Peace Corps doubles placement staff as applications reach 22-year high

A Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua. The organization has seen a rise in applicants over the past year. Photo by: Peace Corps

Applications to join the Peace Corps have increased by more than 70 percent over the last year to 17,336 for two-year service positions in fiscal year 2014 — a 22-year high for the U.S. volunteer agency.

In response, the Peace Corps has doubled its placement staff in recent months and boosted its recruitment staff to support the reforms, which includes hiring 10 staff members dedicated exclusively to diversity recruitment, a spokesperson told Devex Wednesday.

Such an uptick in applicants is also sure to make the already competitive service even more so, although applicants have the opportunity to choose to up to three specific countries and program areas at a time, including the option to say “send me anywhere I’m needed.”

The agency linked the increase to the significant changes to the Peace Corps’ application and selection process announced in July to make the process simpler, faster and more personalized. Since the recruitment reform was made public just three months ago, new applications jumped by over 400 percent.

And after losing many qualified candidates due to a burdensome application process, the number of applicants who completed their applications has increased from 23 percent in 2013 to today’s 95 percent.

The most contentious change to the process was that candidates can now choose their preferred country in which to serve, as well as the program type and even the specific program. Naysayers suggested the option gave the feel of a “choose your own adventure” story, while advocates lauded the change for professionalizing the volunteer agency.

But since the reforms were implemented, the Peace Corps reports that 54 percent of all applicants have selected the option to serve anywhere they’re needed, and 49 percent have selected the option to serve in any of the six work sectors.

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Bangkok, she covers disaster and crisis response, innovation, women’s rights, and development trends throughout Asia. Prior to her current post, she covered leadership, careers, and the USAID implementer community from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.