THE PEACE CORPS: Sign up, See The World, Annoy the Intelligence Agencies

WHAT: Join The Peace Corps

In 1950, Walter Reuther, peace corps founder, human rights campaigner, and friend to JFK wrote:

“I believe the more young Americans who are  sent abroad with a slide rule, textbook, and medical kit, the fewer young people will need to be sent with guns and weapons of war.”

JFK loved the idea. Previously, the only opportunity for young, working-class Americans to see the world was to sign up for the military. Joining the Peace Corps, thought Kennedy, offered young Americans an alternative way to serve their country and experience other cultures without being contracted to kill them.

A Middle Finger to The CIA

In the 1950s, clandestine, blood-soaked CIA operations in poor, foreign nations had put the US reputation overseas at an all-time low. Kennedy believed a benevolent peace force might help reverse anti-American sentiment fueled by decades of CIA subterfuge. Consequently, Kennedy declared that no active or former Peace Corps members could work for the CIA. By 1960, JFK’s and the CIA’s mutual dislike for each other was an open secret. By publicly conveying his disdain for their dirty work, Kennedy alienated and infuriated the intelligence agencies even further.

Volunteers getting on aircraft
John F. Kennedy Established the Peace Corps in 1961 as a Way To Restore The U.S Reputation in Developing Nations. Photo Credit: Creative Commons

A Safe Space For Slackers

Richard Nixon – Kennedy’s election opponent, was dead against the idea. He protested that the Peace Corps would become a “cult of escapism.” Similarly, he envisaged it as a sanctuary for hippies, pacifists, psychedelic dropouts, and draft dodgers. Nixon lost. Kennedy won.

Subsequently, on March 1, 1961, Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order 10924. Six decades after its formation,  nearly a quarter of a million young people have traveled abroad to help less fortunate communities. The vast majority of volunteers claim the experience helped develop perspective, character, work ethic, and more.

A Peace corps Teacher

If you think a job in the Peace Corps sounds like a great way to expand your horizons, here’s how to apply.


You can apply for the Peace Corps online or by mail. Alternatively, you can go and speak with your nearest recruiter. The requirements for joining the Peace Corps are simple. You’ll need:

  • To be at least 18 years old.
  • To be a US citizen.
  • Have a resume.
  • Have three character references
  • To maintain total separation from US intelligence agency activities, both in reality and appearance.
  • Expect your application to take around 6-9 months to process.

Peace Corps Jobs

Jobs typically include public service. For example, education, health, youth development, and agriculture. Although volunteers are usually assigned a defined role, they’re also told to expect the unexpected. During two years of volunteer service, many experience things that go on to shape the course of their lives.


Teaching with the Peace corps
Peace Corps Volunteers Work in Over A Hundred Countries Around The World. Photo Credit: Peace Corps

At the time of writing,  volunteers have been stationed in 142 different countries worldwide. Africa and Central and South America make up around 65% of assignments. However, volunteers also regularly visit Eastern Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East.

Map of peace corps locations
The Peace Corps is a great way to see the world from a different perspective. Photo Credit: Peace Corps
  • Volunteers usually head to poor nations, where unemployment and poverty are often widespread. In a few places, notably parts of Africa, life is cheaper than in the west. Violent incidents and robberies have occurred. And, on rare occasions – murder.
  • The Peace Corps has been criticized for its perceived failure to address incidents of sexual violence against female volunteers. Traditionally, females make up around 35% of the volunteer force.

Many volunteers claim that joining the Peace Corps changed how they see themselves and their role in the world. Beyond that, there’s a range of tangible material benefits.

  • Paid travel to and from your country of service.
  • Rigorous training before deployment. This covers culture, language, and more.
  • Peace Corp jobs allow you to pick up language, development, and education skills. Essentially, the kind of training that corporate, nonprofit, and government employers love.
  • You’ll likely receive your ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ (TEFL) certificate. This globally recognized qualification allows you to get well paid for teaching English anywhere in the world.
  • Graduate school benefits include financial assistance, reduced tuition fees, and stipends.



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