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Monday, November 13, 2006

Finding work in Qatar

This post was originally posted on Qatar Guest. It has been edited and updated for this site.

My story

Working in the Middle East was part of a long term plan for me. After working abroad for several years, I returned to my country to obtain extra qualifications. This took me about two years. I then found my job on a job-listing website. I got a reply shortly after sending a C.V. and references that were never checked, and an interview was arranged in my country.

Upon arriving at the interview, my prospective Qatari employers accused me of being late. Luckily, I had brought the email they had sent me with the correct time and the date.

It took my employers so long to respond to the interview that I thought I had lost the job. When I was offered the job, I nearly turned it down because of the difficulty in obtaining a copy of the contract. I was also distressed when I was informed (three days before leaving) that my family would not be able to come for 2-3 months. My departure date was then delayed for a month, and for a while I thought the whole thing was never going to happen. Against this, I am now heartily glad that I took these risks and came to Qatar.

Why work in Qatar?

Most people come here for the money - which is tax free. But let's not forget that Qatar is actually quite a nice place, although you need a bit of money to enjoy it fully. Westerners can enjoy a superior life style, with domestic help in the home, without having to give up alcohol or substantially change their dress. (See Living in Qatar: Myths and Realities).Christians and Shia Muslims can enjoy relative freedom of worship. And don't imagine that the whole country is arid desert - the city is being beautified (the Corniche is lovely), and even the desert if far from being devoid of greenery.

Look for work from home or come to Qatar?

I am much better off as an employee who was recruited from the U.K. than some colleagues who were recruited locally. I am on an international contract, which has substantially better pay and conditions, such as flights back to the U.K. every year for myself and my family. The situation might, of course, be different if you already have contacts or family present. (If you are recruited locally you may also be able to negotiate an international contract).

A word of warning

Some people get into debt to come here and then can’t find a job. Others find a job which doesn’t pay enough to cover their debt. There are also unscrupulous agencies (not Qatari) who demand payment to bring workers here. I spoke to a maid who had to pay 1200 Riyals to come here (she now earns QR600 a month). She was lucky she had the money to pay up front: other workers take on debt with these agencies which their wages are insufficient to cover. They are then unable to escape their debtors because of threats against their families. In the past workers have been known to commit suicide because of the pressure they are under.

While there are probably many respectable agencies, it is not worth borrowing money to come here.

Working outside

Working in the sun can be brutal, especially in August when temperatures can reach 50 degrees. There is supposed to be a limit above which workers cannot work, but this is not always enforced. If you are Muslim, it is often possible to work night shifts during Ramadan – check this with your employer before you arrive.

Where to look for work:

I looked for work:

  • on general job search engines for the Gulf
  • on company websites
  • in the job sections of newspapers such as the Guardian
  • in industry specific job websites

Websites to start looking on:

Qatar Visitor's Jobs Page
List jobs from around the Gulf

Qatar Petroleum
One of the biggest employers in Qatar. Require all sorts of specialities.

Qatar Liquefied Gas Company

Hamad Medical Corporation
A huge employer of medical staff in Qatar. Check out their website:

The Supreme Education Council
Gradually taking over from the Ministry of Education.

Telecommunications company. Has jobs, although at the time of writing their “apply online” page is down. Obviously they need you!

Provide postal service in Qatar. With no street addresses, only postboxes,it can’t be that hard (although according to the Gulf Times, it takes five weeks to deliver a postcard across the city).

Qatar Airways
Growing fast and always need staff.

Canadian Bureau for International Education

The British Council
Has vacancies for teachers from time to time:

Dave’s Esl Cafe
Teaching jobs, especially EFL.

The Guardian
Advertises jobs in Qatar from time to time. You can subscribe to their jobs section for free.

College of the North Atlantic (Some jobs are for Canadians only).

The Language Teaching Institute
Tel: 4657690 PO Box 3224, Doha, Qatar
The Language Teaching Institute often looks for teachers, but unfortunately doesn’t have an email contact address or website. (Update: the school now has a website here: The Language Institute, Doha.)

There are many more. Try looking directly on the websites of companies you are interested in.


Some people never receive contracts. Although I saw a copy (after much nagging), I never signed one. On the other hand, all the terms of the job offer were honoured, although at Qatari speed. (Really, if you are not calm and patient, Qatar is not the place for you.) I know that many people turn down work in Qatar because they are never given a contract to sign. I took the risk – it could have backfired.

Things to ask about

When you will receive your 1st pay check - Your first pay check may be two to three months after you arrive (you will probably receive loans to subsidise you during this time.) Check with your employer and budget accordingly.

Days and shifts worked – many people work a six day week. Some people also work two shifts, morning and afternoon/evening. This means 4 rush hours a day.

Accommodation - What you really want is accommodation included, or at the very least a substantial housing allowance. Prices are rising ever higher, and have increased since this article was first written (see Housing Inflation). I recently heard villas being advertised for QR 22,000/month ($6000) and an increasing number of expats are leaving the country because of this. Workers on lower wages often sleep six to a room.

Bills = often included in the contract.

Flights – Look for a yearly return flight to your country in your annual holiday. If you are bringing family, make sure they are included.

Family –Normally, you are only allowed to bring family if your salary is above a certain level. When family is provided for, flights and education is often included. You will not be able to get permanent residence for children over the age of 18 by yourself.

Travel allowance – A monthly allowance towards the cost of travel is quite common, although probably not that important if your wages are substantial.

Bonuses! And when you receive them - this may not be until you leave the country and your job.

Health insurance - most foreign companies provide health insurance. Otherwise try International Health Plan.

There is huge variation in pay (have a look at the Qatar Living forums). Pay can be very good, or rather low. Skilled expatriates might get paid 30,000 Riyals or more, while labourers get 600 Riyals. Qatar is not an incredibly cheap country, so do your research before coming here.

For some idea of costs, try reading The Cost of Living.


If it is a choice between working here or in Saudi, then it really is no contest: Qatar is a far, far more pleasant place. (See The Religious Policeman or A thought in the the Kingdom of Lunacy if you don’t believe me!)

Good luck!

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