Does a “Service Year” Provide a Boost in the Job Market?

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans embark on “service year” stints helping communities at home and abroad, through programs like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, YouthBuild and others. But what happens when those service year alumni return to the traditional labor market? Does a year of service change their career trajectory?

In new research released today and conducted for the Service Year Alliance, Burning Glass Technologies used our resume database to examine the career paths of service year alumni and compare them to peers who didn’t have service year experience. We found that service year veterans have different career experiences than their peers in several ways:

  • Service year alumni go on to complete bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than their peers. Almost a quarter (24%) of service year alumni who do not have a bachelor’s degree during their service go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 11% of the peer group who complete a bachelor’s degree after two years of full-time work experience. Of those who earn their degrees, 75% complete the full four-year degree program after finishing their service year, suggesting they had little to no college experience before the service year program.
  • Service year alumni are more likely than their peers to work in education, and community and social services occupations. Following service, 31% of service year alumni begin their careers in these fields compared to 8% of their peers. After ten years, 23% of service year alumni remain in education and community and social services compared to 7% of their peers. 
  • Service year alumni are more likely than their peers to cite skills related to leadership and organization on their resumes, which are commonly developed in service year programs. Research as a skill is cited on 40% of service year resumes and 25% of peer resumes. Organizational skills; 40% compared to 24%. Planning; 25% compared to 23%. Service year alumni also advertise leadership and mentoring skills more frequently than their peers: 14% compared to 13% for leadership, and 9% compared to 5% for mentoring.

For higher education, the report shows that service programs, rather than being a detour for students, can actually boost education and social service careers by providing crucial skills and experience. In addition, service programs may prove to be a useful way of getting people without a bachelor’s degree back on track.

You can read the full report Pathways After Service: Education and Career Outcomes of Service Year Alumni or find out more about the Service Year Alliance at their website.

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