He studied economics at the American University in Beirut and earned a doctorate from the University of Texas in the United States.
He taught economics at his alma mater: the University of Texas.
In 1983, he secured a position with the International Monetary Fund as the deputy to the Executive Director.
He served as Ambassador to the U.S. from 1997 to 2000.
Afterwards, he returned to the IMF in 2001 and stayed until June 2005. Chatah's resignation from the IMF in 2005 coincided with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005.
He returned to Lebanon as a senior adviser to the newly elected Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in August 2005 and served in the post until July 2008.
He also served as vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon.
Chatah was named minister of finance in the 70th Lebanese government of July 2008 and held the position till November 2009.
He served as a foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Saad Hariri from November 2009 till January 2011.