Voluntary service: What is suitable for whom?

The voluntary service is a good opportunity for young people to become clear about their own professional goals and wishes. Before you start your studies or training, you can get involved in society in a variety of ways. The voluntary social year (FSJ) is well known. There are many different types of volunteer service, including the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which takes you abroad. What opportunities does the Federal Volunteer Service (BFD) and Co. Here you can find out what they offer and what you need to bear in mind..

Offers for voluntary sabbaticals at a glance

You are toying with the idea of interrupting your usual routine for a while and gaining new experiences? Maybe even go abroad for a whole year? A voluntary service gives you the chance to do just that. Here are the most popular offers..

The voluntary social year – FSJ

About 40.000 places are given away annually to committed young people here. The FSJ offers volunteers the opportunity to work for their fellow human beings and society. If you are interested, you should look for a recognized organization, such as an association or a social institution, and apply there. Special qualifications are usually not necessary. Personal motivation is important.

The most important FSJ information at a glance

The offer is aimed at young people between 16 and 26 years of age. The assignment usually lasts 12 months. However, shorter assignments of six months are also possible. The upper limit is 18 months. How long your voluntary service lasts depends strongly on the projects. Most of the time, volunteering starts on 1. August or on 1. September.

Areas of operation

  • Sports: clubs, associations, youth holiday villages, sports schools
  • Culture: libraries, museums, art associations
  • Preservation of historical monuments: architectural offices, associations that focus on historical monuments, craft enterprises, but also museums
  • Health care: hospitals, emergency services, homes for the elderly
  • Social institutions: Youth homes, workshops for people with disabilities, day care centers for children

You can also find further important information on the website of the Federal Working Group for Voluntary Social Service at pro-fsj.de.

The voluntary ecological year – FoJ

The FoJ is the ecological version of the FSJ. It is aimed specifically at people who are interested in sustainability and want to work in the field of animal welfare and environmental protection.

The most important FoJ information at a glance

Again, candidates should be between 16 and a maximum of 26 years old. That is, you must not turn 27 during the volunteering period. Like the FSJ, the FoJ usually lasts 12 months. Start is mostly on 1. August or on 1. September. In terms of content, it covers environmental policy, environmental education, animal and nature conservation.

Areas of application

  • Regional associations, environmental offices
  • nurseries, forest kindergartens
  • Nature reserves, forests and parks
  • Conservation clubs, biological stations
  • animal parks, zoos

Detailed information as well as the possibility to look for places of employment can be found at https://foej.de, the website of the umbrella organization for the Voluntary Ecological Service Year (FoJ).

Benefits for FSJ and FoJ

With both variants of the voluntary service you are entitled to the following benefits:

  • A small pocket money of about 150 euros. The exact amount is decided by the sponsor.
  • The assistance with accommodation and meals, if necessary.
  • A non-contributory insurance in the statutory health, pension, accident, unemployment and nursing care insurance.

In addition, you remain entitled to child benefit for the duration of the assignment. The FSJ and the FoJ support the volunteers with 25 seminar days. Here, volunteers get the opportunity to share their experiences, talk about their work and ask questions. Most of the time, these seminars are dedicated to a specific topic.

The Federal Volunteer Service – BFD

The BFD or affectionately Bufdi called voluntary service celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Over 400.000 volunteers have taken advantage of this opportunity so far. It replaces the former civilian service. Just like the FSJ, you can support different projects and institutions with your volunteer work.

The differences to the FSJ

  • The Federal Volunteer Service is funded by the federal government, while the FSJ and FoJ receive their financial support from the states.
  • There is no age limit.
  • Interested persons can start at any time.
  • People over 27 can do their service part-time (around 20 hours/per week).

Also with this form of the freiwilligen service there is a seminar company as well as a small pocket money. Detailed information can be found at bundesfreiwilligendienst.de on the Internet side of the Federal Ministry for family and civilian-social tasks.

Voluntary service abroad

In addition to the opportunities to volunteer in Germany, there are also offers for volunteer service abroad. Therefore, applicants should pay attention: There are different forms and by far not all are publicly regulated and recognized. Interested parties should make sure that the respective organization is recognized and supported by the state.

The European Voluntary Service – EVS

Here you can volunteer for different social projects all over Europe. The voluntary service is part of the "Erasmus+" program of the European Union. As such it belongs to the European Solidarity Corps and often runs under the abbreviation ESK. Getting to know other countries and cultures, learning a new language, becoming more independent – the reasons for volunteering abroad are many and varied. The European Voluntary Service gives you the opportunity to do your FSJ or FoJ abroad, depending on the sponsor.

