Is the Peace Corps a Legit Alternative to Getting a Job?

Could a Peace Corps job be for you?

Despite nearly a 4.0 GPA at a respected university, resume counseling, and mock interview practice, I had a very hard time finding a job upon graduation. After a few hundred resumes and applications and many months in I was able to find ‘something’. Not an ideal job, but a springboard to another job. It seemed like every job out there was looking for someone with at least 2 to 3 years of experience.

This was in the first half of the decade when the economy was expanding. I can only imagine the challenge and frustration that job market holds for those who just graduated earlier this month. In times of economic contraction, it goes beyond saying that there is a lot of very talented people competing for fewer jobs these days. So, what is one to do after months and months of nothing but rejection letters come?

peace-corps-moneyGet experience. There are some legit volunteer opportunities out there that can provide you with character building, unbelievable experiences. Some even pay you beyond covering your basic livings needs.The first such experience that we’ll cover is the Peace Corps.

What is the Peace Corps?

The Peace Corps is a U.S. federal agency that reports to Congress. There are currently close to 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide. The Peace Corps has 3 goals in its mission:

  • To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
  • To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served
  • To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans

Volunteers typically serve 26-27 months (2-3 in training, and 24 on their assignment).

How do I Apply for the Peace Corps?

You can apply on the Peace Corps site. Essentially, the steps to apply and get started are:

  1. Submit the Peace Corps application.
  2. Complete the health history form.
  3. Choose from current Peace Corps openings.
  4. Complete the soft skills questionnaire.
  5. Interview (if selected).
  6. Receive invitation (if selected).
  7. Get medical and legal clearance.
  8. Depart!

What Areas of Focus Does the Peace Corps have?

Right now, the Peace Corps focuses in the following focus areas:

  • Agriculture and Environment
  • Community and Youth Development
  • Business/NGO Development and Information Technology
  • Disaster Preparedness and Response
  • Education and Teacher Training
  • Global Health Service Partnership
  • Health and HIV/AIDS

What Benefits Does the Peace Corps Provide for Service?

There are plenty of Peace Corps benefits – professionally, financially, and otherwise.

1. Professional Benefits

  • Global marketplace skills: you get 2-3 months of training prior to your assignment in addition to the incredible experience that your assignment will provide.
  • Job placement support.
  • Non-competitive eligibility for federal jobs. If you serve two years, you get 1 year of non-competitive eligibility. This means that for federal jobs seeking prior federal service, you could be eligible to be hired before the general public without any prior federal experience.
  • Credit towards federal retirement if you decide to go into federal employment.

2. Educational Benefits

  • Credits and financial incentives for Master’s degrees at over 50 colleges and universities.
  • Fellows/USA scholarships.

3. Financial Benefits

  • Two days of vacations per month (24 per year).
  • Living allowance so that you can live a lifestyle ‘similar to locals’.
  • $8,000 “readjustment allowance) upon completion of the program.
  • Deferment of federal student loans. Can’t pay back your loans because you can’t get a job? Defer them while working in the Peace Corps!
  • If you have a Perkins loan, you can actually get up to 15% of your student loans in each of the first two years, and 20% in each of the last two years in a four year term. That’s 70% of your student loans!

4. Medical Benefits

  • Comprehensive medical and dental: 100% of primary care, hospitalization, medical evacuation, and all prescriptions, including birth control and dental care needs.
  • Affordable health insurance for up to 18 months following service. First month premium covered.

What are Some Peace Corps Alternatives?

Some legit alternatives to the Peace Corps include:

  • Americorps: think of Americorps as Peace Corps at home (in the United States). Americorps focuses on everything from housing, hunger, community development, technology, and more. Choose your interest and location – there are local, state, and national focused programs.
  • Teach for America: Teach for America places recent college graduates in under-served communities in the U.S. as teachers. You do not have to have a teaching degree to apply.
  • The National Guard: For those looking for direction and focus, the national guard might be a good alternative.

If you know of any other alternatives, please share in the comments.

Final Thoughts on the Peace Corps:

With all of these nice benefits, the time that it buys you, the respect that it carries on a resume, and above all else the experience that it provides, the Peace Corps seems like a great alternative for those who can’t find a job right out of school, or those who have been laid off recently. It also seems like a great way for those who are mid career who need to ‘reset’. But having not gone through or knowing anyone who has, I can only speculate, and want to hear about your experiences, so please comment below.

We’ll cover a few more post-grad alternatives in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

Peace Corps Discussion:

  • Have you or anyone you’re close with volunteered with the Peace Corps? How did it go?
  • Would you consider the Peace Corps if you couldn’t find a job or were laid off?
  • Have a Peace Corps review? Please share!

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