wikiHow to Join the Peace Corps

Three Parts:Getting QualifiedCompleting the Application ProcessHaving a Positive Experience

Joining the Peace Corps is a huge decision – 27 months of your life spent in a struggling country, without the comforts of what many of us consider everyday life. However, it's an invaluable experience that you will never forget; you'll touch people's lives, make the world just a bit better, and it looks fantastic on a resume. The application process takes around 6 months – if you're patient, it can be the best decision you've ever made.

Part 1
Getting Qualified

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    Go to college. To have your application taken seriously and to make it easier to get admitted into the program, it’s wise to get a college degree. In fact, 90% of positions require it.[1] An associate’s degree may be enough if you have the necessary work experience, too.
    • If you can and are interested, study agriculture, forestry, or environment. Having a background in these areas can make you an obvious candidate for these understaffed areas.
    • All education positions require a minimum GPA of 2.5.[2]
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    Take Spanish or French classes. Your application will be very strong if you’ve taken college level French or Spanish. About 35% of countries require either two years of high school or one year of college level French (or other Romance language), or four years of high school or two years of college level Spanish.[3]
    • If you do get posted in a country that requires Spanish or French and you don't know the language, the Peace Corps does offer you language training at the beginning of your assignment. It is paid for and is included in the 27 month arrangement.
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    Get plenty of volunteer experience. The Peace Corps is looking for individuals who have demonstrated a love of helping others. If you come in with volunteer experience – whether it's at a hospital, a soup kitchen, or tutoring kids – you're showing that you already have a grip on what's expected of you. It tells the Peace Corps that you have the right character for the job.
    • It doesn't matter what it is! Getting involved in your community not only proves your work ethic and character, but it'll help prepare you for the basis of the work you'll be doing with the Peace Corps. It's that feeling of helping people that you can become accustomed to with volunteer work, whatever it is.
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    Look for leadership opportunities. When on assignment, you'll be working with locals, often on your own. Coming into the Peace Corps having already had a leadership position or two makes your application that much stronger.[4] So whether it's leading a group of volunteers, leading your sorority or fraternity, or leading your school band, include it on your application.
    • Any work you do autonomously is good, too. Showing you're independent and can take care of yourself are two huge qualities the Peace Corps needs in their volunteers.

Part 2
Completing the Application Process

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    Complete the application on the Peace Corps website. The online application is easy to understand and takes less than an hour. Before you do it, you may want to take a gander at the FAQ section, the personal bios, and get a feel for the program, however. It's better to take a little time at the start than to waste an hour applying for something you're not actually interested in!
    • If you don't want to fill out the application online, or have further questions, you can call their toll-free hotline at (1) 855-855-1961.[5]
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    Complete the medical history form. This is easily done in 10 or 15 minutes, and is available immediately after you press the "submit" button of your online application. This is a comprehensive form that asks questions about your health history.
    • It is important to fill this out to the best of your knowledge, since it affects which forms are sent to you during your full medical review.
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    Browse the website and listed openings. A quick look on the Peace Corps website will show you pages and pages of openings. You can specify by region and job category, too. The Peace Corps has six departments – you will get placed in one of the following areas:[6]
    • Education
    • Youth in Development
    • Health
    • Community Economic Development
    • Agriculture
    • Environment
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    Get an interview with a placement officer. Concurrently with doing your medical kit you will also be contacted by your regional Peace Corps Office to confirm a date for your interview. This is to get a feel for which department you'd be good in and what countries would best suit you. The officer then suggests where he or she thinks is best for you to placed and files the paperwork for you.
    • Don't stress about it. All of the recruiters are former volunteers and are very, very nice, so if you genuinely want to join the Peace Corps, having a one- to two-hour conversation about the possibility of going abroad and serving will be no problem.
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    Receive and respond to your invitation. Your recruiter will nominate you for a program. Unfortunately, you don't get to know what it is. After this point your file and everything that you do will be through the National Peace Corps Office in Washington, D.C. It will take a long time to hear anything (around 6 months usually). But it will come! Once you get your nomination, contact your local office to accept.
    • If you don’t like your assignment, you can reapply. However, you have to go through the process again and likely wait another 6 months.
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    Get a medical clearance. This is the only part of the process you’ll have to pay for, from the initial application to flying to your destination. After you are nominated, you will be sent an extremely comprehensive medical packet. Make an appointment with your doctor, multiple if you can. You will need multiple blood tests, a physical exam, pap test for females, and numerous other tests for males and applicants ages 50+.
    • Make sure the entire packet is filled out and signed. If something is missed, your medical officer will request any additional needed documents, but this can further lengthen your application process, and even possibly push back your departure date.

