Do I need a college degree to serve in the Peace Corps? (Part 2)

By Ashley Lenihan
Sept. 30, 2015

Whether you’re considering the two-year Peace Corps program or a short-term, high-impact Peace Corps Response assignment, the application process is the same as applying for a competitive job.

In case you missed it: Read part 1, "Do I need a college degree to serve in the Peace Corps?"

We are looking for professionals to fill specific job requirements and needs in developing countries around the world. Peace Corps service may be voluntary and unsalaried, but many returned Peace Corps Volunteers will always remember it as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Peace Corps service does include cultural integration, building personal friendships, exploring the far reaches of the world and learning about yourself, but it largely involves fulfilling professional obligations to our host country partners. So what should you do if you don’t have a four-year college degree and really want to volunteer with the Peace Corps?

  • Do your research. Read the full list of required qualifications – the information about work qualifications may come at the end of a position description. Some sectors are more likely to accept full-time work experience in their qualifications. Generally, Education positions are more likely to require a degree. Look at all the different positions that do not require a degree and really target your application for the ones that most closely relate to your work experience.
  • Be flexible on your geographic preference. There are a limited number of countries that do not require a four-year college degree, so keep an open mind about where you would be willing to live and serve. Many Peace Corps Volunteers who end up loving their country of service might never have imagined it was where they would go.
  • Talk to a recruiter. They can help you identify whether your type and years of work experience are competitive for positions that do not require a four-year college degree.
  • Write and submit a rock star résumé. Like most job applications, the résumé is one of the most important pieces. Be specific: use words and phrases from the job listing that most closely and accurately reflect your previous work and volunteer experience. Strongly tailor your résumé to show how you are exceptionally qualified through previous experience and training. Recruiters are also a great resource for résumé reviews and writing assistance.
  • Maintain realistic expectations. Like any other job application, you may be up against individuals who have several years of work experience plus an undergraduate or graduate degree. Even many degree-holding applicants are not found among the most competitive in the pool. If you apply to an opening unrelated to your experience, there are likely many applicants who do have a relevant degree and/or work history hoping to get that same opening. If you’re not selected the first time, it doesn’t mean you’ll never be selected. Several applicants try for a few rounds before they’re found to be the most competitive.

Peace Corps welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds, education and experience to answer the call to service. Following the above steps can help to ensure your application is competitive among the thousands of applications we receive each year. 

Are you ready to answer the call? 

Explore current openings and connect with a recruiter to get started.

Co-authored by Nanayaa Kumi. Nanayaa joined Peace Corps Response in January 2009.  She has been committed to public service since serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer in D.C. public schools. Nanayaa has been recruiting for public service programs for the last 8 years and prior to working at Peace Corps encouraged students and professionals alike to serve as educators at WorldTeach and Building Excellent Schools. She has seen firsthand the power of Peace Corps Volunteers to make a difference in the lives of those they serve as her parents were both taught by Volunteers in Ghana when the program first started in 1961. She is honored to now serve returned Peace Corps Volunteers and other experienced professionals as a Recruitment and Placement Specialist with Peace Corps Response.

Nanayaa has a B.A. from Georgetown University and a master’s in education policy and management from Harvard University.  In her free time she loves to travel, hike, read and explore all the cultural richness D.C. has to offer.

Ashley Lenihan

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