ADVENTURE JOBS: Working in the Middle East

If you Are Persistent This Could be the View From Your Apartment Balcony

Working in the Middle East is an ideal job option for the adventurous type folk who want to make some quick cash or just want to add an interesting chapter to their life. Or maybe you are just tired of shuffling TPS reports from the in box to the out box and looking for your red stapler.

But no matter your reason every Professional Adventurer has to live overseas at one point in their life. Plus you can’t really call yourself a tough guy if you have never even left New Jersey.

So picture this; you sweat it out in the Middle East for a year, bank some tax free cash, spend your numerous vacations traveling around the world (or just buying lots of gear) and pay off your credit cards at the same time.

Sounds great right?

Well it doesn’t always work out that way for everyone, if you are stupid with your money and blow it all on girls and booze wile vacationing in Bangkok or buy tons crap on Amazon.com then you may end up extending your career in the Middle East indefinitely. After working in the Middle East for close to 10 years now I have seen all sorts come and go, some do good and others cant hack it for a week.

But even if the worst happens life will still be pretty sweet, living in the Middle East isn’t all that bad, in fact some ME countries are pretty damn fun. Unlike working in the States you will make tax-free money, have a free place to stay, ample vacation time (sometimes up to 2 to 4 months off a year) and a pocket full of cash.

So how do you get a job in the Middle East?


Their are basically five types of jobs in the Middle East:

Direct Hire with a Local Company or School

This is pretty much like applying for any job back home, you search the internet for gigs in the Middle East and just apply. For this type of Middle Eastern gig you must have some sort of specialized skill or academic qualifications.

Difficulty: To get a direct hire job it will depend on your professional experience; this can be easy, next to impossible or just hit or miss.

Average Salary: for westerners with specialized skills, between 35K and 150K USD a year not including housing benefits.

Advantages: If you have above skills and education this is a great route to go. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait are always looking for professionals from western countries.

Disadvantages: You are at the mercy of your Middle Eastern employer, they can end up being good people, or an absolute nightmare to work for. If your employer decides to not pay you or send you home and have you banned from the country – well, you can’t really do anything about it.

Where to Look: The usual internet job search sites are your best bet for these types of jobs. Places like Monster Jobs and Yahoo Hot Jobs are a good starting place. Just enter the name of the Middle Eastern country you would like to work in along with your profession.

Working at your Countries Embassy

Most embassies in the Middle East hire citizens of their country that are already living in the host country. This is not to be confused with National Service or any other type of “real” embassy job where you have to take a test and go back to your home country for years of training.

These jobs are not the highest paying jobs in the Middle East but adding in the tax free status along with a monthly stipend for housing its not the worst choice either.

Difficulty: 80% of the time you have to already be in the country where you want to work. I have several friends that were hired for jobs at the US embassy in Qatar and Kuwait. They said that they were just lucky because they were already working in the Middle East and applied at the embassy at the right time.

Average Salary: 30K to 50K USD

Advantages: Not many, it’s an ok job and the housing benefits are usually paid in cash.

Disadvantages: you work on a short term “at will” contract that may or may no be renewed. In most cases you have to already be living in the Middle East.

Where to Look: Check the website of your countries embassy. Like if you want to work for your embassy in Qatar, then go to the US Embassy Qatar mission website (replace US with whatever country you are from) and check the job listings for citizens.

Civilian Contractor Jobs

This is a job working on three month to one year contracts (90% of the time they are 1 year contracts) for defense contractors that have contracts with the US military in the Middle East. If you are a US, EU or UK citizen then this is one of the best choices for employment in the Middle East.

Unlike most jobs in the Middle East the majority of Civilian Contractor Jobs are blue collar or semi-skilled jobs. Only certain technical or experience based skills (like IT and high risk security) and high up management jobs will require a college degree or years of specialised experience. Jobs range from Security Guard to Information Technology to Pushing Paper.

Difficulty: Some people get hired and are living overseas within a week (extremely rare) but most folks will have to try for months before they are hired, sometimes longer.

Average Salary: 60K to 300K+ with 80K being the average for new guys.

Advantages: Lots of Jobs in the Middle East for people with almost any skill or lack of skills, a college degree and tons of experience are not always required. Kick-ass pay, lots of leave time, full coverage medical insurance. And once you are in the hiring “loop” you can pretty much always count on eventually finding another job in the Middle East.

