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Putting Your Degree to Work in the Peace Corps

Tags:  Peace Corps, Life after college

In case you don't already know, the Peace Corps is an agency of the U.S. federal government founded in the sixties and based on the concept of people coming together in peace to work on ""emerging and essential areas"" to help people around the world build a better life.

Made up of volunteers who work in a variety of areas including education, youth outreach, community and business development, health and the environment in countries throughout Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and more, members of the Peace Corps volunteer their skills and life experiences wherever they are needed most.

Currently, over 7,700 volunteers serve in 73 countries by working to bring clean water to communities, teach children, help start new small businesses, and stop the spread of AIDS. If you think you might want to volunteer your time and be part of this worthwhile organization, here are ten things you need to know.

  • Volunteers commit to 27 months of training and overseas service.
  • You do not need to speak a foreign language, although French or Spanish do help.
  • Not all opportunities require a four-year college degree.
  • Geographical preferences will be considered, but cannot be guaranteed.
  • Though Peace Corps work is voluntary, you are provided a small living allowance, complete medical and dental care and the cost of transportation to and from your service country, in addition to just over $6,000 toward your transition back into life at home after your service is complete.
  • While you must be a U.S. Citizen and at least 18 to serve, there is no upper age limit.
  • You may be able to defer your student loans.
  • The application process takes 9 to 12 months, so apply early.
  • The process requires each volunteer to go through a complete physical to ensure they are capable of serving.
  • Volunteers should expect to live alone and work independently, though legally married couples may be able to work together.

So you may be asking yourself why you should serve. If you need further information about benefits, consider these:

  • If you don't know a foreign language when you start, you will develop the skills by the time you are through. In addition, you gain invaluable international experience along with cross-cultural understanding, very marketable in today's global economy.
  • Working for the Peace Corp means being part of a network of volunteers who have become members of Congress, university presidents and corporate leaders. That means you have access to career advice, graduate school information, and workshops through the directory of volunteers and biweekly newsletter.
  • Volunteers who want to work for the federal government and who meet the minimum qualifications for a position, may get hired -- at the employing agency's discretion -- without going through the standard competitive process.

If you're currently in your junior or senior year and wondering what you will do once you finish your degree, consider the Peace Corps. You gain experiences you may never have an opportunity to try again along with the gratification of knowing you've helped other people who may have otherwise not received assistance.

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