AmeriCorps Alumni Outpace Others in Public Service Careers, Civic Engagement, Study Finds

Alumni of AmeriCorps are more civically engaged, more likely to pursue public service careers in government and the nonprofit sector, and more likely to be happy and satisfied with their lives than those who do not serve in AmeriCorps, a new report from the Corporation for National and Community Service finds.

Based on data collected from more than two thousand AmeriCorps members eight years after they completed their year of service, the report, Still Serving: Measuring the Eight-Year Impact of AmeriCorps on Alumni (56 pages, PDF), found that 60 percent of AmeriCorps alumni go on to work with nonprofit organizations or public agencies. Approximately 80 percent of former members reported that their service exposed them to new career options, while more than two-thirds reported that their service was an advantage to them in the job market.

According to the report, experience with AmeriCorps especially affects the career choices of minority members and individuals from disadvantaged circumstances. Minority members in the state and national AmeriCorps programs are significantly more likely to choose a career in public service than are members of the comparison group — 44 percent compared to 26 percent. AmeriCorps members from disadvantaged circumstances also are much more likely to be employed in a public service field — 46 percent compared to 26 percent.

Some experts believe there is a looming crisis in the nonprofit and government workforce due to the aging baby boom generation, competition from the private sector, and burnout and retention issues. The federal Office of Personnel Management projects that 550,000 federal employees — nearly one-third of the federal workforce — will leave government within the next five years, and that by 2016 nearly 40 percent of current federal workers will retire. It also projects that the U.S. will need two million new teachers and 1.2 million new nurses in the next decade and 250,000 public health workers by 2020.

"Even those of us who started off believing that intense service can make better citizens have been astonished at the strength of these findings," said David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees AmeriCorps. "With more than 60 percent of our alums working in nonprofits or government, these results are way more than statistically significant. AmeriCorps is becoming America's most important pipeline to careers in nonprofits and government — at the same time that crisis level shortfalls in leadership and workforce are looming in these areas."

"Rigorous Longitudinal Study of AmeriCorps Finds Significant Impacts Eight Years Later." Corporation for National and Community Service Press Release 05/13/2008.