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Job Corps: Career Training for Teens and Young Adults

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

What Is Job Corps?

Job Corps is a fantastic opportunity for free career training for teens and young adults from the ages of 16 to 24. It is a government-sponsored Department of Labor program with the main goal being to train teens and young adults in skills so that they may be employed in the competitive labour force.

There are 122 Job Corps centers all across the United States. The Job Corps training programs are geographically assigned, and the centers that are available to an individual will depend on where that person currently lives. This program is not open to just anyone, though. It is open to low-income and special education recipients only. Most Job Corps Centers are residential, and living at the center is a requirement.

Some have a few spots available for young adults who live in the same town as the Job Corps Center they wish to go to. The residential nature of the program means that students stay in dorms and get three meals per day in a cafeteria—and it's all free!

How Does Job Corps Work?

To become a Job Corps participant, one must first apply. An information session is provided by recruiters in a certain geographical area, and potential residents are given information about the program. Parents must accompany those who are ages 16–17. For students that are 16, the only career avenues available to them are business occupations and Culinary Arts, so it is sometimes best to wait till a youth is 17 to apply so that they will have more career training options. It is also possible to contact a Job Corps Center directly and work with the admissions director there.

There are public tours available for all the Job Corps Centers, so if a person is not sure after the information session if they want to apply, they are encouraged to take a tour of centers they are interested in going to. In that way, they can see firsthand what the program is like, the living facilities, etc.

How to Apply

Once it is decided that Job Corps is the right program for a young person, the application process is started. They will work with the recruiter or admissions director to fill out a packet of paperwork. For youth under 18, this paperwork will include parental signatures. Also needed may be any doctors forms if there are any medical needs, such as medication taken on a regular basis, testing needed as with diabetes, etc. Copies of school transcripts, diplomas if the person has already graduated from high school, and Special Ed IEP (Individualized Education Plans for Special Education students) will also need to be included.

Once all the paperwork is in and signed, the application goes to the Job Corps Central office to be approved. This process usually takes two weeks or so. Once approved, the potential Job Corps candidate will go onto a waiting list until a bed is available in the center they have chosen. The average wait time here in New England is three to four months for males and four to six weeks for females.

Caution: One thing that will prevent an applicant from being approved is if they have an open court case for criminal involvement. If there is no current court case, an applicant can apply. If there is an open court case, they will have to wait till the case is closed.

Programs Available

If a person wants to attend a Job Corps program but doesn't have many high school credits, they can get their GED instead of a high school diploma. Generally speaking, if they come to Job Corps having less than 12 high school credits, Job Corps will help a participant get a GED. If someone has between 12 and 14 credits or higher, Job Corps can help them receive their high school diploma.

These classes are done online, and they will need to be them while also taking some career introduction classes. Once they have completed their educational requirements and have completed the GED program or gotten a diploma, then they move into full career training classes every day. They will have up to two years to complete both of these. Two years is the maximum stay in a Job Corp program.

If someone starts Job Corps after already having a high school diploma or GED, then they will start right in on the career training classes. The beauty of the Job Corps program is that a person can start and finish at their own pace and have up to two years to complete the training. Some students do so well that they complete training in one area and stay on to complete training in a second area. The average length to complete one career training program is 8–12 months. The limit to stay in a Job Corps program is two years.

Approximately 15% of students do so well at Job Corps that they are given the opportunity to move on to advanced training in the field they have chosen. For instance, if a student chooses Culinary Arts as their career track, they can do very well and be sent to another Job Corps Training Center to get advanced training in that field. The same is true for someone who starts in the CNA program (Certified Nursing Assistant), as they can be chosen to go on to an LPN program.

Job Corps can also help residents get their driver's licenses if they don't already have one.

What Are Job Corps Centers Like?

Because Job Corps Centers are residential, there are dorms, a cafeteria, and a recreation area on each campus. Dorm rooms house from two to six residents. Female and male residents reside on separate floors or in separate buildings, depending on the center. Dorms have community areas with TVs and computers so residents can check their email, hang out and watch TV together, etc. There is also a health center, so residents have access to a doctor and dental exams.

The program is free, but because of that, there are very strict rules and regulations. There is a no-tolerance rule for drugs and alcohol. Also, the program is very structured, so participants are kept busy.

The Routine

Job Corps residents are expected to get up between 6 and 6:30 a.m., make sure beds are made, and rooms are cleaned. They have to eat breakfast and be in their classrooms by 8:00 a.m. every day. Classes are from 8:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. daily, with a break for lunch. Uniforms are required of all participants, but the uniform each person is required to wear will depend on the training he or she chooses.

After classes end at 4, there is free time, dinner, and recreational activities available nightly. Field trips are planned on weekends for those participants who did not go home for the weekend. Participants are required to be in their rooms at 10:00 p.m. with lights out by 10:30 on weeknights.

The First Two Weeks in the Program

The first two weeks a person is there, they are required to stay at the center, but after that, if they meet the required behavioral points, they can go home on weekends from 4:00 p.m Friday until 7:00 p.m. Sunday. Job Corps is run as an employment preparation program, not an academic program, so participants do not get summers off but do get two weeks vacation in early July and two weeks vacation at Christmas. The rest of the year, they are required to participate in the program but do get the official national holidays off, such as a three-day weekend for Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc., as they would at a job.

