The Peace Corps is a U.S. Government agency. We send American citizens to
work overseas in developing countries for a 27-month assignment. President Kennedy
established the Peace Corps in 1961 to "promote world peace and friendship"
Peace Corps Volunteers work in 70 nations in Africa, Asia, Central America,
South America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, South Pacific, the Mediterranean,
Central Asia and Southeast Asia.
Peace Corps assignments are 27 months: 3 months of training, plus the 2-year
The average age of a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2002 was 28 years old.
The oldest Peace Corps Volunteer ever was 86 when he completed his service,
and the oldest volunteer currently servicing is 84. The Peace Corps and the
countries where Volunteers serve often welcome and value the wealth of experience
that older Americans bring to their overseas assignments.
Ans. -Since 1961, more than 170,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.
The entire application process may take anywhere from 6 to 9 months. Many
issues can impede the process, including medical or legal concerns, incomplete
or missing reference forms, or the fact that the applicant's particular skill
is not needed at the time of application. Married couple applications generally
take more than 9 months to process.
In the application, you can indicate a preference for a region, but not a
specific country. The Peace Corps makes every effort to accommodate your interests
and preferences for serving as a Volunteer, but we cannot guarantee placement
in any specific country or region. Our main priority is to place you in a country
where your skills are most needed, so we encourage you to be flexible when you
are offered an assignment. Peace Corps assignments are for two years plus three
months of training in your country of service.
Peace Corps strongly discourages bringing a pet with you. If you truly love
your pet, you wouldn't want to bring him/her with you. Many countries won't
allow you to bring a pet in at all. Those that do, often require the animal
to be quarantined. In many countries, adequate health-care is not available
for your pet. There can be significant cultural differences in the way that
pets are viewed and treated. Most pets would live outdoors and be expected to
fend for themselves, living a "wilder" and more violent lifestyle. Sometimes,
it is difficult to justify feeding a pet nutritious food, when the people around
you are all on the verge of malnutrition. And then in some countries, these
animals might even be seen as food. Bottom line, if you really love your pet,
leave him/her at home.
There is no country in the world which has a solely vegetarian diet. Therefore,
Peace Corps is not always able to take an applicant's eating habits into account
when making placement decisions. Vegetarians are welcome to adapt locally available
food to their eating philosophy, but you should be aware of the following challenges:
As the world is changing, so does this answer. For volunteers serving just
5 years ago, it may have been completely inappropriate to have brought a computer
(or a stereo for that matter). It depends on the country and the type of assignment.
It would be more likely in a more developed country in a business or education
program, and less likely in an agriculture outreach program in a less developed,
rural area. Keep in mind the golden rule that you shouldn't bring expensive
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are not paid a salary. Instead, you will
receive a stipend to cover your basic necessities -- food, housing expenses,
and local transportation. While the amount of the stipend varies from country
to country, you will receive an amount that allows you to live at the same level
as the people you serve in your community. The Peace Corps pays for your transportation
to and from your country of service and provides you with complete medical and
dental care. At the conclusion of your service as a Volunteer, you will receive
a "readjustment allowance" of $225 (rate as of January 2003) for each month
of service. If you complete your full term of service, you will receive $6,075.
You will receive a stipend to cover your basic necessities -- food, housing
expenses, and local transportation. While the amount of the stipend varies from
country to country, you will receive an amount that allows you to live at the
same level as the people you serve in your community. The Peace Corps pays for
your transportation to and from your country of service and provides you with
complete medical and dental care.
Yes, but be prepared to live alone, with another Volunteer, or even with
a host family.
For hygiene and sanitation, Peace Corps does have some minimum standards.
You will have water to drink. It probably won't come straight out of a faucet,
ready to drink, but you will have water. You might have to boil it and filter
it, or pull it from a well, or pump it with a hand pump, but you will have water
to drink. You will not starve. Food will be around. You will need to be careful
that it is prepared well and cooked well, but you will be able to eat. You might
not have your favorites. You might have to "get over" being a picky eater, but
we will not send you somewhere where there is a famine, and there is no food
to be had.
Sometimes the choices are not as varied, and you might not get as much of
certain nutrients as you are used to (maybe it is difficult or not safe to eat
dairy, so Peace Corps will give you calcium supplements). In fact, everyone
in Guinea is given super-strength multi-vitamins, with 100% of everything!!
