Postgraduate Service


Postgraduate service can be a great way to explore an interest, pursue a passion, and develop skills and knowledge while making a difference in the lives of others with communities in need.


Notre Dame graduates do postgraduate service for many reasons, but here’s what they tell us most often:

They want to make a difference—change a life, change the world.

They want to make their faith more active

They want to discern genuine interests before going to graduate school or pursuing a career

They want to develop knowledge and skills while building a resumé


It is basically a full-time job in a nonprofit organization that has more demand for services than funding for staff. Service members usually receive a stipend and benefits in exchange for work with individuals and communities in need. 

Faith-based service programs typically are based on the four values of social justice, spirituality, simple living, and community. Some programs add a fifth value: professional development.  Although all programs will result in personal and professional development, some seek to actively, and intentionally, promote this for service volunteers.


Ask yourself the following questions. It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to these and other questions when you begin—they will come as you engage with the process.

What do I feel called to do? 

What issues are important to me?

Do I want to engage in direct service? With any particular populations? 

Do I prefer a faith-based or secular organization?

Would I like to live with other volunteers or independently?

Where would I like to live: urban/rural/suburban area? A particular geographical location?

What are my financial needs?

Learn from people who have completed postgraduate service by attending information sessions or check out the recording of our alumni panel below. 

What can help?

Actively research organizations and opportunities: talk to recruiters and current and former volunteers, read websites and literature, and when possible visit. 

Notice what you respond to, both positively and negatively. What attracts you? What is unappealing? What are your fears, concerns? What are you passionate about?

Talk to Felicia Johnson O’Brien about your responses—thoughts, feelings, concerns. We are here to help with the discernment process.

Talk to mentors, advisors, spiritual directors, Career Center staff, rectors, faculty, and family and friends. Ask for feedback about your strengths and challenges. One caveat: how others see you is helpful, but only as a means for recognizing what you know to be true about yourself.

Realize that no opportunity or experience is perfect; any number of opportunities could be a good fit for you.