As the American military continues to transfer power to the Iraqi government, the need for willing American workers to take on civilian jobs in Iraq continues. Civilian jobs are available for those interested in helping rebuild the country's infrastructure and assist with private security. While civilian jobs in Iraq can be financially rewarding, consider the full breadth of the task before enlisting.
Iraq has a desert climate where you can expect hot summers, cold winters and lots and lots of sand. Strong winds can create dust storms, and even though rain is scarce, severe thunderstorms can create flash-flood conditions. You will want to consider carefully whether or not the extreme weather and desolation are factors that you can live with.
There's no denying the danger that accompanies jobs in Iraq. American civilian contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for over 18,000 deaths or injuries as of January 2008. Roadside bombs, religious tension and the transfer of power to an unstable Iraqi government all create an environment that lends itself to violence and uncertainty.
Most civilian contractors are provided room and board, but the living conditions often consist of metal barracks without extra amenities. When working outside, dust and dirt are common partners, and creepy-crawlies like scorpions and spiders are a constant occurrence.
If danger gives you a thrill of excitement, and you're of the mindset that a little dry heat and dirt never hurt anyone, then you may be the perfect candidate for taking on the benefits offered by working in Iraq.
Civilian contractors working in Iraq can expect to make two to three times as much as someone in America performing the same job. For instance, a truck driver can expect to earn $80,000 to $100,000 per contract year as a driver in Iraq, double the amount typically paid to drivers in the states.
Some positions in security will pay as much as $1,000 per day in salary, while project managers could expect to sign on for $350,000 for an annual contract. The salaries go well above and beyond the normal pay range simply because it's hard to find people willing to travel to a dangerous country half-way around the world from family and friends.
If you're working for an American company overseas, the first $80,000 of your annual salary is exempt from federal income taxes. So, if you're making $80,000 as a truck driver, you won't owe federal income taxes at all. So, not only do you get paid more, but more of that money goes directly into your bank account.
Room and Board
Most contract positions for civilians include room and board. That means that civilians earn more money, receive greater tax benefits, and have fewer expenses than those individuals working in the states.
Organizations Offering Civilian Jobs in Iraq
Much of the work offered in Iraq is in place to help rebuild the country's infrastructure. Many civilian positions involve engineering, information technology and security. If you're transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce, you may find a number of jobs that emphasize your skill set. Most jobs are offered through government organizations like the Department of Defense or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but others are offered through companies like Halliburton, Dyncorp and Parsons Project Iraq. Websites offering information on careers in Iraq include:
- Civilian Contractor Jobs
- The United States Department of Defense Civilian Expeditionary Workforce
- Army Medicine
- The United States Army
One or two years of contracting in Iraq could significantly change your financial situation when you return to the United States. But, the pay off could come at a price. Make sure you're fully prepared for the dangers of living and working in Iraq before you make the commitment.