- Download our Moving to 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
Although 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 the World 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 indispensable 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 DC must have a valid work permit for the USA.
- USAJobs.gov – Official website for federal government jobs.
- DCJobs.com – Specialised portal for job listings in the Washington, DC area.
- Indeed and Monster list various job opportunities in Washington, DC.
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 work incredibly hard and often continue their days into overtime. That said, there are companies in DC that afford a good work-life balance and a vibrant work culture, and new arrivals should do their research when applying to 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.
What's work culture like in Washington, DC?
"I find the work culture more respectful here. While there are different personalities and opinions, people respect and collaborate with each other... I find myself having to really follow a schedule if I want to succeed at completing my daily tasks. That was also a cultural shock because everyone here is doing the same; so, in order to make it into their schedule, I have to announce it in advance." Read more about Gustavo's experience as a Peruvian living in DC.
►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.
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