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Top Community Service Jobs and Their Salaries

By Molly Hallman

A study by the Corporation for National and Community Service showed that more people are volunteering today than any time since 1974, with the adult volunteer rate jumping more than 32 percent since 1989. As the trend toward civic-mindedness increases, many are interested in full-time service work that will also pay some or all of the bills. Whether you are about to graduate from college, or have many years of work experience, here are some opportunities to explore a variety of social work or human service jobs. 

Peace Corp
Expertise – Various, college degree
Service Program Fee – None
Commitment – Two years
Application Deadlines – None, application process 9-12 months
Pay – Stipend (don't expect much)
End of Service Awards – Over $6000 plus partial student loan cancellations

Peace Corp is not just for recent college graduates. "Persons at every level in their career can find value in serving in the Peace Corp," says Brian Palermi, currently serving in Castries, St. Lucia, West Indies with his wife, Amber Palmeri. "Serving in the Peace Corps [shows prospective employers that] you are creative, good at problem solving, motivated, hard-working and can survive two years living and working in sometimes difficult conditions." In the Peace Corp, you aren't given an actual salary, but rather a stipend, allowing you to experience the same economic level as the people you are serving. You do, however, get a $6000 welcome-back-to-America bonus when you are done. Your medical and dental are paid and you qualify for partial student loan cancellations. There is no deadline to apply for the Peace Corp, but applications take nine to twelve months to process. "It is amazing to me how much I learned as a Peace Corps volunteer and how applicable it is to working in the United States," said Trey Waters, Small Enterprise Development Volunteer in Ghana, 2006-2008. "When I left we were operating a functioning tourism site, had started an advertising campaign to get more visitors, set up a functioning accounting system, were able to use money generated from tourism for projects in the community, and had set up a weaving cooperative," said Waters.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Expertise – Various, degree not required
Service Program Fee – None
Commitment – Ten to twelve months
Application Deadlines – April 1st and July 1st
Pay – Various, $800 per month is a common wage   
End of Service Awards – $4725 education award or $1200 cash for some

Like the Peace Corp, Americorp is government sponsored and offers modest compensation. "Americorp participants know they have to sacrifice to adjust to [modest] living. It's a 10-12 month temporary life style change but can be really transformational.  They make it work. Sometimes [Americorp participants pool resources and] a whole lot of them live together. Many get food stamps to keep their pledge to live at the same economic level as those they are serving," says Brighid Jensen, Asst. Director of Student Development at Wake Forest University. There are three basic categories to Americorp: NCCC, Vista, and the generic Americorp umbrella. Former Americorp volunteer Danielle Stanton says, "[My participation in Americorp] greatly increased my confidence level. By the end of the year, my students had increased their letter grades [and made significant progress]. Helping kids and forming relationships with them was such an amazing feeling. I felt like such a leader by the end of it." Jensen recommends students allow about three months to research and apply to multiple spots within Americorp to increase their chances of getting into the program. Overall, about one in four applications are accepted. Americorp NCCC is specifically for adults ages 18-24. All other Americorp opportunities have no upper age limit.
Teach for America
Expertise – Various four-year degrees
Service Program Fee – None
Commitment – Two years
Application Deadlines – April 1st and July 1st
Pay -$27,000 to $47,000 per year depending on location.   
End of Service Awards – $9495 education award

Teach for America offers college graduates from a variety of disciplines the opportunity to become teachers in under-privileged neighborhoods. Historically very selective, 35,000 people applied for this year's 4,000 slots. Compared to other community service opportunities, Teach for America has the most lucrative benefits including full teacher's starting salary, summer housing and health benefits. Most participants do not plan to make teaching their career.

Doctors Without Borders
Expertise – At least two years professional experience, both medical and other fields
Service Program Fee – None
Commitment – Usually one year
Application Deadlines – None, 4-6 month application process
Pay – $1404 per month  
End of Service Awards – None

Doctors Without Borders is an NGO (non-government organization) founded in France by doctors and journalists. Not just for doctors, this organization sends participants overseas to deliver hands-on medical care and to design community projects that improve the health of impoverished communities. Nurses, scientists, mental health professionals, financial controllers, logisticians, and water-and-sanitation specialists with two years or more of experience are invited to apply. 
Volunteers for Prosperity
Expertise – Various and numerous
Service Program Fee – Some yes, some no
Commitment – Varies depending on position and organization
Application Deadlines – Varies
Pay – Varies
End of Service Awards – No
With this government sponsored web portal of non-profits you can search for the service job you want. Long-term and overseas opportunities are listed and the criteria and job requirements differ for each one. The way it works is you do your research and contact the non-profit organization directly. VfP Serve grants are available for individuals with three years of professional work experience. The volunteer who raises at least as much of his or her own funding can apply to receive $500 to $1000 for travel and other expenses associated with volunteering.

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