What Is Job Corps?

Learn how Job Corps can help you start a career

Students in training class

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Job Corps is a residential job training program aimed at young, low-income workers. Administered through the U.S. Department of Labor, Job Corps is free of charge and open to applicants aged 16 to 24 who meet certain requirements. These criteria include holding legal status to work in the United States, meeting low-income guidelines, and agreeing to comply with the program’s rules.

Is Job Corps the right training and education program for you? Learn more about the benefits and requirements of the Job Corps initiative, what to expect during and after participating, and how to apply. 

What Is Job Corps? 

Job Corps is the largest residential career preparation program in the United States. Established in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislative program, Job Corps has served over 2 million participants.

Students who enroll in Job Corps receive a variety of educational and training services. They can earn a high school diploma or GED while gaining technical training in growing sectors such as health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Tuition is free and taxpayer-funded.

Job Corps also provides free room and board, health care, a small living allowance that increases the longer the student is with the program, and job placement assistance. Most Job Corps centers are residential, but many allow students to commute to classes. You may also be able to begin the program online.

Most centers do not offer child care on-site. However, admissions counselors can outline options for prospective students with minor children.

How Does Job Corps Work? 

Job Corps provides free academic education, career training, and work experience that lead to certification in high-demand industries. Counseling is provided for 12 months after graduation to help participants reach their career goals.

There are Job Corps centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. You can find your local center and explore program benefits using Job Corps’ interactive tool. Each center offers different training programs, but most offer 10 or 11 different trades to choose from. 

Job Corps training is a self-paced program that typically takes between eight and 24 months to complete. Most successful Job Corps students stay with the program for at least 18 months. 

Eligibility Guidelines

To participate in Job Corps, an applicant must:

  • Be between the ages of 16 and 24
  • Be a U.S. citizen, a lawfully admitted permanent resident, or otherwise authorized to work in the United States
  • Meet low-income criteria
  • Have specific barriers to education and employment
  • Comply with the requirements of the Military Selective Service Act
  • Have educational and training needs that are best met by the program
  • Agree to comply with the rules
  • Not have a disqualifying conviction
  • Have a child care plan if the applicant is a parent of minor children
  • Have signed consent from a parent or guardian if a minor

Job Corps requires that applicants have someone accompany them to the information session and meet with counselors monthly for the first four months of enrollment. This advocate can be a parent, foster parent, guardian, or mentor.

How To Apply for Job Corps

If you’re interested in participating in Job Corps, you can start the process by filling out the Enrollment Interest Form or by calling the program at 1-800-733-JOBS. An admissions counselor will contact you to discuss your interests and the availability of local programs. 

Virtual Enrollment

Some students may be eligible for virtual enrollment. These students complete the first 60 days (Career Preparation Period) of the program online, including participating in Job Corps orientation and initial career preparation assessments and instruction. The remainder of the program will be completed on campus.

Job Corps Program

Once you have been accepted to a Job Corps program, you will receive education and training services, typically on-site at a center. In addition, you can benefit from other services, such as counseling, health education, academic tutoring, and social skills training. 

Most students live at a Job Corps center, but many centers allow nonresidential students to commute to the centers on the days they have classes.

Job Placement and Opportunities After Graduation

For 12 months after completing the program, you will be eligible for job placement assistance or help to secure additional training. Some graduates start their careers immediately, while others opt for community college or military service. 

Counselors will also help you find housing, transportation, and child care. As a graduate of the program, you will be entitled to a transition allowance. 

Key Takeaways

  • Job Corps is a residential job training program administered through the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • The program is free of charge and open to applicants aged 16 to 24 who meet certain requirements, including the legal right to work in the United States.
  • Training is self-paced and typically takes between eight and 24 months to complete.
  • Graduates are entitled to support from a career counselor who will assist with job placement, additional training, and finding housing and child care.