How to Join the Peace Corps

If you’re one of the people in the world who wants to live, learn, and work with a community overseas, here’s what you need to know: some basic facts about the Peace Corps, as well as a (simplified) application process.

The Peace Corps sends volunteers to over 70 countries in the world. Traditionally, the length of this volunteer service is 27 months. It is unlikely you will be placed on a shorter assignment, unless you are a seasoned professional with 10 or more years of proven work experience. The typical 27 month volunteer will be placed in one of six program areas: education, youth and community development, health, business information and communications technology, agriculture, and environment.

To be eligible for service, you must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old. Additionally, 90 percent of Peace Corps volunteers have a college undergraduate degree. That being said, there is no maximum age limit, but the average age of Peace Corps volunteers is 28.

Here’s how you join the Peace Corps:

Step One:

Begin your application. Most applications take more than one session to complete, so be thorough; this application requires “two essays, three references, employment history, resume, a list of community and volunteer activities, educational background, and practical skills information.” It will also ask for college transcripts, “outstanding student loan, mortgage, or other financial obligation information,” documents about possible legal obligations, and a completed health history form.

Step Two:

You should be called for an interview within two weeks after an initial review of your application. At the interview, a recruiter will ask you questions about your work experience, skills, interests, as well as your personal feelings toward things like flexibility, cultural awareness and motivation. The recruiter will want to know about your commitment to the Peace Corps, and this offers you an opportunity to ask questions you may have as well.

Step Three:

If the recruiter thinks you are a good fit for the Peace Corps and there are open positions, then you will be nominated. At this time, you are considered recommended to move to the more legal stage of things such as medical clearance and fingerprinting.

Step Four:

This is the legal review stage. The documentation of things like financial obligations, marital status, criminal records and medical history will be examined.  You may be contacted for follow up information, but if everything turns out and all dates line up properly, you will be matched with an open position.

Step Five:

A formal invitation with a specific job description will be sent to you. This will include your leave date and a welcome packet that provides details of the country you will serve, in addition to a detailed job description. You must accept this invitation, and then the Peace Corps will provide you with information about orientation, training, and departure.

Step Six:

After accepting your invitation, you need to receive a complete physical and dental exam. This exam must take place sixty days prior to your departure. The majority of Peace Corps applicants are medically cleared.

Step Seven:

Prepare for departure! The Peace Corps travel office will issue you an electronic ticket that will send you to your pre-service orientation site. A short time after this, you will fly to your final destination and begin your Peace Corps experience.

While on a Peace Corps service, you will come face to face with real poverty, uncomfortable conditions, and a local culture unlike anything in America. Be honest with yourself, be prepared to change, and allow yourself time to adjust. It’s said that joining the Peace Corps is the toughest job you’ll ever love.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Peace Corps, Peace Corps Apply, Peace Corps FAQ, Matador Network
Photo: Penn State