Updated 6 months ago

Originally known as the headquarters of Boeing, Seattle has made a name for itself as a forward-looking city. The economy has expanded in recent decades to include pioneering work in information technology and clean energy. Job-seeking expats will find lots of opportunities in these fields as well as medical research, aerospace, and engineering.

With abundant cultural and sporting events, outdoor activities, and artisanal coffee, expats will find a lot to love in this midsize city, although many find the long, rainy winters to be burdensome. Additionally, Seattle is one of the most educated cities in the U.S. Some estimates say that one in four people living in Seattle holds a master's degree which means that competition for jobs can be fierce.

 Important: Anyone wanting to work in the U.S. is required to have a work visa and it can be one of the biggest challenges faced by expats looking for employment abroad. The process must be initiated by a sponsoring employer and is time-consuming and expensive. This means you must have an offer of employment before you may begin the visa application process. That said, expats with advanced degrees, specialized skills and who are fluent English speakers will fare better than most when it comes to finding an employer willing to go through the sponsorship process. See the article “Work visas in the USA” for more information about types of work visas in the United States.

Popular Industries

Seattle’s economy is made up of both cutting edge and established industries. It is a popular place for entrepreneurs, startups, and technology. Historically, aerospace and shipping have been the largest industries and remain important economic contributors. Five Fortune 500 companies are based in the greater Seattle area: Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Expeditors of International of Washington, and Weyerhaeuser. Other important Seattle industries are listed below.


Seattle produces over 90% of the country’s commercial airplanes. The greater Seattle area boasts hundreds of aerospace-related companies including Boeing, which employs more than 80,000 people.

Clean Technology

Seattle supplies electricity to Canada and multiple U.S. states, including California. Jobs in this sector are spread across multiple industries like research, biofuels, and energy storage as well as construction and waste recycling.

Information Communication Technology

Some of the world’s most recognizable brands like Amazon and Salesforce are headquartered in the greater Seattle area. Microsoft, Nintendo, and hundreds of other tech companies are based in nearby Redmond, Washington.

Life Sciences & Healthcare

Seattle has one of the largest life science clusters in the country and is home to research organizations, medical technology manufacturing, and biopharma. Employers in this sector include PATH, the Infectious Disease Research Institute, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Labor Market

Seattle’s unemployment rate has declined in the last few years. The unemployment rate is currently 4.2% and falls to 3.8% if you consider the entire greater Seattle area and suburbs. According to data from the Employment Security Department, growing sectors include professional and business services, education and health services, retail, and information. Manufacturing jobs, specifically aerospace parts manufacturing, have fallen slightly in recent years.

Read “Labour Market in the U.S.” for more information.

Finding a job

Local resources are the best place to begin your employment search. Use job search engines that are specifically focused on the Seattle area and check local newspapers such as The Seattle Times (these are online as well). If you belong to a specialized or in-demand industry, research and contact a local recruiting agency to build connections. Additionally, leverage your personal network and membership in professional organizations as this is the best way to hear about newly listed or unadvertised jobs.

When sending out your resume (CV), you really must stand out from the crowd. Besides updating your resume to reflect the American style, research the companies you’re interested in thoroughly before you apply, so to highlight the skills and experience that would most interest them. Also, make sure that your LinkedIn and business networking profiles reflect these same changes. See the article “Finding a Job in the USA” for more information about job searching.

 Good to know: The Bureau of Labor Statistics posts a quarterly review of the Seattle unemployment rate and labor market, which may be helpful with your job search. Additionally, the Employment Security Department publishes regular data on the biggest industries and skills needed in the current labor market.

 Useful Links:

USCIS: working in the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Seattle Summary
Employment Security Department - Labor Market Information
The Seattle Times Job Ads
Indeed - Seattle Job Ads - Seattle Job Ads

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.