Alternatives to Employment
The most common expectation for college graduates is that they find a job immediately after graduation. By no means is this maintained by every graduate, nor is it the only option. Public service has a strong appeal on resumes and may assist in paying off student loans. Many positions come with a stipend or living allowance so you can work with minimal financial strain. Most importantly, you will be making a difference in the world that ideal in a full-time position.
AmeriCorps is a national service program that coordinates volunteering at the local, state, and national level within the United States. Three main programs fall under AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). Volunteers engage in activities ranging from tutoring disadvantaged youth to cleaning parks.
Volunteers are eligible to receive an education stipend up to $5,350 after one year of service, which can be used to pay for college, graduate school, or student loan debt. AmeriCorps participants are also eligible to receive a stipend for housing, childcare, and living expenses. Typically this stipend amounts to far less than a regular, full-time salary. Since AmeriCorps puts you in touch with organizations who make a difference in your community, service can become a valuable networking tool and an impressive addition to your resume or graduate school applications.
The Peace Corps coordinates service projects in 74 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Peace Corps volunteers get a chance to see the world, make a substantial difference in their assigned communities, and experience life abroad. Volunteers are also able to defer student loan payments, have part of their Perkins Loan balance canceled, and receive a living allowance that will enable them to live comfortable in their assigned community. Service commitments in the Peace Corps typically last 27 months.
Kicking yourself for not studying abroad while you were in college? It may be too late to participate in a study abroad program as part of your bachelor’s degree, but you can still live and work abroad temporarily while making a difference in the lives of others. One of the best options for doing this is to teach English abroad.
English as a Second Language programs exist in many countries and vary in requirements, qualifications, and pay scales. Some high-paying programs in Europe will require a graduate degree or certificate in ESL while other programs may only request English proficiency and a bachelor’s degree. Programs may require starting fees to arrange placement with a school and for certification. It is also possible to be directly hired by a school. Certain programs offer training, housing, airfare, and then some, depending on the country’s living costs and your teaching qualifications. You may have the opportunity to bring home a considerable salary as well. Generally those hired through reputable channels will take home enough to live comfortably in the country for the duration of their employment.
Teaching in America
If you would rather teach without going abroad, consider looking into local teaching programs. Students who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher education but have no completed an education degree or teaching certificate can participate in teacher training programs as alternative routes for certification. This is a good way to serve disadvantaged communities.
The most well-known teaching program isTeach for America, which has been training and placing teachers in high-need schools since 1990. Teach for America corps members go through a rigorous application and interview process before being placed in one of 35 urban or rural areas. Placements last two years and come with a salary comparable to experienced beginning teachers. Generally, Teach for America participants are able to receive teacher certification in their assigned state within two years, and are able to continue working in education once their placement term has ended.
Similar teaching programs exist in other areas, including the New York City or Chicago Teaching Fellows. These programs provide teacher certifications and salaries, and may even grant master’s degrees in education. Look into whether your city sponsors comparable programs that could get you one step closer to a teaching job.