They are assigned both a counselor and an RA (resident advisor) in the dorm in case issues come up. Students are issued a small stipend, like an allowance which is to cover things like toothpaste, a candy bar, stamps, etc., and other incidentals they may need while they are in the program. This starts off at approximately $24 every two weeks, but the longer a person stays in the program, the more this stipend increases. (This is better than college, where they charge your money to be a student instead of paying you for it!) The participant also gets a clothing allowance while a Job Corps resident.

There is a follow-up program where a counselor works on job placement with a participant when they are ready to graduate from the program. Job Corps centers have graduation ceremonies throughout the year for their graduates, and if all the requirements have been met, they will be given a $1,200 stipend for completing the program.

Types of Training Offered

Job Corps is a vocational training program, and teens and young adults who complete the program are given a certificate, not a diploma. The following is a list of programs offered in the New England Job Corps Centers. If you are not from New England and wish to research other Job Corps Center Offerings, you can Google Job Corps Centers in your state or a nearby state to see what they have to offer.


Hartford Job Corps Center (860) 953 - 7201

Business Occupations, Health Occupations, Manufacturing Technology

New Haven Job Corps Center (203) 397 - 2775

Health Occupations, Carpentry, Facility Maintenance, Stationary Engineer, Culinary Arts, Advanced Baking & Pastry

Rhode Island

Exeter Job Corps (401) 268 - 6000

Business Occupations, Construction Technology, Culinary Arts, Health Occupations, Information technology, Manufacturing Technology


Westover Job Corps, Chicopee, MA. (413) 593 - 5731

Auto Mechanics, Brick masonry, Business Occupations, Carpentry, Computer Service repair tech., Culinary Arts, Electrical Wiring, Facility Maintenance, Health Occupations, Network Wiring, Painting, Pharmacy tech, Plastering, Plumbing, Welding

Grafton Job Corps, North Grafton, Ma. (508) 887 - 7300

Business Occupations, Health occupations, Culinary Arts, Data Entry Clerk, EKG Technician, Electrical Wiring, Facility Maintenance, Medical Assistant, Medical office technology, Plumbing, Security Officer

Shriver Job Corps, Devens, MA. (978) 784 - 2600

Auto Repair, Business Technology, Carpentry, Cement Masonry, Computer technology, Culinary Arts, Health Occupations, Painting, Security Officer, SUN Microsystems, Transportation Communications Union


Northlands Job Corps, Vergennes, VT. (802) 877 - 2922

Auto Body Repair/Collision, Auto Mechanics, Business Technology, Culinary Arts, Facility Maintenance, Health Occupations, Urban Forestry, Welding, Carpentry


Loring Job Corps, Limestone, Maine (207) 328 - 4212

Auto Mechanics, Carpentry, Cement Masonry, Health Occupations, CDL, Culinary Arts, Electrical Wiring, Medical Office Technology, Network Wiring, Painting

Penobscot Job Corps, Bangor, Maine (207) 990 - 3000

Business Technology, Carpentry, Health Occupations, Culinary Arts, Facility Maintenance, Medical Office Technology, Welding.

Job Corps is a wonderful alternative to college for students who are not ready to go to college, won't qualify academically to take college courses, and need hands-on training they can take at their own pace. Many participants start at Job Corps, and when they are done, go on to college. There is a military preparation program in most Job Corps Centers as well, so some use it to improve their ASVAB scores while training for a career before entering the service.

More Information

For national information about Job Corps

  • Phone Number: 1-800-733-JOBS
  • Website: (or for the Spanish version)

From my experience with Job Corps, I feel it is a fantastic opportunity for teens and young adults and is a worthy option for high school students who aren't sure what they will do after high school graduation.

Another Opportunity After High School

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Karen Hellier


Yaisha on April 24, 2020:

Can i apply for job corps at 15?

Emily Holt on February 17, 2019:

Hi. I am currently a sophomore in high school. I want to join because of the trade opportunities. I am 16 years old. I have no idea how many credits I have. I know that im where i should be. So Im average for my age. And is there Wifi? Because I never had the money to turn my phone on. It runs off of wifi....

Desiree Gregory on July 24, 2017:

I have over 12 Highschool credits and I dropped out a senior. How long would it take to get my Highschool diploma at job core?

Anthony on June 07, 2017:

Can you still get accepted to Avanced training if you have write ups and cuts?

Reena Dhiman on February 24, 2015:

Thanks Karen for a great hub from this post we get a lot of information about job corps and understand that how much is important for teen or young.

Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on June 11, 2013:


Thanks for dropping by. Sounds like you have had some personal or professional experience with Job Corps??? Please share in a comment if you do.

Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on October 06, 2012:

Yes emerald fair, you can go there and they can help you get a high school diploma, or a GED, depending on how many high school credits you have when you start the Job Corps program.

emerald fair on October 05, 2012:

so like do u still get to comee if u dient finsh school