Do I need a college degree to serve in the Peace Corps?

By Ashley Lenihan
May 1, 2020

Since its founding in 1961, nearly 235,000 Americans have responded to the call to serve in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Volunteers have lived and worked side by side with communities in 141 countries around the world. That spirit of peace and friendship through service inspires thousands of people to apply for Peace Corps assignments.

Applying to become a Peace Corps Volunteer is a competitive process. Many positions have minimum education, work or volunteer experience, or language requirements to qualify for consideration. There are a wide range of required and desired skills for our positions, so make sure to read each job posting carefully. For many positions, a bachelor’s degree or 5 years of professional experience are the minimum qualifications.

Because Peace Corps Volunteers serve at the invitation of host country governments, hosting nations have the right to identify their own needs. In some cases, the needs identified by host governments may be highly technical, and individuals with advanced skills, experience and qualifications are required to fill these needs. Outside of these cases, the Peace Corps is able to accept candidates with 5 years of professional experience who do not possess bachelor’s degrees.

Pro tip: If you are planning to qualify based on years of experience, please make sure that you clearly list starting and ending dates on your resume. This will help your Placement Officer calculate your years of experience.

All candidates, whether qualifying based on degree or experience, are most competitive when they apply to programs that align with their studies or experiences. If you are thinking about Peace Corps service and have your eye on a specific program, seek out professional or volunteer experiences that will be relevant to the position. Volunteering in a local community garden or providing translations at a health clinic are just two examples of volunteer work that could help qualify you for our agriculture and health programs respectively.

Contacting your local recruiter is a great first step in your Peace Corps journey. Recruiters can discuss your resume with you and help identify what programs might be right for you. If you’re open to many positions, or not sure where you might fit best, feel free to apply to serve where needed most. A Peace Corps staff member will review your application and find a program that will be a match.

To summarize, the Peace Corps welcomes applicants without bachelor’s degree who possess professional work and volunteer experience. Explore current openings and connect with a recruiter to get started.

This blog was updated from its original version by Justin Tabor. Justin is a Placement Officer at Peace Corps HQ. He served in the Philippines from 2008-2011, where he taught English and education subjects at a community college. After service he was a music teacher for four years in Bangkok and Washington D.C. Outside of work, Justin enjoys playing softball, cuddling with his cats, and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Ashley Lenihan

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