AmeriCorps Terminology

AmeriCorps Terms

Because of the unique and innovative nature of the AmeriCorps program and Partners in Learning, terminology has been developed to accurately represent details of AmeriCorps. Consistent use of these terms helps to reinforce the common objectives of AmeriCorps and clarifies AmeriCorps for the public. Some frequently used terms are:

NATIONAL SERVICE: this term refers to any of the programs affiliated with the Corporation for National & Community Service. In addition to AmeriCorps, national service programs include AmeriCorps VISTA, the National Civilian Community Corps, Foster Grandparents and RSVP.

MEMBERS*: Individuals who participate in AmeriCorps are referred to as “members” rather than volunteers, staff, workers, participants or employees. AmeriCorps members are NOT volunteers because they do receive a payment (however small it may be) for their service. *The National and Community Service Act of 1990 as amended states that a Member “shall not be considered to be an employee of the program in which the participant is enrolled” (42 USC §12511(17)(B)). Thus, as an AmeriCorps Member, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits under federal law and Iowa Code §96.19(18) (6)(e). AmeriCorps Members are also not eligible for overtime pay, sick leave, paid holidays (state or personal), or comp time. You do not have a right to collective bargaining or participation in Iowa Public Employee Retirement System (IPERS).

SERVICE/SERVE: serve and service should be used rather than “work” when referring to AmeriCorps members’ time and effort.

LIVING ALLOWANCE: AmeriCorps Member earn a living allowance, rather than a salary or hourly wage, in return for their service. The amount an AmeriCorps member is paid does not fluctuate based upon the number of hours that the member serves in a particular pay period. AmeriCorps members will receive a living allowance during their term of service. The living allowance is provided for the cost of living while performing service. All Partners in Learning members are eligible to receive a living allowance after signing the contract and being placed at a site. The living allowance is determined by federal statute and is not based upon or subject to minimum wage laws. Living allowances are subject to all state and federal taxes.

EDUCATION AWARD: A monetary reward gifted by the Corporation of National and Community Service when an AmeriCorps member fully completes his or her term of service successfully. This award can be used to repay qualified student loans or to pay education costs at qualified institutions of higher learning. The education award may be used up to seven years after the term of service has ended. Members at least 55 years of age at the beginning of their term of service may choose to transfer their education award to a child, grandchild or foster child. AmeriCorps members are eligible to receive an education award upon completion of their term of service. The Education Award can be used to pay for all or part of the cost of attending an institution of higher education and for qualified existing or future student loans.

4 Main Focuses of AmeriCorps


  1. Getting Things Done—Through the direct and demonstrable service that help solve community problems.
  2. Strengthening Communities—By bringing together Americans of all ages and backgrounds in the common effort to improve our communities.
  3. Encouraging Responsibility—By enabling members to explore and exercise their responsibilities toward communities, their families, and themselves.
  4. Expanding Opportunity—By enhancing educational opportunities, job experience and life skills.