Considering a Year of Service? Check Out These Resources

If you are considering a year (or two) of service after graduation, there are a lot of great options out there. Doing a year of service is an excellent way to get hands-on experience and explore different career opportunities, as well as grow your networks, all while doing something meaningful.  There are opportunities all over the US, as well as worldwide.  You just have to decide what you want to do, and where you want to do it! Most service year opportunities come with a stipend/living allowance.  Many of them come with housing, healthcare, education awards, loan forbearance, priority hiring and more.  All of them come with training and professional development opportunities, and are a great way to transition into life after graduation.

One of the all-encompassing resources, called ServiceYear, is a clearinghouse of all different types of service opportunities.  You can do targeted searches by interest ares–such as Animals, Homelessness & Housing, Nonprofit & Community Development, Legal Assistance, Economic Security…just to name a few. There are a variety of different service providers on ServiceYear, such as religious organizations, government sponsored programs, grassroots agencies, and community organizations. You can also filter by location if you want to be in a specific part of the country.  According to the ServiceYear website, there are more than 65,000 service year opportunities across the country focused on a variety of issues. With that many opportunities available to search, there must be something for YOU!

Many of the popular year of service programs fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella of programs, which is a federal agency that funds community organizations in order to create more positions to tackle difficult issues impacting communities nation-wide. No matter what your interests are–disaster response, opioid crisis, education, food-deserts, the environment–there are different types of programs that are under Americorps that will engage you in all kinds of community work. There are even state-specific programs like the Legal Advocates of Massachusetts program that engage with communities in need of legal assistance throughout MA. Other programs, such as FEMAcorps specifically focus on post-disaster recovery, wherever it is needed in the US.

Serviceyear.org and AmeriCorps programs are specifically for opportunities in the United States, but there are other resources to consider if you are interested in working overseas.  Interested in organic farming and sustainability? Try WOOFING (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)! Other programs like The Peace Corps, United National Volunteers, and Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) have a variety of humanitarian and international development focused programs.

If you are interested in teaching English, there are many programs to choose from, including the ones mentioned above.  Some programs are sponsored by the host country, such as The JET Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) which is a paid exchange managed by the government of Japan, and the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program which is sponsored by the Ministry of Education in Spain. Meddeas offers teaching opportunities in Spain for no cost to you, and other programs like CIEE and LanguageCorps require an initial investment to get your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, but then guarantee pay once you start working overseas. The website Daves ESL Cafe has job boards and discussion forums to learn about more opportunities.

Doing a year of service in the US or overseas has many benefits, and not just for the communities you are working with. In addition to giving you great training, language skills (in some cases), real-world experience and an opportunity to grow and learn, there are also financial benefits that come from choosing this route.  Many graduate programs have scholarships that are specifically for people who have done year of service programs, like AmeriCorps or PeaceCorps.    For example, if you serve as a City Year volunteer, there is a long list of schools that provide scholarships and tuition remission for graduate study. PeaceCorps has a similarly long list of partner graduate schools. Serving in one of the federally sponsored programs may also qualify you for non-competitive eligibility in  federal jobs. This means that a federal agency can hire you outside of the usual competitive process. It can also mean you start at a higher pay grade based on your years of service completed.  And don’t forget the loan forbearance and deferment options you may receive. There may be benefits available to you, including deferment, partial cancellation, income-driven repayment, or forgiveness. Potential benefits depend on the type of loan you have (federal or private), the specific loan you have (Perkins, Stafford, Federal Direct, Federal Direct Consolidated, etc.), and what you intend to do after service.

If you have questions about how to get started or about specific programs, feel free to make an appointment via Handshake with one of the SBS Career & Professional Development Advisors. We are happy to help!

By Rebecca Bell
Rebecca Bell Associate Director of Career and Professional Development for SBS Rebecca Bell