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Volunteering In Pursuit of a
Medical, Veterinary or Social Work Degree / Career

credits and disclaimer

You want to be a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a veterinarian. Or a dentist. Or a social worker. Perhaps a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

And you want to know what volunteering you could do to help you get into university, to get the attention of a scholarship committee, to help you understand the career more or to prepare you better for your career choice.

If that's you, this page is for you.

For any of these career pursuits, volunteering at a hospital is nice. But it's not really anything special. Volunteering that would also give you training and experience that you could use at university and in your career choice include volunteering:

  • as a firefighter or EMT
  • with the Red Cross as a trainer, as a disaster responder, helping with their warming centers during cold nights, etc.
  • with Planned Parenthood, particularly in community education programs
  • at a domestic violence shelter, particularly in counseling clients
  • at a hospice, particularly in counseling clients and their families
  • at a nonprofit or community hospital or clinic that serves low income people
  • at any organization that serves people with disabilities
  • at an animal shelter, particularly in programs where you work with potential pet owners and the community
  • at an organization or initiative focused on HIV/AIDS in some way (educating people about prevention, helping people who may be HIV positive, etc.)
  • with seniors, particularly programs that help them stay healthy mentally and physically
You could also look for volunteering opportunities related to medicine, public health education, counseling and care for people or animals at a variety of nonprofit organizations in your area at any of the major volunteer matching web sites: In the USA, register with your local chapter of the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (DCVMRC or MRC). MRC units are community-based and function as a way to locally organize and utilize volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to emergencies and promote healthy living throughout the year. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources. As a member of an MRC unit, you will be ready and able to bolster local emergency planning and response capabilities. Many MRC volunteers also assist with activities to improve public health in their community – increasing health literacy, supporting prevention efforts and eliminating health disparities. Here's more about volunteering with the Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps. The more trianing you get, on your own, the more likely you will be accepted as a part of the MRC. Note that each state is different on how it registers these volunteers. For instance, in Oregon, you express interest by registering on the State of Oregon Responder Management System.

Mentoring / Working With Children

Any volunteering with children is going to require that you undergo a criminal background check. An arrest or conviction will not automatically prevent you from working with children; the nature of the crime, the role of volunteers in the program in which you want to participate, and the policies of the organization dictate who can and can't volunteer.

  • Look at the web site for a nearby public school, or stop by the school during regular business hours, and find out how to volunteer. Many schools have mentoring and tutoring programs, as well as one-day events focused on bicycle safety, sporting events and other activities that welcome volunteers.

  • If you are in the USA: become a GoodGuides Youth Mentor through Goodwill. This is a national mentoring program at 56 Goodwill agencies in 38 states serving young people between the ages of 12 and 17. These young people are matched with adults who help the youth realize their potential and prepare for their future. Goodwill may have other volunteering opportunities available: you could help train their clients to make clothing displays more appealing or fashionable, or to test electronic equipment before it goes up for sale in a store. You could help train clients in how to create a rsum or how to use word processing or accounting software.

  • You could volunteer with your local Girl Scouts or Girl Guides to:
    • help with a one-time event, like a day camp, an over-night camp or a badge day. These events need people to lead or help lead activities, to cook, to make posters for the event (with song lyrics, directing girls to craft tables, telling them how to clean up after the event, etc.) and to staff the registration table at the start of the event, among many other activities.
    • help individual troops or service units with maintaining their web pages, maintaining their online discussion groups, maintaining their Facebook pages, or designing fliers
    • help identify groups in your area that would be great targets for Girl Scout / Girl Guides volunteer recruitment (civil clubs, professional societies, etc.)
    • identify potential activities for older Girl Scouts / Girl Guides (those 12 - 17)
    • help with a Girl Scout / Girl Guides troop
    • lead or co-lead a Girl Scouts or Girl Guides troop
    • serve on a council-level committee
    Whether you want to help just ocassionally with a one-time event, you want to help primarily online, you want to work with girls or DON'T want to work directly with actual Girl Scouts / Girl Guides , or you want to invest lots of hours every month, Girl Scouts has a role for you - and you will need to register as a volunteer on your council's web site (you will find your local council via the national Girl Scouts of the USA web site); you can register to volunteer via most council web sites immediately, right now, without knowing where you want to volunteer yet. NOTE: Girl Scouts of the USA does NOT discriminate on the basis of religion (or lack their of) nor on the basis of sexual orientation (unlike the Boy Scouts of America).

  • CASA Court Appointed Special Advocates is a national, non-profit network of almost 1000 programs in the USA that recruit, train and support volunteers to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings - including foster children. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives. You do not have to be a lawyer or social worker to be a volunteer. "We are simply looking for people who care about children and have common sense." CASA and guardian ad litem volunteers advocate work directly with abused and neglected children and the people in their lives: foster parents, social workers, attorneys, teachers, medical providers and others; such volunteers are thoroughly trained and well supported by professional staff. In addition, most CASA programs also have opportunities for non-advocate volunteers, such as helping with administrative tasks or special events.

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national, volunteer-supported mentoring network, creating meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the USA.

    And consider which of these statements is more powerful:

      I volunteered 15 hours a week for four months at the local hospital.

      As a volunteer, I counseled teenagers on how to protect themsleves against HIV/AIDS.

    Whick would be more impressive to a scholarship or university adminissions committee?

    Also see this advice on working abroad for international humanitarian and development agencies), and this resources on volunteering abroad (volunteering internationally).

    If you found this page helpful, let others know:

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    2010 by Jayne Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express written permission by Jayne Cravens.


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    This book is for both organizations new to virtual volunteering, as well as for organizations already involving online volunteers who want to improve or expand their programs.
    The last chapter of the book is especially for online volunteers themselves.

    Exploring Leadership: For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference  

    The Most Good You Can Do

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