How has COVID-19 changed the Peace Corps application process?

By Justin Tabor
Dec. 1, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects around the world and had a historical impact on Peace Corps. On March 15, 2020, the Peace Corps made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend Volunteer activities and evacuate all our Volunteers. Since then, the Peace Corps has been preparing to return Volunteers to the field. As the global COVID-19 response advances, the Peace Corps is optimistic about the future.

In responses to these changes, Peace Corps service will be different than it has been. There will be specific COVID-19 protocols to follow, Volunteers will have to accept the risks of serving in a pandemic and comply with now, COVID-related safety standards. For a full picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic will change Peace Corps service, please review this information. Along with these new elements of service, Volunteers will also have the unique opportunity to work alongside partners and make progress on the biggest global development challenges in more than a century.

It is important to recognize that returning Volunteers to the field is not as simple as flipping a switch. It will take time to get our Volunteer numbers and presence back where they were before COVID-19. Posts must meet certain health and safety requirements and undergo a thorough review process before Volunteers return. This process includes approval by Congress. Peace Corps has 60 Posts in 64 countries, and each is on its own path to inviting Volunteers to return.

As a potential Volunteer during this unique time in Peace Corps history, your path to service starts with the application and selection process, which has also changed in response to the pandemic.

Timelines are fluid

Your Peace Corps application will not be held to the strict timelines we used in the past. Previously, we organized our programs on a quarterly basis. This informed our application deadlines and the timeframe in which we finalized selections. Currently, there are no deadlines for submitting applications, and final Volunteer selection decisions will not be made until a country is approved for Volunteers to return. If selected to serve, applicants will have a minimum of three months’ notice between their invitation and their departure. While this can result in extended periods of waiting, there are tasks you need to do to move along in the process.

To complete your application, we will still collect references (at least one should come from a volunteer or work supervisor), and conduct an interview. As you await these steps, contact your placement officer to make updates on newly gained experience and skills that might be relevant to Peace Corps service.

More position descriptions on the website

Previously, Volunteer position descriptions would cycle on and off our website throughout the year based on the quarter. Currently, most of our positions are on the website. As departure dates are still unknown, we want our applicants to have the chance to view all of their options and apply for the roles that best match their skills and interests. In addition to giving applicants a larger selection of programs to apply for, this allows the Peace Corps the agility to respond to the request of our host countries for Volunteers – no matter the timing of their reentry.

Because of the uncertainty of departure dates, position descriptions are not organized by anticipated departure timelines. They may be updated in the future as more information becomes available. If you’re unsure where to start your search, try the Featured Openings, which includes a collection of programs with specific needs.

Interviews will be general

We have updated our interview content to better align with the current global context. Peace Corps interviews will discuss service worldwide, not just your country of consideration. This will allow us to more generally assess your suitability for Peace Corps service. Our interviews will still ask about your motivation for Peace Corps service, the experiences you bring, and your expectations and concerns about service. If you are invited to serve, your invitation materials will include more information about the position, the host country’s culture, and the potential living conditions for you to consider before you accept. Your placement officer is able to answer questions throughout the process. If invited, Post staff will hold conference calls to discuss country-specific policies and expectations for service with you and your cohort prior to departure.

Flexibility

Flexibility is a defining characteristic of our most successful Volunteers. Our new application process allows for multiple opportunities for applicants to express their preferences for other sectors and locations for service. Do you have to say you will go anywhere? Certainly not. We encourage all of our applicants to think carefully and respond truthfully when it comes to their preferences. If you are only interested in one or two specific programs, please understand that those may not be the first to reopen. Everyone will have their own balancing point between desired sectors, locations, and timing for their service. Our placement officers are able to explore any and all viable options with you at any point in the process.

Are you thinking about applying to the Peace Corps? A great first step is still to connect with a recruiter.

Justin Tabor