What does applying to the Peace Corps look like? How long does it take? How competitive is the process? Can I choose where I serve? These are all questions perspective volunteers ask and navigate through when looking to apply to the Peace Corps. Here is an infographic about my Peace Corps timeline and you can find a detailed description of applying to the Peace Corps at the bottom of the page.
Applying to the Peace Corps
The Peace Corps application process is broken down into eight different steps: Select, Apply, Health History, Interview, Invitation, Medical and Legal Clearance, Onboarding, and Departure. Click on the eight steps below to find out more.
The first step in the application process is to search through the current openings and apply for a position you’re interested in. The Peace Corps operates in six specific sectors: Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health, and Youth in Development. Prior to 2015, interested applicants didn’t get to choose the sector, position, or country they wanted to apply to. Nowadays, you have two options when initially applying.
1. Choose a specific position – If you choose this option you will search for a specific open position and proceed with the process.
2. Apply where you’re needed most – Choosing this option lets Peace Corps decide where you’re most needed based on your background and experiences. With this option, you still have the opportunity to give preference for geographic region, sector, etc.
As you can imagine, if you choose to apply for a specific position, there is more competition as you’re limiting yourself to that one specific position. If you choose to apply where you’re needed most and as long as your background and experiences meet the requirements, your chances are much higher as you’re applying for all six sectors and every country Peace Corps operates in.
Note: You may only have one application on file at a time. Either one for a specific position or to be sent where you’re needed most.
Now it’s time to fill out the actual Peace Corps Volunteer application. Applying to the Peace Corps is simpler than ever with the revamped online application and it only takes about one hour to complete.
3. Health History
After submitting your application online, you will be sent an email to fill out a health history form. Since volunteers live in foreign countries with varying levels and access to health services, the Peace Corps Medical Office (PCMO) must know your complete health history to ensure they can provide the necessary care during service.
Now you sit back and wait. Due to the number of applications received and competitiveness, Peace Corps’ philosophy is “no news is neutral news.” After reviewing your application and health history, if the Peace Corps recruiter deems you to be a possible candidate they will reach out to you via email to schedule a Skype interview. If you make it this far, don’t worry too much about the Skype interview. Before the interview, the recruiter will provide you with instructions, suggestions, reading material, and potential questions that will be asked during the interview. The actual Skype interview typically lasts around one hour and should be treated like any other normal face-to-face interview.
Phew! With the interview behind you, you now play the waiting game again. Whether you’ve been accepted to serve or not, you will be contacted via email with that information. If selected to serve, you will have three calendar days to review the provided material and respond to the invitation.
6. Medical and Legal Clearance
This will most likely be the most stressful part of the process. The medical and legal process is tedious and can become time-consuming. During this time you will be assigned a Peace Corps nurse who will be reviewing all of your medical documents and will be able to help you along the way.
Some of the legal tasks you’ll have to complete are:
1. Fingerprinting and FBI background check
2. Passport application
3. Visa application
Some of the medical tasks you’ll have to complete are:
1. Dental exam (with x-rays and additional items)
2. Physical and bloodwork
3. Vision screening test
As Peace Corps strongly encourages, I also highly recommend you start these processes immediately after they’re assigned. There is a ton of paperwork that must be filled out by you and your doctors and oftentimes it will require multiple trips to various doctor offices.
Once all your tasks have been uploaded to the medical portal and the nurse has reviewed them, you will either be granted or denied medical clearance. You must gain medical clearance in order to serve in the Peace Corps.
Congratulations! At this point, you’ve been invited to serve and medically and legally cleared. About two months prior to departure you’ll be granted access to additional websites and portals to begin the onboarding process. You’ll fill out more paperwork, read material, have Skype calls, practice the country’s language, etc.
It’s finally here, departure! At this time you will fly to a designated city with the rest of your cohorts for staging (typically one day) and then fly to your country of service to begin about three months of Pre Service Training (PST).
Do you have a specific question about the Peace Corps application process? If so, feel free to contact me.