Noncompetitive Eligibility

Your edge for federal employment

Upon successful completion of Peace Corps service, you receive 12 months of noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government.

NCE makes it easier for federal agencies to hire returned Volunteers who meet the minimum qualifications of a given position.

NCE is a special hiring status (or benefit) that allows eligible RPCVs, PCVRs, and Peace Corps Staff (who have been granted NCE) to opportunity to apply for and compete for jobs that are open to ONLY Federal Employees. Without NCE, RPCVs, PCVRs, and Peace Corps Staff could only apply as members of the public, not as Federal Employees. 

The good news is that a person does not need to understand NCE to benefit from it. The bad news is that there is a lot of confusion about NCE. To gain a basic understanding of NCE requires an explanation of the different types of Federal service and where Peace Corps fits. (Note: Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer is NOT Federal employment.)

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What is NCE?

The three letters NCE are short-hand for noncompetitive eligibility. NCE is granted to some noncompetitive service federal employees, volunteers, and others by statute, regulation, or Executive Order.

What are the competitive service and excepted service?

Most jobs in the Federal government are considered part of the competitive service (also referred to as employees with “status”). There are civil service laws established by Congress and regulations established by the Office of Personnel Management that govern the competitive service hiring process.

There are a smaller number of jobs that are noncompetitive (not part of the competitive service) and are excepted from many civil service laws and regulations. The Peace Corps Act requires that all Peace Corps direct hire employees (excluding Experts) are appointed based on the Foreign Service Act as non-career members of the Foreign Service. As such, the Peace Corps is an excepted (or noncompetitive) service agency.

The main thing to understand is that employment in the excepted service does not establish eligibility to apply for positions in the competitive service. If a federal job is only open to competitive service employees, excepted service employees cannot apply. However, NCE is the mechanism that can open this hiring process to Peace Corps employees and volunteers who have acquired NCE.

What if I served as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer?

Volunteers who serve a total of 12 months in a 24 month period with Peace Corps Response receive NCE status for employment with the Peace Corps. If you successfully serve for two consecutive years, you can receive NCE for federal employment.

How does NCE work?

Whether a Federal agency decides to consider NCE candidates for competitive service jobs is decided on a case-by-case basis; it is up to the hiring agency. If an agency is willing to accept NCE candidates, it will be made clear on Agencies accepting both competitive and NCE eligible will generally create two lists – a list of competitive service candidates and a list of NCE candidates.

Competitive service candidates are scored and ranked. A list of the ranked candidates is created. The hiring authority has the option to interview candidates from the ranked list and NCE list. The hiring authority interviews and decides who to hire based on who is most competitive.

To answer specific questions regarding NCE it is best to reach out to the human resources contact identified in the job announcement.

Is NCE a preference?

No, NCE is not a preference. Veterans, on the other hand, do receive preference in federal hiring and, depending on their particular status (disabled or not), generally float to the top of the “selection certificate”.

Federal employees who displaced through layoffs (CTAP, ICTAP, and RPL) are granted a hiring priority and in some cases must be selected before other candidates.

It is best to think of NCE as a “hiring option". Hiring authorities have the option of hiring from the NCE list.

How is NCE used?

  1. A Peace Corps Volunteer visits the RPCV Portal and creates a portal account. Alternatively, Peace Corps staff person who has served three years receives an email from the Office of Human Resources providing notice of NCE. An NCE letter is attached.
  2. A Peace Corps Volunteer requests an NCE certification from the RPCV Portal. A Peace Corps staff person contacts the Office of Human Resources.
  3. Visit RPCV Career Link to view job vacancies that accept NCE. Click on the box that reads “ONLY SHOW NONCOMPETITIVE ELIGIBILITY JOBS”. A list of NCE vacancies can be reviewed and applications submitted.
  4. Visit Start a job search (click search). On the right hand menu scroll down and click the Peace Corps AmeriCorps Vista Box. This will provide a list of jobs that will accept NCE. A list of NCE vacancies can be reviewed and applications submitted. NCE certificates should be included in submissions
  5. Visit the RPCV/RPCVR Noncompetitive Eligibility Employment Program page. If the positions listed are of interest, an application can be submitted.

When does NCE expire?

For a Peace Corps Volunteer, NCE is good for one year or 12 months from the date of close of service. For a Peace Corps staff person, NCE is good for three years from the end date of employment with Peace Corps.

Can NCE be extended beyond 12 months?

Executive Order 11103 Sec. 4., provides that the 12 months “may be extended to not more than three years in the case of persons who, following such service, are engaged in military service, in the pursuit of studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or in other activities which, in the view of the appointing authority, warrant an extension of such period”.

To establish eligibility for an extension be prepared to provide: (1) a DD Form 214 for military service; or (2) a transcript from a recognized institution of higher learning. To meet the third extension criteria, be prepared to provide documentation that the activity warrants an extension. It is up to the hiring authority to determine whether to grant the extension.

The three years cannot be extended in the case of a Peace Corps staff person that earned three years of NCE eligibility.