Part 3
Having a Positive Experience

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    Figure out your motives. Joining the Peace Corps is no small decision. Many people go for the wrong reasons and end up returning home a few months later. Here’s a few things to consider.
    • Don’t join the Peace Corps because you want to travel. You’re there to work. You may even be in a location where traveling is incredibly difficult. What’s more, money for travel is not included in your living stipend.
    • Don’t join the Peace Corps because you want to change the world. You won't. You'll change the worlds of a few, sure, but not the whole world.
    • Don’t join the Peace Corps because you don’t know what you want to do. The Peace Corps requires a very specific type of individual. Not knowing what you want to do does not mean you're ready to live in third-world conditions and succeed.
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    Familiarize yourself with the basics. There are a few basics to a Peace Corps assignment that apply to every program. Everyone's experience is different, but a few things remain the same. Here’s how it works:[7]
    • Each assignment is 27 months. There are shorter ones (part of the Peace Corps Response program), but those are generally reserved for seasoned professionals and/or veteran Corps volunteers.[8]
    • You will get money after you complete the 27 months for adjustment (around $8,000 pre-taxes). This sounds like a lot, but it quickly disappears, especially if you travel after your assignment is up.
    • If you have student loans, they can be deferred while you’re away. Up to 15% of federal Perkins loans can be absolved per year of service.
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    Talk to someone who’s done it. The absolute best way to wrap your head around what you may be about to do is to talk to someone who’s already done it. You can read bios or blogs on the Internet, call up your sister's friend's old babysitter, or contact volunteers through the website or through your recruiter.
    • Some people will tell you it was the greatest thing they've ever done. Others will tell you it was painful and they counted down the days until they could come home. The experience of a Peace Corp volunteer all depends on the individual – keep that in mind when you're talking with one.
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    Realize that you won’t change the world. Peace Corps volunteers make differences on local levels, not on the world level. This is something most volunteers don’t realize going in – to find the difference you make, you may have to really look. It'll be in a child's English skills, or a small village's farming capabilities. Remember: these things do matter. Especially to them.
    • Plenty of people tend to think that being in the Peace Corps is about something it's not, whether it's traveling, or changing the economic outlook of a country. On the individual level, it's smaller than that. And that's fine. By just being a part of it, you're doing all you can.
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    Know that it can get incredibly lonely. At the very beginning, you’ll know no one. When you hear English being spoken, your ears will perk up and you’ll go running in that direction. You'll miss hanging out with friends, eating, drinking, and all the things you took for granted back home. In time you'll adjust, but many experience extreme homesickness. The Peace Corps is only for those who can handle this separation.
    • You will make friends. It'll take some time, and you may not have a lot of options, but you will make friends. There will be other volunteers working with you. You'll have free time, too, to spend with them. They may be the best friends you ever make.
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    Understand that it can be psychologically very difficult. While on assignment, it’s very likely that you’ll be in place where you’ll be stared at and even potentially harassed. You'll be alone and sometimes even feel like you're in a zoo, on display pretty much 24/7. This is hard to get used to, and some can't handle it. It takes a strong individual to thrive in these conditions. If you can do just that, you're perfect for the peace corps.
    • This is especially true for women. It’s very possible you’ll be in a country where gender equality is still an evolving idea. You may be the butt of jokes and harassment from time to time. Very unfortunately, this is common in certain areas. More unfortunately, there is often little you can do but deal.
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    Be prepared for large amounts of free time. This is especially true at the beginning, when you're learning the language and getting situated. Bring a hobby with you, like a guitar or knitting. Even if you don’t play guitar or know how to knit, you’ll have time to learn!
    • This doesn't necessarily mean you'll get to travel, but it can. However, keep in mind that "traveling" may mean staying in a dirt hut and getting there by flagged-down banana boat!
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    Know that life will be vastly, vastly different than your life back home. We’re not talking you’ll need to shop at a different grocery chain, we’re talking not having running water or electricity. You won’t have things to do on Friday night and you might not even have friends to turn to. Dirt may get into nooks and crannies of your body you didn't know existed, you may not be accustomed to the weather, and you'll feel like an outsider in your own world. In many ways, this is a wonderful thing. It's just remembering that it's wonderful that's the hard part!
    • That being said, volunteers now generally have a different experience than the volunteers of yore. Only about 1 in 4 volunteers don’t have running water or electricity anymore. Times, in a sense, are getting easier.


  • Be flexible. If you go in saying, "I want to do this one thing in this one place," then you chances of getting into the Peace Corps decrease dramatically, and you never know, you might get to go and do exactly what you wanted.
  • Be patient. If you want it to happen, it will.
  • Remember that you can change your mind at any time, but it's much better if you do it before you get on the plane!


  • The views expressed on this page do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.
  • The Peace Corps is a large, ever changing, government organization. Keep that in mind when it seems like they don't WANT you to join (because of one or several roadblocks).

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