Updated 6 months ago

Washington D.C. is the center of the federal government in the United States and one of its largest urban centers. Government jobs have steadily grown in recent years and there are many jobs for those with specialized backgrounds in associated fields like public affairs, and intelligence and public policy. This does not mean that expats have to be interested in government to find a job in Washington D.C., but they should have some kind of advanced degree.

 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

The federal government is the largest Washington D.C. employer and generates jobs across many industries. Security, information technology, advocacy, and communications are all industries that overlap both the private and public sectors. Some of the top D.C. area industries are listed below.

Information technology and communications

One of the fastest growing sectors is IT and communications, both in hardware and computer programming.


Business, financial, and technical consulting services are in steady demand due to the frequent overlap between the government and commercial job markets.

Health Technology

Research jobs at large institutions like the Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Health, and in the biotech industry are growing.

Security technology

Jobs in this field include defense manufacturing, security research, security personnel, and emergency services.

Labor Market

Industries with the highest employment increase over the past two years are government, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and educational and health services. The most commonly listed job opportunities are for computer occupations, management analysts, registered nurses, information security analysts, and software developers. Media and information sectors, such as online and print news services, saw a decline as well as the travel industry.

The Washington D.C. unemployment rate currently averages 6.4%. It has slightly increased over the past year and remains about 2% higher than the rest of the country. Part of the higher unemployment rate is that many D.C. jobs require advanced degrees or in-depth security clearances. Experts say that many a gap in education, or having a criminal record is prohibitive to some populations finding adequate employment.

Finding a job

Local resources are the best place to begin your job search. Look at job search engines that are specifically focused on Washington D.C. and at local newspapers such as the Washington Post (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.

It is crucial to update your resume (CV) to reflect the American style. Stand out from the crowd by researching companies or job requirements before you apply in order to highlight the skills and experience that are most applicable. Also, ensure 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 Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services website offers free career assistance including advice on researching the job market and tailoring your resume (CV) to the U.S. style. They also publish monthly statistics regarding the unemployment rate and labor market, which may be helpful for your search.

 Useful Links:

USCIS: working in the U.S.
Washington D.C. Department of Employment Services

Washington D.C. job search engines:
Washington Post Job Ads
DC Job Network government job search page

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.