We can make a lot of jokes about how many people wish Washington DC would drop off the face of the planet. There’s plenty of hatred for politicians on both sides of the aisle as well as Congress in general. Yet it remains the central hub for our country. This is why it is home to so many employers from nonprofits to law firms to defense contractors. It is this diverse array of employers as well as employment in various government agencies that have made Washington DC, for better or for worse, one of the richest areas in the country. It provides a literal wealth of high paying jobs in nearly every sector. That’s why so many people move here to launch or further their careers. Here are a few things to know about interning or working in DC.

Be Careful with Your Housing Arrangements

New York City makes headlines for being the most expensive real estate market in the country, unless San Francisco beats it out one year. Unfortunately, the nation’s capital isn’t that much better. The average rent is around 2200 dollars a month, though the average apartment is 740 square feet. You’ll struggle to find an efficiency apartment for less than 700 dollars a month unless you don’t mind high crime. (Washington DC has one of the highest crime rates of any metro area in the United States, and it isn’t just a matter of robbing tourists.) The northwestern side of the city is somewhat safer, but crime is a problem across DC.

This is why you want to map out crime rates in Washington DC and the compare it with a guide to the DC area. Move into a smaller unit with fewer amenities so that you can guarantee your safety, if you can’t afford the apartment of your dreams. More than half of all rentals including two bedroom apartments are more than two thousand dollars a month. Efficiency units and one bedroom apartments can be found for 1500 to 2000 dollars a month. Consider finding a roommate you can share such close quarters with before you move to DC. That’s especially true if you’ll be working in West End Washington, Navy Yard and Federal Triangle where rents average 3000 dollars a month.

In general, the closer you are to the White House, the more expensive it is. There are exceptions like Edgewood costing several hundred a month more than Bloomingdale, though Bloomingdale is closer to downtown DC. Moving across the Potomac River can somewhat reduce your costs, but then you’re dealing with the traffic jams on Highway 395. This is why you should live on the same side of the Potomac River as you work. And the same is true regarding the Anacostia River.

Ditch the Car for a Bike and Choose the Right Apartment

Washington DC like many older cities was designed for walkability. It has plenty of amenities for bikes, too. Consider ditching your car and choosing to ride your bike or walk. One point in favor of Washington DC is its excellent public transportation network via the Metro. But choose an apartment close to work so that you won’t have to travel too far during winter ice storms. If you do decide to keep your car, being close to work makes it easier to get around Washington’s horrible traffic. It is almost as bad as that of LA. If you’re flying into Washington DC, land at Reagan Airport instead of Dulles. Then you’ll have access to public transit to get back to your apartment.

Know the Social Rules

The dress code here is overwhelmingly professional. Fortunately, there are etiquette schools here that are happy to teach you what you don’t know. You could also borrow books to learn the finer details of high class dining before visiting some of the world-class restaurants here.

If you’re on the sidewalk or in the hallways, know that there are people in a hurry who expect others to get out of the way. The general rule is pass on the left, stand on the right.

Learn the Local Geography

There are four quadrants in Washington DC: northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast. Do not get these confused, because 100 L Street SE is miles away from 100 L Street NW. Furthermore, Washington DC is divided up into wards. These are not equally sized, but they’re the major neighborhoods.

Take Advantage of Free Entertainment Opportunities

One of the benefits of being in the Capitol is that you have access to some of the best museums, arts venues and historical sites in the country. Save money by visiting these venues when they’re free. Visit the concerts that get held here open to the public. Go on a tour of the White House. Drop by the National Zoo.

Learn about the Tax Situation

Washington DC isn’t a state. It is its own separate legal entity, though it is also a city in its own right. What does this mean? You don’t have to pay a state income tax, but there is a Washington DC income tax. You’ll have to pay four percent on the first ten thousand dollars you earn annually. It peaks at a 8.95 percent income tax rate. You’re legally required to file a DC income tax return if you live there more than 183 days a year even if your permanent residence is elsewhere. You have to file a tax return if you meet their definition of a part-year resident, too. If you’re a member of the armed forces and your home of record is Washington DC, you get to file a DC tax return, too. You can file a separate state income tax return for the other state you live in. If you are simply moving to DC to stay and work, your employer should withhold DC taxes from your paycheck.


Washington DC also charges sales tax. There is a general six percent district-wide sales tax that applies to most goods and services. Restaurants and bars charge roughly ten percent sales tax. You’ll pay 10.25 percent sales tax on rented cars or baseball related items sold at Nationals Park. Paid parking has a nearly twenty percent sales tax.