Exploring Post-Graduate Service Opportunities
Postgraduate service is similar to having a short-term, full-time job with a non-profit organization. Volunteers typically make one- to two-year commitments to serve under-resourced individuals and communities, and receive a small stipend as well as additional benefits in exchange for this work. Postgraduate service organizations may be domestic or internationally focused, may ask volunteers to live in community with other volunteers (referred to as intentional-community), and may also be faith-based (grounded in a particular faith tradition). The breadth and depth of postgraduate service organizations vary widely, and there are many factors to consider when discerning postgraduate service.
Full-time volunteer service opportunities may not pay much or anything, but they do offer valuable benefits including…
• a chance to exercise your civic skills while serving others
• the chance to meet network and meet new and diverse people
• the chance to build valuable career insights and skills
• the chance to explore a field before making a more firm commitment
• a possible foot in the door for a “real” job
• opportunities for any major in innumerable job fields
Post-graduate service organizations sometimes offer free or reduced cost housing and/or meal plans or will provide a living allowance to cover this cost. Allowances or accommodations tend to be minimal, but usually are enough to get by if you are frugal.
Many full-time volunteer service agencies provide some sort of health insurance.
In some cases, full-time volunteer service organizations have worked with the government so that their volunteers may qualify to defer student loans.
Education Loan Repayment
AmeriCorps and Peace Corps both offer educational incentives to volunteer. AmeriCorps has many service opportunities that offer an Educational Award that can be used to pay off existing or future student loans, or used on tuition. Peace Corps service can help reduce a student’s Perkins loan by 15% for each year of service.
Which Organizations/Positions Meet my Needs?
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- What is my goal in doing post-graduate service? What do I want to get out of it?
- What values shape my interest in post-graduate service?
- What area of service am I most interested in? (education, poverty, housing, etc.)
- Will I like/believe in what I’m doing so much that I’m willing to live on a VERY tight budget (so little you’ll likely qualify for public assistance like food stamps or housing subsidies).
- Not only do I believe in the work of the organization, do I agree with the larger impact of how the work is being done? In other words, what kind of social footprint does the organization leave?
- What part of the country would I want to live in?
- How will I pay for up-front costs like a down payment on an apartment, travel expenses, interim utility and food bills, etc.?
- Will I need a car for the type of work I’m looking at and is this in my budget?
- What do I want to do after my “gap year(s) of service” and when do I need to start making plans so that I can realistically achieve this goal?
- Why post-graduate service and not regularly paid employment? (You can do service in most any field or profession.)
A good post-graduate service search engine sponsored by the catholic volunteer (not all positions are catholic): https://catholicvolunteernetwork.org/search-program
Examples of Post-Graduate Service Organizations and Positions:
- American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org/
- American India Foundation http://aif.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=73&Itemid=112
- AmeriCorps http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/im-ready-serve
- Avodah http://www.avodah.net/
- Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship https://www.hungercenter.org/what-we-do/emerson-fellowship/
- Blue Engine https://www.blueengine.org/
- Christian Appalachian Project https://www.christianapp.org/
- Community Peacemaker Teams https://cpt.org/delegations
- Gould Farm https://www.gouldfarm.org/
- Jesuit Volunteer Corps http://jesuitvolunteers.org/
- Lutheran Volunteer Corps http://www.lutheranvolunteercorps.org/template/index.cfm
- Peace Brigades http://www.peacebrigades.org/
- Peace Corps http://www.peacecorps.gov/
- Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) http://rare.uoregon.edu/application/members
- Schuler Scholar Program Scholar Coaches http://www.schulerprogram.org/en/americorps/service-opportunities.html
- Simon Community http://www.simoncommunity.org.uk/volunteering.html
- Wellstone Fellowship for Social Justice http://familiesusa.org/about-us/careers/wellstone-fellowship