We can't guarantee a beautiful porcelain flush toilet, but you will have "facilities"
to use that you can keep clean and sanitary and that won't put your health at
risk. In my town, the people in my neighborhood all shared a big communal pit
latrine, and Peace Corps said "no way." They were afraid I would "catch" something
if I used that regularly. So I had my own private latrine. I was the only one
who used it, and I cleaned it with bleach regularly. In Guinea, they also wanted
all of us to have tin (not straw) roofs because snakes like to hang out in the
straw roofs. (Julie Kaminsky, Guinea RPCV)
Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age. Married
couples without dependent children may be accepted if the spouse also qualifies
for an assignment. There is no upper age limit. The Peace Corps does not discriminate
on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability,
sexual orientation, or political affiliation. All Peace Corps services are administered
on this non-discriminatory basis. Peace Corps accepts and considers applications
for volunteer service from any qualified individual, whether heterosexual, bisexual,
lesbian, or gay. However, in accordance with the Peace Corps Legal Eligibility
Guidelines, we cannot give special consideration to the joint placement of any
couples who are not legally married. As same-sex marriages are yet to be recognized
by the federal government, it is the Peace Corps' policy to consider such couples
only as individual applicants.
This is true of any pair of applicants whether unmarried couples, friends,
relatives or same-sex couples. Peace Corps will not make a special effort to
arrange placement in the same location. Peace Corps provides cross-cultural
training in the local customs and laws of countries of service. As a guest of
a host country, volunteers are expected to live and abide by their customs.
It may be necessary for a volunteer to change aspects of his or her physical
appearance -hair length, facial hair, clothing in order to serve effectively
in a host country. Open same sex relations may be prohibited by local laws.
Out of respect of our host countries, same sex relations may be restricted conduct
by volunteers. In some countries of service, Peace Corps Volunteers serving
overseas have established gay, lesbian and bisexual support groups. Peace Corps
staff is also trained to address concerns and cares for all volunteers, regardless
of their sexual orientation.
You must be at least 18, although most volunteers are older since most programs
require either a college degree or 3-5 years of professional work experience.
There is no upper age limit. Currently, a few volunteers over age 70 are serving
overseas. Likewise, volunteers in their 80s have successfully served in Peace
Corps. At present, about 6% of all volunteers are over age 50. In general, volunteers
of all ages have noted that age and maturity are valued human qualities in most
countries in which volunteers serve.
The Peace Corps teaches more than 180 languages and dialects. During your
pre-service training, you will receive intensive language instruction to prepare
you for living and working in your overseas community. While some countries
where Volunteers serve prefer people who have studied French or Spanish, it
is not always a requirement.
Peace Corps service can be a rewarding, enriching experience for married
couples. Today, about 9% of Peace Corps Volunteers are married. In all cases,
both spouses must serve as Volunteers and live and work in the same community.
The Peace Corps is unable to place couples with dependent children and cannot
guarantee placement in the same country of couples or friends who are not legally
married. Applicants can begin the Peace Corps application process while engaged,
but must be married before departing for their overseas assignment.
We appreciate the interest of our friends around the world, but the answer
is no-- only U.S. citizens may join Peace Corps. You may wish to learn about
other volunteer organizations.
Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have
been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers.
This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy
of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities
conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect
volunteers' safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in
the countries in which volunteers serve.
Annually, Peace Corps receives about 10,000 applications and sends about
3,500-4,000 trainees overseas. A large percentage of those who apply and do
not become trainees have decided, on their own, to drop out of the applications
process. Only about 5-10% are "rejected" outright. When evaluating an applicant
the Peace Corps considers the "whole person," including your life experiences,
community involvement, volunteer work, motivations, and even your hobbies. Your
Peace Corps recruiter can work with you to help you gain the skills and experiences
needed to qualify for a Volunteer assignment.
Most Volunteers have at least a 4-year college degree (currently, 86% of
all volunteers have a bachelor’s degree or higher). You can qualify without
a degree if you have significant agriculture experience, have worked full-time
in carpentry, construction or woodworking, have four years experience as the
manager of a business or if you have five years full-time experience working
with at-risk youth.
