How much does Peace Corps cost?

How much does Peace Corps cost?
By Ariel Simons
July 15, 2015

When I graduated from college I had a passion for travel, a desire to learn new things, big dreams of adventure... and a lot of debt. 

This is likely a familiar story to you and a common predicament: How do I gain skills and experience to be more employable while doing something I love when I have – okay, not zero but negative money to make this happen?

While I watched my friends shuffle off to unpaid internships and never-ending graduate degrees, I decided to look a bit farther – 8,000 miles farther, to the Kingdom of Lesotho, where I served as a math and science teacher with the Peace Corps. It turns out that serving with Peace Corps costs almost nothing (besides some time, patience, sweat, etc.) and can actually save you a lot of money, too!

So how does this work? Peace Corps is a federal agency and a large chunk of its budget, as designated by Congress, goes towards supporting Volunteers. Peace Corps provides a number of benefits that make the Volunteer experience nearly free: flights to and from your country of service, full medical and dental coverage, a monthly living stipend, housing, training, paid vacation days and a readjustment allowance when you finish, to name just a few perks.

If you have loans, you may be able to defer them during service or get a partial cancellation if it's a Perkins loan. (Learn more about student loans here.) This means that at the minimum you won’t go any further into debt, and in some cases you can save a bunch of money, too. Plus Peace Corps has great graduate school benefits and job support, so you'll return home from service with support to start the next phase of your life.

You might have noticed that I said Peace Corps service costs “almost” nothing. So, what is the catch? During the application process, candidates may incur costs but these may be minimal or nonexistent with some careful planning.

Once you've accepted your invitation to serve, you're required to undergo a medical and legal clearance, including fingerprinting, which some states charge for but Peace Corps will reimburse when you enter service. (The same is true for passport photos.) The medical clearance can also require some money out of pocket, but much of that is also reimbursable and Peace Corps nurses can help you find a low-cost healthcare option. In my case, I got all of the exams covered through my university’s health insurance plan, and my dental exam was done at no cost by a very kind dentist who wanted to do his part for Peace Corps. He even took out all my wisdom teeth and did a cleaning. Bonus!

No matter where you are in your life – recent graduate just starting his or her career, a professional looking for a new challenge, a retiree with the time and skills to give back – know that Peace Corps is a way to gain invaluable experience and cultural understanding on an international level, and it is all free. There are truly no other opportunities like it. If you have the passion for service I could not recommend the experience more.

Now, share the news with friends and family, since they might ask you the same question my mom did the other day... in between sharing videos of chicks hatching:

How much does Peace Corps cost?
Thanks, Mom

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.

Ariel Simons

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