While your peers keep an eye out for domestic work opportunities, expanding your horizons outside the United States could be a better idea. It may lead to a stronger resume, healthier streams of income, and the knowledge that you’ve accomplished something worthwhile for a community that really needs it.
If you’ve never considered work abroad, maybe it’s time that you should. The benefits come with some effort, but they are worth it in the long run.
Overseas Work Brings Credibility
If you want to be noticed, even in a community where you work almost every day, find work abroad. That’s what architect Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz explains to Architect magazine’s Nate Berg. There’s something impressive and interesting about architects who work in other countries. It automatically gives you local credibility in the industry, he says.
Finding contacts isn’t easy, though. It can be expensive, and it takes effort. Some, maybe even many, attend trade shows or fairs and meet the important contacts who could lead to work.
To help defray those costs, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Initiative. This program has $60,000,000 to spend over two years, so some of it might as well go to you.
Taxes Can be Much Better
One of the biggest boons for architects is the serious tax break for working abroad, at least if you’re incorporated the right way. As an Interest-Charge Domestic International Sales Corporation (IC-DISC) , the IRS allows you to convert what would normally be your taxable income to capital gains.
With that conversion comes a different tax rate that amounts to a considerable amount of tax dollars saved. Where the individual tax rate might be as high as nearly 40 percent, you could save about 15 percent as an IC-DISC, according to Berg and the IRS.
The savings on smaller jobs might not be impressive. But imagine the tax break on a larger project. Missouri-based Jünk Architects, tells Architect magazine that they haven’t used the tax break much so far, but they do see it as offering considerable rewards on some of the bigger overseas projects that they aspire to.
Volunteering Opportunities Also Abound
Sometimes it’s not all about the money. One of the fundamental skills of any architect is making life better for the people who use the buildings and spaces that they create.Volunteering abroad could do more than build your resume; it could build a community for people who desperately need help.
Archi-Ninja published a list of volunteering benefits penned and shared by Patrick McLoughlin of Build Abroad. According to McLoughlin, there are (at least) 5 significant ways that volunteer architects can make a real difference in the communities where they work.
He explains that the construction is a tangible representation of growth, which is important for a fledgling community. It also encourages the community to get involved. The structures built by volunteers have a lasting effect on the community, because they are built to stay. By using locally sourced materials, the structures represent sustainability. And each new structure has a purpose for being built. Homes house the community. Clinics stand as a place to get medical care.
Working abroad isn’t straightforward. There may be language barriers to overcome, costs to fund, and the challenge of meeting new connections and potential clients shouldn’t be understated. Then there’s the unique challenge of living in a different country, even if it’s only for a short while.
But those are all obstacles that you can overcome. Other architects do it, and so can you. If you want new horizons, look beyond the familiar and think about work in parts unknown.
Just as you work to hone your career as an architect, so does PDH Academy work to provide you with the professional development courses that you need to stay in the game. Check out our courses for architects when your next credit hours are due.