The most important EVS information at a glance

Volunteers should be between 17 and 30 years old. An assignment can last between 2 to 12 months. Depending on the project, you can start at different times. It is only important to know that the organization with which you would like to do the voluntary service must make an application for you. There are certain deadlines for the application. You can find out which ones from the organization.

Places of assignment are predominantly member states of the EU. You can also do the European Voluntary Service in non-member countries such as Turkey or countries in the Balkan region. Even in remote regions such as Russia, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria or Tunisia an assignment is possible. Depends on the focus of the respective provider. For example, Freiwilligendienste DRS gGmbH focuses on Italy as the main location for volunteering. Benefits include a language course, travel allowance and pocket money.

The International Youth Volunteer Service – IJFD

Young people who are interested in volunteering abroad can also participate in the International Youth Volunteer Service (IJFD). The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) supports this voluntary service. It gives you the chance to gain intercultural, socio-political and personal experience in another culture.

The most important IJFD information at a glance

Who is interested in an IJFD, should not be older than 26 years. The extent to which minors under the age of 18 are allowed to participate is decided by the respective organization. In addition, the applicant must have fulfilled the full-time compulsory education. The good thing is that in principle this is possible worldwide. The only restriction is that there must be no travel warnings or security concerns from the German Foreign Office.

The agency provides accommodation, meals and work clothes. It covers the travel costs and the supervision and follow-up of the stay abroad. During the IJFD you are covered by health and liability insurance. During your stay abroad, you will take part in language courses and seminars to prepare you for your activity. Volunteers also receive pocket money of up to (at most) 350 euros. Further information is available at ijfd-info.en.

Voluntary Service with the Bundeswehr – FWD

A different caliber is the Bundeswehr volunteer service. This is officially called Voluntary Military Service (FWD) and differs significantly from the aforementioned forms. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that participants in the FWD undertake to subsequently serve as reservists (domestic) for six years. But even so, there are differences: the FWD replaces the abolished compulsory military service. This means that those interested undergo basic military training – much like soldiers who train with the German armed forces.

The most important FWD information at a glance

Under "Your year for Germany" started this year, the new voluntary service of the Bundeswehr. The initiative is part of the homeland security. In addition, the volunteers receive 7 months of military training.Big difference: In contrast to soldiers in the German Armed Forces, volunteers do not take part in missions abroad. Afterwards they are available in the reserve service for 6 years. During this time you will take part in exercises and missions until you reach a total of another 5 months of service. For example, FWD-ers cooperate with other volunteers from the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the fire department during natural disasters and rescue operations.

The fact that combat missions abroad are excluded is likely to be particularly attractive to many volunteers. In addition, you can expect a lucrative remuneration: The monthly starting salary is about 1.400 Euro net during the active time. In reserve service, you will receive at least 87 euros net per active duty day. Who is not yet of age, needs the consent of parents.

There is also the alternative of voluntary military service with a service period between seven and 23 months. In this variant, volunteers with a service period of more than 12 months declare their willingness to participate in missions abroad. If you are also interested in a career with the Bundeswehr, you can study for a Bundeswehr degree if you meet the following requirements. Tips for applying to the Bundeswehr can be found here.

General tips on charitable organizations

In any case, you should research well before you decide on a particular volunteer service. Consider calmly different forms, this increases later your chances on a place.


It is important to apply in time. At least eight months before possible departure! With popular carriers with Freiwilligendienst abroad you should calculate even 12 to 15 months. Which criteria apply and what the sponsor expects from you personally, can be found on the respective homepages. You can find more information and the database of volunteer positions here.

Vacation entitlement

During twelve months of full-time volunteer service, you have at least 20 days of vacation (statutory vacation entitlement). The exact number of days of your leave can still vary. Depending on the sponsor, there may be more: An FSJ at Diakonie Rheinland Westfalen Lippe, for example, comes with 30 days of vacation.


Most former volunteers have fond memories of this time. Friendships have been made, preferences have been discovered, and perhaps a career goal has been identified. For many, it's even a turning point in their lives. In the end, you are sure to be a few experiences richer. Besides, there is a chance that the federal voluntary service can be credited as a waiting semester or internship. Currently, this is still interesting for prospective freshmen who want to study a federally restricted course of study such as medicine. Either way, hands-on experience looks good on your resume.


Although some offers operate under voluntary service. In the end, however, these are fee-based providers, where – similar to Work & Travel – you have to pay money for the organization, support and advice on site. Therefore, you should always make sure that the carrier cooperates with state institutions. Rule of thumb: The larger the subsidy from the government, the smaller your personal contribution.