Jobs That Serve the Community

On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act to increase volunteer and community service opportunities for every American. Young Americans, according to some in the service field, are especially poised to accept this responsibility. "Generation Y's dedication to service is the greatest of any generation since ... those who came of age late in the Depression and fought the Second World War," says Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of Whether you are about to graduate from college, or have had a few years of working experience, here are some opportunities to explore.

Peace Corp

Expertise: Various, college degree

Service Program Fee: None

Commitment: Two years

Application Deadlines: None, application process 9-12 months

Pay: Stipend (don't expect much)

End of Service Awards: Over $6000, plus partial student loan cancellations

The oldest and perhaps most famous of the community service opportunities is a two year stint in the Peace Corp. In the Peace Corp, you aren't given an actual salary, but rather a stipend, allowing you to experience living at the same economic level as the people you are serving. You do, however, get a $6000 welcome-back-to-America bonus when you are done. Your medical and dental care are paid while you are serving and you qualify for partial student loan cancellations when you return. There is no deadline to apply for the Peace Corp, but applications take nine to twelve months to process. "Those who go through these programs are given a tremendous amount of responsibility and the quality of their work opportunities is extremely high.

[Peace Corp Alumni] know how to perform under pressure and look for solutions when the answers aren't easy to find," says Rothberg.


Expertise: Various, degree not required

Service Program Fee: None

Commitment: Ten to twelve months

Application Deadlines: April 1st and July 1st

Pay: Various, $800 per month is a common wage

End of Service Awards: $4725 education award or $1200 cash for some

Like the Peace Corp, Americorp is government sponsored and offers modest compensation. "Americorp participants know they have to sacrifice to adjust to [modest] living. It's a 10-12 month temporary life style change but can be really transformational. They make it work," says Brighid Jensen, Asst. Director of Student Development at Wake Forest University. She adds that sometimes Americorp participants pool resources to live together and many get food stamps to keep their pledge to live at the same economic level as those they are serving. There are three basic categories to Americorp: NCCC, Vista, and the generic Americorp umbrella. Jensen recommends students allow about three months to research and apply to multiple spots within Americorp to increase their chances of getting into the program. Overall, about one in four applications are accepted.

Teach for America

Expertise: Various four-year degrees

Service Program Fee: None

Commitment: Two years

Application Deadlines: April 1st and July 1st

Pay: $27,000 to $47,000 per year depending on location.

End of Service Awards: $9495 education award

Teach for America offers college graduates from a variety of disciplines the opportunity to become teachers in under-resourced public schools. Historically very selective, 35,000 people applied for this year's 4,000 slots. Compared to other community service opportunities, Teach for America has the most lucrative benefits including full teacher's starting salary, summer housing and health benefits. Most participants do not plan to make teaching their career.

Doctors Without Borders

Expertise: Two years professional experience, both medical and other fields

Service Program Fee: None

Commitment: Usually one year

Application Deadlines: None, 4-6 month application process

Pay: $1404 per month

End of Service Awards: None

Doctors Without Borders is an NGO (non-government organization) founded in France by doctors and journalists. Not just for doctors, this organization sends participants overseas to deliver hands-on medical care and to design community projects to improve the health of impoverished communities. Nurses, scientists, mental health professionals, financial controllers, logisticians, and water-and-sanitation specialists with two years or more of experience are invited to apply.

Cross Cultural Solution

Expertise: Degree not required

Service Program Fee: About $3000.

Commitment: About 12 weeks

Application Deadlines: None, apply for various positions

Pay: None

End of Service Awards: None

Privately run NGO's like Cross Cultural Solutions let students and graduates pay a program fee to volunteer or intern in another country. The program fee is around $3000 and does not include transportation to and from the volunteer country. It does include food, housing, in-country transportation, and travel insurance. This is low commitment, no salary opportunity that may include teaching, care-giving, medical clinic work, and community development. Another NGO with a similar charter is Cultural Embrace,

Habitat for Humanity

Expertise: Degree not required

Service Program Fee: None

Commitment: Usually six months to one year

Application Deadlines: None, apply for various positions

Pay: None

End of Service Awards: None

Known for rallying local volunteers and offering short-term service abroad, Habitat for Humanity also has long-term, international programs seeking volunteers. There is no salary and no program fee. Instead, participants are responsible for paying their own way in the host country. Many do their own fund-raising, others finance the trip independently. Opportunities include administration, communications, finance, programs, resource development, and volunteer coordination.

Volunteers for Prosperity

Expertise: Various and numerous

Service Program Fee:Some yes, some no

Commitment: Varies depending on position and organization

Application Deadlines: Varies

Pay: Varies

End of Service Awards: No

With this government sponsored web portal of non-profits you can search for the type of volunteer opportunity you want. Long-term and overseas opportunities are listed and the criteria and job requirements differ for each one. The way it works is you do your research and contact the non-profit organization directly. VfP Serve grants are available for individuals with three years of professional work experience. The volunteer who raises at least as much of his/her own funding can apply to receive $500 to $1000 for travel and other expenses associated with volunteering abroad.

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