- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Washington DC Guide (PDF)
Washington DC has a strong economy, bolstered by federal operations based in the city which account for more than 12 percent of the city's employees. That said, because only US citizens can take up government jobs, expats will need to look to other industries if they wish to find work in Washington DC. Luckily, there are other options, with sectors such as tourism and services also making up a significant part of the city's economy.
Job market in Washington DC
Though the largest employer in Washington DC is the US government, there are also several top area industries closely related to, but not actually part of, the government. This opens up potential jobs for expats in sectors such as defence contracting, lobbying, non-profit organisations and publishing. In addition, many expats work closely with governmental agencies and are employed by overseas companies or foreign governments.
Professional and business services are increasingly becoming top employers in Washington DC, with important sectors being healthcare, technology, hospitality and education. The city is also home to multinational corporations such as the IMF and Wold Bank, making it an attractive city for those working in finance.
Finding a job in Washington DC
Online portals are a good way to find a job in Washington DC as most major employers advertise vacant positions online, either on their own websites or through recruitment agencies. But above all else, networking is probably the most important aspect of a job search in DC. In a city of politicians and lobbyists, it’s often who one knows, rather than what they know, that will go a long way to securing that dream job.
It's worth noting that the cost of living in DC is one of the highest in the US and wages should be adjusted to compensate for this. All expats working in Washington DC must have a valid work permit for the USA.
Work culture in Washington DC
While most companies follow the typical 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, work schedule, this is not always the case in DC as, for example, federal operations do not have such hours. Much of DC's population works incredibly hard and often continues their day into overtime. That said, there are companies in DC that afford a good work-life balance and offer a vibrant work culture, and new arrivals should therefore do their research when applying for any company.
Business culture in the US is incredibly individualistic. The working world rewards 'go-getters' while those who lack independence, initiative and self-reliance lag behind. Status and age are largely obsolete and instead, merit, experience and past achievement are the vehicles for advancement. New arrivals coming from societies where seniority is a consequence of social class, length of service or maturity may find acclimating to this idea especially challenging.
►Healthcare in Washington DC is essential reading for anyone moving to the city.
►For tips on finding the best schools in the district see Education and Schools in Washington DC.
Are you an expat living in Washington DC?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Washington DC. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.