The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a thriving expat community to help you feel at home, as well as a subtropical climate and tax-free salaries. If you're thinking of working in the UAE take a look at some of your options
Made up of seven emirates - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain - the UAE's relentless growth over recent years has made working there look impressive on any CV.
Rich in cultural heritage it's a place where tradition meets modernity. English is the main language of business and around 85% of the population comes from abroad so you'll have no trouble fitting in.
Opportunities exist all over this culturally-diverse country, but most jobs in the UAE are found in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The cost of living is fairly expensive, especially in these two cities, but you get your money's worth as the standard of living is world class.
Living and working in the Gulf region you'll be able to explore Islamic culture but to avoid getting in trouble with the law you'll need to respect local laws and customs. There can be severe penalties for breaking these. For example, there is a zero tolerance policy towards drugs and drink driving. Relationships outside of marriage are illegal as is same sex marriage. You'll need a special licence to consume alcohol and women should dress modestly when out in public. Also be aware that swearing in public and public displays of affection are arrestable offences.
On your days off you'll be able to enjoy red-hot weather in summer and warm days in winter. You can visit idyllic sandy beaches and cosmopolitan landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world and the Dubai Mall.
Jobs in the UAE
An oil-rich country, the UAE has had to deal with fluctuating oil prices and global oversupply but on the whole, the economy is strong and has seen rapid growth in recent years.
Major industries in the UAE include:
- boat building and ship repair
- handicrafts and textiles
- petroleum and petrochemicals.
Some of the best major companies to work for include:
- AstraZeneca Gulf (pharmaceutical)
- Apparel Group (retail)
- DHL (logistics)
- FedEx Express (logistics)
- Hilton Worldwide (hospitality)
- Marriott (hospitality)
- Microsoft Gulf
- Omnicom Media Group MENA
- Splash (fashion)
- THE One (retail)
- Weber Shandwick (communications).
Popular graduate jobs
The UAE has a number of growth industries, including the energy sector, which requires science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) specialists. With the introduction of VAT there is also now an increased demand for tax specialists. Accountancy and banking graduates, meanwhile, will find many openings in the property and finance industries.
How to get a job in the UAE
Many expats find jobs through international companies in their home countries and where possible it's best to try to secure work before making the move. Thousands of British companies have operations in the Gulf region so securing a position with one of these organisations before requesting a transfer might be an option.
In the UAE many positions are advertised via recruitment agencies or online and, while it may be unusual practice in your own country, don't be surprised to find job adverts specifically asking for a particular gender, age or nationality. Networking is important but this may be difficult to do from afar. However, once you’re in a job in the UAE successful networking could help you get promoted.
Speculative applications are not unwelcome but securing a job through this method often relies on strong personal contacts.
Most applications are made online via an application form or CV. Make sure to attach a photograph and a short cover letter.
You'll usually undergo a face-to-face interview and a medical examination before being offered a job.
Look for vacancies at:
Short-term contracts are available in the construction, oil, tourism and retail industries but can be hard to secure once in the country. Because of these fixed-term contracts, summer and casual work can be hard to find.
Temporary work may be available in the hospitality sector in tourist areas such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you could also find work in the retail industry.
Volunteering opportunities in the UAE are generally limited, but are more common in places such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. However, this is often due to a shortage of willing participants, so getting involved in voluntary work could provide invaluable experience. You can find openings at organisations such as the Red Crescent Society of UAE and Operation Smile UAE.
Otherwise, search for opportunities at:
- Dubai Volunteer Centre
- National Volunteers Program for Emergencies, Crises and Disasters
Despite the fact that English is the main second language in the UAE there are still teaching opportunities available.
As long as you hold a TEFL qualification you can find work teaching English as a foreign language in schools, colleges, universities, language centres and private institutions. Some jobs may require you to have a degree, such as a PGCE.
You could also teach adult classes or work in conjunction with businesses to ensure that their employees are fluent in the language.
You can search for vacancies and find out more information at:
Short-term work experience opportunities and internships can be hard to come by, as companies usually sponsor employees for a minimum of 12 months. Such opportunities are further complicated by visa restrictions. However, some internship and summer work placements may be found at:
Many universities, such as Heriot-Watt University, Manchester Business School, Middlesex University and the University of Exeter have links to the UAE. Meanwhile, you may be eligible for university exchange programmes if you're still in education. Check with your institution's international office.
Visas for visiting the UAE will be issued on arrival to all UK nationals. This allows you to stay in the country for 30 days. The emirate you arrived in can then extend your visa for another 30 days, three days before its expiry date. However, you must leave the country at the end of this period. Your passport must have at least six months validity from the date of entry, so check before travelling.
If you intend to work in the UAE you'll need to be sponsored by an employer - you cannot work on a visit or a tourist visa. Once you've accepted a job offer your employer will apply for a residency visa on your behalf and you'll then be able to get a work permit from the Ministry of Labour. You're not entitled to work without this permit and doing so is illegal.
Residency visas are subject to a medical examination; those who test positive for HIV or hepatitis will be deported.
Remember to cancel your work visa before permanently leaving the UAE. Failure to do so could lead to you being reported as an absconder, resulting in your arrest if you return to the UAE.
Find out more about visas at Foreign Travel Advice - United Arab Emirates.
Major languages in the UAE include Arabic (the main language), English, Hindi, Persian and Urdu. As the UAE is home to a vast number of expatriates English is widely spoken by locals and is also the language of business.
However, understanding Arabic will greatly improve your job prospects. Some popular places to learn Arabic include:
- Eton Institute
- Golden Age Institute
- The Arabic Language Centre
- The Mother Tongue Arabic Language Centre
How to explain your UK qualifications to employers
Employers usually understand UK qualifications as the UAE education system has many similarities, but ensure that this is the case before application.
You, or your employer, can find out more at ENIC-NARIC.
What it's like to work in the UAE
As in the UK, full-time employees typically work five eight-hour shifts every week. However, unlike the UK, the working week runs from Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday are rest days. Working hours are reduced during Ramadan.
Private sector employees are entitled to 30 days of annual leave after one year in the job.
There are nine recognised public holidays in the UAE but some of these dates change every year, according to the sighting of the moon. National holidays include:
- New Year's Day (1 January)
- Al Isra’a Wal Mi'raj - Ascension Day
- Eid Al Fitr
- Arafat Day
- Eid Al Adha - Feast of Sacrifice
- Al Hijri - Islamic New Year
- Birthday of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)
- Commemoration Day
- National Day.
The exact number of holiday days given depends on whether the Islamic festival of Eid falls during the working week or the weekend.
You don't pay income tax on your earnings in the UAE.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to study in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).