Disadvantages: Depending on the ever changing contractor job market it could take between 3 to 6 months or longer to get a job. You will have to constantly apply over and over again for jobs, the more jobs you apply for, the faster you may get hired. Some jobs are in “scary” countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, but those jobs almost always pay the big 6-fig salaries.

Where to Look: Besides being in the loop you can check out Civilian Contractor Jobs, or apply directly to any defense contractor that has contracts in the Middle East. Their is bit of “luck of the draw” in this type of employment, so you will have to be patient and apply to many companies.

Petroleum Jobs

The first westerners to work in the Middle East were probably people in the Petroleum industry (not including crusaders). The work varies from roughnecking on offshore rigs for 3 month rotations to drilling in the desert 6 days a week. These jobs can be a combination of direct hire with a Middle Eastern company to working for a major Petroleum company like Exxon.

Average Salary: 50K to 200K+

Difficulty: Almost all Petroleum Jobs require some sort of experience in the oil industry, the Middle East is not where major Petroleum companies train or hire green guys. The oil Job market is also a “bubbas club”, knowing someone that is already working in the Petroleum industry is one of the best ways to get hired.

Advantages: Loads of time off, up to 4 months a year wile still making a full salary.

Disadvantages: If you have never worked in the Petroleum industry then your chances of getting hired to work on a rig in the Middle East are slim. You could also fall off an oil platform and be eaten by a great white shark.

Where to Look: I don’t know allot about the hiring process for Oil Gigs, you should try applying directly to the major Petroleum companies or their sub-contractors. If anyone reading this has more info on what you need to do to break into the oil business please chime in.

Expat Posting with a Major Corporation

Do you have a Ivy league MBA, are you a certified and college educated engineer, lawyer, published economist with a senior level position working for a major company? If you cant say yes to one of those questions then you will never get a Middle Eastern expat posting job.

Sorry pal, your dream of black tie embassy parties, twenty thousand dollar a month serviced executive apartments and taking Buffy to the Dubai Country Club are just that, a pipe dream. Some lucky bastards will occasionally hustle there way into one of these coveted Middle Eastern expat package postings, but those folks are few and far between.

Average Salary Range: Think, 1 number with 6 zeros on the ass-end

Difficulty: Right up their with hitting the lottery 9 times after getting struck by lighting an additional 6 times wile standing in the same spot.

Advantages: 20K a month executive apartment at the Ritz Carlton filled with foreign models bathing in Crystal. And that’s on a Monday.

Disadvantages: None.

Where to Look: Call up some of your alumni from Harvard, they will hook you up.

There are some other types of Jobs in the Middle East like working for NGO’s, or starting a business, teaching English and working for the other governments. But pretty much the jobs I listed are the most common. If you know of any other types of jobs in the Middle East then please feel free to jump in.

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~James G
James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in his homes in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns and writing poorly written articles.

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3 thoughts on “ADVENTURE JOBS: Working in the Middle East”

  1. In reference to working in the petrochemical industry:

    An almost certain way to land a job in that sector is to get a degree in (chemical) process technology. People with this qualification are few and far between and consequently actively sought after in places with a high concentration of (petro)chemical industry. Houston Texas, Antwerp Belgium and the German Ruhr area are the largest takers of such people. Finding employment at any petro-corporation will lead to opening doors to off shore work, which is highly lucrative to say the least.

    Mind that people *do* on occasion die in those places, the piper-alpha disaster or more recently: the explosion on the rig in the gulf of Mexico have left many dead or permanently scarred. Just so you know what you’re getting into.

    Also: the salary you make can vary extremely depending on your employer and the additional skills you posses.

      (Quote This Comment)

  2. 3 years ago people were getting offers from Haliburton in the Middle East paying 6+ figures with little experience. That has changed recently and it has gotten much more difficult.

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  3. Hi, I want to work on the oil rigs in the Middle East but have no experience in this industry. I know I would have to find a course in health and safety and gas and oil.. Can you recommend any specific courses in the UK that would help me secure a job in the Middle East ?

    Thanks

    Paul Walsh

      (Quote This Comment)

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