saving someone’s life.

Academic holidays

If you would rather spend your holidays getting ahead academically, an academic ‘working’ holiday is another option. Here’s a final ‘bonus’ working holiday activity that you might want to consider…

11. Summer school

Image shows an ORA teacher speaking to a group of students outside in a college.
ORA summer school students enjoying a lesson in the sun in Balliol College, Oxford.

Not that we’re biased or anything, but we reckon a summer school is another great way to spend your summer holiday. Whether you want to improve your English skills, get to grips with a tricky subject or just widen your general knowledge, an academic summer school is the perfect way for a conscientious student to make progress and keep their brain cells active over the summer break. The benefits are so numerous that we’ve dedicated an entire article to them, but the main ones are that summer schools allow you to achieve better grades, prepare you for university, study new subjects and develop interpersonal skills such as effective communication and teamwork, which are essential for university and working life. Summer schools also allow time for relaxation and sight-seeing; on ours, our programme of extra-curricular activities includes glamorous parties, exciting day trips and a host of evening entertainment. If we’ve tempted you with the idea of a summer school, check out our array of scintillating courses. Whatever you end up doing, though, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time for fun and relaxation; after all, the whole point of a holiday is to give yourself a rest so that you return to school or start university raring to go.

Image credits: banner; EFL; conservation; school; summer camp; Nymans; intern; buskers; strawberries.