Most Volunteer assignments require a four-year college degree. Applicants
without a college degree may qualify by having three to five years of work experience
in an area such as managing a business. In general, this is the type of experience
we are looking for:
There are two ways you can receive credit: The first is called Masters International;
the other is called Fellows USA. Some of these programs do offer scholarships
or stipends or fellowships. Each program is different, depending on the hosting
university. You can find detailed information on both programs through our website:
www.peacecorps.gov From the home page,
go to the bottom to the section marked "take me directly to..." and choose Fellows
USA or Masters International.
Here is a brief summary: Through partnerships with more than 30 schools offering
master's level studies in a variety of subjects, the Master's International
Program allows qualified applicants to both serve as a Peace Corps volunteer
and earn a masters degree at the same time. In the "MI" program, individuals
become Peace Corps Volunteers as partial fulfillment of a graduate degree. In
fact, many schools will grant credit at no cost for Peace Corps service. Programs
are not offered in every area, but are offered only in disciplines where there
is a shortage of skilled people who can serve as Volunteers. The Fellows USA
program offers opportunities to continue with graduate studies after completing
the 27-month Peace Corps Assignment. In exchange for a two-year commitment to
work in a community that needs your help, you can earn a master's degree and
establish your career. 26 Universities currently have Fellows USA programs.
Each university, with financial support from foundations, government agencies,
corporations, and individual donors, will assist you in this process. You may
receive any number of benefits such as tuition assistance, yearly stipends,
housing, paid employment, and health benefits. The exact nature of the award
varies with each university.
Every year, close to 4,000 Peace Corps Volunteers head overseas for two-year
assignments. Approximately two-thirds of these volunteers have Liberal Arts
degrees! The most competitive candidates are those with experience in planning,
organizing, counseling, or leadership within the past 4 years. In addition,
specific experience and skills are required to qualify for programs, as listed
The Peace Corps' Office of Returned Volunteer Services (RVS) provides career,
educational, and other advice and assistance through its Career Center in Washington,
D.C., and through the Peace Corps regional recruiting offices. RVS publishes
bimonthly job bulletin and career manuals, provides self-assessment tools to
help returned Volunteers explore career options, and facilitates career-planning
activities throughout the United States. In addition, returned Volunteers have
non-competitive eligibility status for appointments to U.S. government executive
branch agencies for a period of one year after the completion of their service.
Under some limited circumstances, this status can be extended up to a maximum
of three years after completion of Peace Corps service.
In general, while you are a Volunteer, you may defer repayment of your Stafford
Loans (formerly known as Guaranteed Student Loans), Perkins Loans, Federal Consolidation
Loans, or Direct Loans. In addition, Volunteers with Perkins Loans receive a
15% cancellation of their outstanding balance for each year of their two years
of service. The Peace Corps does not grant deferments, cancellations, or grace
periods for government or private loans. You must obtain these directly from
your lending institution. The regulations that authorize loan deferment and
cancellation are sometimes complicated. I recommend calling your loaning institution
and asking them about their policy concerning Peace Corps.
It's important to join the Peace Corps for the right reasons. Because of
a sincere desire to make a difference. To change something for the better. But
it's important to know that, for all the giving Peace Corps Volunteers do, they
also receive a great deal in return. From practical benefits such as student
loan deferment to career benefits like fluency in a foreign language to the
intangible benefits that come with making a difference in people's lives, there
are a variety of reward for the dedicated service of Volunteers. Rewards that
last a lifetime. And, the benefits of Peace Corps service don't end with one's
overseas service. The experience will affect your life long after you return
home. It's an experience to draw upon for the rest of your life. As is often
said, the Peace Corps isn't simply something great. It's the beginning of something
Peace Corps provides extended medical coverage to volunteers who take that
option upon close of service. Also, the National Peace Corps Association offers
affordable health insurance to RPCVs.
In each country there is a Peace Corps office (usually located in the capital
city) where a full-time Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO) is on duty. The PCMO
provides medical care for volunteers in country. If something were to happen
that the PCMO could not treat in country, the volunteer would be evacuated to
the closed country where that problem could be treated, or back to the US if
necessary. Peace Corps covers all medical costs while you are a volunteer, and
if something happens that requires treatment after you finish your volunteer
service, you can apply to receive worker's compensation.
