The financial side of becoming a volunteer


Americorps volunteers are paid a stipend for their time. Image: Flickr / ginnerobot / CC-BY-SA

With a very tight job market, many college graduates are considering volunteering as an option for post-graduate employment. The financial side of volunteering can work out for more than just college graduates.

Volunteer programs in the USA

In the United States, there are several major volunteer programs. Americorps is a program that focuses on volunteerism in the United States and works with several communities and programs. Peace Corps sends volunteers out around the world, often to second and third world countries and communities. Teach for America is a program that trains outstanding college graduates to be teachers for two years.

The financial benefit of volunteering

All three of these major volunteer programs in the United States have a financial component of some kind. Peace Corps will pay you enough to live on in the community where you are working. Americorps will do the same, depending on the type of program you are part of. Teach for America will also pay you as a teacher. All three programs come with a completion-of-service benefit, and all three programs have some kind of benefit for your student loans. The details of each program are different, but all three will be financially beneficial in the end, if you work very carefully.

Budgeting to be a volunteer

Being a volunteer with any of these programs comes with one specific caveat: you are a volunteer. Often these programs pay you just barely above poverty wage, and the completion of service payout does not come until you actually complete your service. You can live on a volunteer stipend, but only if you budget carefully and plan to not be making a lot of cash. Some programs will allow you to work outside jobs, but many will not provide you much time to do so.

Considering adult volunteerism

Even if you are not directly out of college, you may have an opportunity to volunteer with Americorps or Peace Corps. Americorps and Peace Corps both allow volunteers of any age. Volunteering can be a great way to build your resume and connections for a few years, while doing good for the community. The Americorps program even has part-time volunteer program for individuals who want to keep their full-time jobs. Cut down your expenses as much as possible, and prepare to live on a shoestring for a while. Many volunteer programs will help you put your student loans in deferment for the time you are in the volunteer program.

Peace Corps
Teach for America

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