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Can you be a professional volunteer?


Programs for the Unspecialized Professional Volunteer
If you want to get paid for volunteering, you'll need to do something more specialized than ladling soup.
If you want to get paid for volunteering, you'll need to do something more specialized than ladling soup.
SW Productions/Getty Images

Institutions that have enough resources to train and take care of their volunteers are rare, but they do exist. Here are a few of them:

  • Peace Corps -- This is one of the big ones. Started in 1960 by John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps furthers the cause of world peace by sending volunteers to live and work in developing countries. Peace Corps volunteers contribute by teaching, fighting AIDS, helping local business, protecting the environment and creating sustainable agriculture. Pay varies from country to country, but all Peace Corps volunteers have their student loans deferred and receive health care as well as $6,000 toward living expenses when they return home. Recruits must be at least 18 years old and U.S. citizens. College degrees are usually required, but the corps makes exceptions if an applicant has a high level of relevant experience.
  • AmeriCorps -- A descendant of the Civilian Conservation Corps, AmeriCorps is an enormous program designed to mobilize volunteers all over the United States. AmeriCorps members work in education, disaster relief, environmental clean-up programs and in the management of smaller nonprofits and volunteer organizations. Volunteers should be at least 17 years old and U.S. citizens. Since there are so many suborganizations within AmeriCorps, other qualifications vary, but distinguished candidates will have high grades, a college degree and some useful experience. Volunteers receive a small living wage, health insurance and the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, a $4,725 grant which must be applied toward existing student loans or future tuition payments.
  • Teach for America -- One of AmeriCorps' better-known suborganizations is Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income rural and urban schools. Unlike most volunteer projects, Teach for America teachers are paid the same salary as first-year teachers. Their requirements, however, are much stricter: Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and at least a 2.5 GPA in order to be accepted to the program.
  • World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms -- For those who want to enter the volunteer world head on, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) places volunteers as day laborers on international organic farms. WWOOF farms exist in dozens of countries from Uganda to Australia, and working as a WWOOF volunteer is a great way to get some traveling in while volunteering. Volunteers also learn firsthand the skills necessary to manage an organic farm. No money changes hands except a small fee to join the network; host farms provide room and board.

This is only a small sample of the organizations available to the would-be professional volunteer. On the next page is more information on volunteering and volunteer groups.