There is a PCMO in each country, who will be providing you with most of your
medical care. Depending on the medical standards in your country, you MIGHT
see someone locally, if you can't get into the capital, but usually, PC prefers
that you get your medical care from the PCMO. The PCMO is usually located in
the capital, so it could be several hours away. But PC will always pay for you
to come in if you are sick or injured, and if something serious were to happen,
PC would come out and get you. If it were so serious that the PCMO could not
care for you in country, you would be evacuated to the closest place where they
could care for you by our standards, back to the US if necessary. And PC covers
ALL the costs of your medical care.
Peace Corps provides an emergency home leave in the event of the death of
an immediate family member. In an emergency, the Office of Special Services
can be reached 24 hours a day. They will be able to get a message to the volunteer
Peace Corps will provide you with all the shots, vaccinations and medicines
you will need while serving. You don't need to get any before hand.
You won't be able to start your Peace Corps assignment until your braces
are off. Unfortunately, we can't guarantee that there will be a dentist or orthodontist
in your COUNTRY, let alone in your town, or anywhere nearby. So in order to
be medically (dentally) cleared, you'd have to be finished wearing your braces.
Cases of AIDS/HIV are now found everywhere - in the US as well. You know
how to protect yourself in the US, and you will need to take those same precautions
overseas. I personally didn't feel like I was at any more risk in Guinea than
in the U.S. As for Ebola and all those other viruses you hear about. First,
Peace Corps provides you with all the vaccinations and medications you will
need. And an overwhelming majority of these viruses and infections can be prevented
if you take care of yourself. If your PCMO tells you not to go swimming in the
river, don't swim in the river. If you are told to boil and filter your water,
do it. If you drink unclean water, you'll probably get sick, feel awful, and
then they'll give you drugs and you'll get better, and you won't drink from
that water source again!
What happens if there is unrest/civil war in a country? In each country Peace
Corps has an emergency/evacuation plan. You will develop a personal plan for
your town. There have been a few countries that had to be evacuated. As soon
as anything starts "brewing" in the country, Peace Corps knows about it, and
the PCVs are the first ones out, along the spouses and children of Embassy personnel.
That's one nice thing about being affiliated with the U.S. government. The PC
office is in direct communications with the Embassy and the State Deptartment,
so they know about things before they happen.
The U.S. government also officially knows about your presence in the country-
they know where all the PCVs are, and will come in and get you if they need
to. But, for the most part, PCVs are NOT serving in countries that are unstable.
We are doing long-term development work, so we are not in the countries that
are in the middle of a civil war. They need emergency relief, not long-term
development projects. Also, most volunteers are serving in rural areas, or small
towns and cities... NOT in the capital or large cities, where most of the civil
unrest occurs. By establishing close relationships with the people in your village,
you know that if anything happens they will take care of you. Peace Corps is
very careful NOT to be affiliated with local/ in-country politics. The people
in your town know that you are not choosing sides in any of these political/
ethnic debates. Also, PCV are only serving in countries where we have been invited
to serve. We are not in countries where they HATE Americans, so Americans would
not be the intended target of any violence.
Each Peace Corps post has an emergency plan to be activated in case of a
natural disaster or other threat to a Volunteers well-being. Volunteers are
never placed in areas known to be dangerous.
Some 1999 statistics: In 1999, the mortality rate was 3.1 per 10,000 Volunteers
(Annual Report, health section, figure27). In 1999, the incidence of major physical
assaults was 1.9 per 100 Volunteer/trainee-year (Annual Report, safety section,
The 1999 Annual Report noted that between 1961 and 1999 there were 239 deaths.
Most Volunteers live by themselves, and feel very safe. Some Volunteers share
sites or housing with other volunteers, but the majority of volunteers live
alone, or as the only Peace Corps Volunteers in that town. Each country and
each site is different. Each site is visited by a Peace Corps administrator,
and a health/ safety evaluation is performed at the site before any PCV is placed
there. You will be discussing these issues with your Associate Peace Corps Country
Director when site assignments are made (usually some time during training).
Some Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of assault or rape, but this happens
everyday in the US too. Peace Corps Volunteers are probably no more at risk
in the PC than you would be at home, but you must take precautions and be aware
of your surrounding. You need to take responsibility for your personal safety,
and follow the guidelines and recommendations that Peace Corps gives you in
your country. Just like in the US, often alcohol plays a role.