Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace

Book Review by Mason Murphy

Smith, D. J. (2016). Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Available in paperback, hardcover and Kindle editions.  206 pages.


A peace job can be defined as working in mediation, peace education, or humanitarian assistance.  Many students view a peace job as being a diplomat overseas or working in an embassy or consulate.  These types of positions can seem unattainable to a college student, who might not see a clear path for attaining such a position.  David J. Smith has over 30 years of experience in peacebuilding, mediation, and civic and global education.  In this book, Smith uses his extensive experience to broaden the career pathways and options for students to find success in the field of peacebuilding.  He includes 30 profiles of young professionals working in the field and a list of 86 jobs that provide involvement in peace work.


Peacebuilding can be conducted at the local level through organizations that coordinate programming and violence prevention for youth.  Traditional programs are available to students such as joining the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or the American Red Cross.  Students can have a role in bringing about peace from the beginning of their college experience. 


Smith’s strengths are showcased through the unique organizations he profiles in the text in connection to the student success stories that he uses as examples.  The career resources and job titles are useful references for career counselors as well.


Smith profiles very familiar organizations like Model United Nations, the American Red Cross, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Doctors Without Borders, as well as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the Fulbright Program.  In addition, he profiles organizations that might not be as well known to students.  The student success stories that are presented demonstrate that students do not have to major in traditional academic fields such as political science, public administration, public policy, or international affairs to gain internships or have a successful career in peacebuilding.


By putting a spotlight on lesser known organizations, Smith provides tools for career professionals.  Career counselors can use this text with students who are exploring majors, in an internship search, beginning to network, in a job search, or exploring graduate school options.  This book is a practical resource for career counselors because they can point to specific chapters which can guide students based on their interests and major.    


Some Organizations Profiled:


United States Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution is an organization underneath the Udall Foundation which awards scholarships, fellowships, and internships in the areas of environmentalism, health care and public policy.  Students interested in internships with this organization can major in agriculture, geography, sociology, social work, and philosophy.


Rotary Peace Fellowship Program is conducted through Rotary International and the organization provides opportunities for graduate students and working professionals to study peace education.  The fellowship gives them a hands-on international training opportunity in mediation and mitigation.  The program accepts majors such as consumer sciences, communication studies, theater, and chemistry.


The International Rescue Committee works to aid and assist refugee populations such as the citizens of Syria.  The organization’s mission is to support both humanitarian and health related issues.  Students can study traditional majors such as nursing and political science, but can also major in such fields as human resource management, supply chain management, and finance.  Organizations like this need both operations management and infrastructure support so health care and aid workers can seamlessly assist refugee populations.


The Critical Language Scholarship Program is an organization that provides immersion opportunities for students to study abroad with a focus on linguistics training.  The program focuses on Chinese and Arabic languages.  Students can study electrical engineering, industrial engineering, architecture, and anthropology and be successful in this program.  The merger of both technical and language skills can make students very marketable in working in the area of peacebuilding. 


The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an organization that provides opportunities for journalism majors, but other skill sets are needed in this critical area of reporting.  Students majoring in film production, media studies, public relations, advertising, and art can find internships and full-time positions.  Crisis reporting is about getting the story and messaging that creates awareness, and a variety of majors are essential in doing this type of work.


These organizations profiled give students and career counselors the opportunity to think outside of the box about what students can do with their major and interests, but also illustrate different routes to a career path in public service, in general, and peacebuilding, in particular. 


A potential weakness of the text is that readers beyond the college and university setting might find that the book does not apply directly to them or their population.  School counselors might not find the book age-appropriate for their clients because the success stories featured focus on community college and four-year university graduates.  Private practice counselors might feel that the career pathways illustrated throughout the text are for entry-level workers instead of seasoned professionals who could make up their client base.  However, the career resources and job titles listed in the appendixes are useful tools for any population.


The author, David J. Smith, has over 30 years of experience in peacebuilding, mediation, civic and global education.  David J. Smith is the President of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc.  He was formerly a senior program officer and coordinator for national outreach at the U.S. Institute for Peace.  He currently teaches at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. He may be contacted at davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com.He authored a previous article in Career Convergence: “Starting a Career Building Peace.”


Mason Murphy 2016Mason Murphy, MEd, MPA, works as a Career Counselor at Texas State University. He is visually impaired and holds an MEd in College Student Affairs, an MPA in Public Administration, and is pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. His research interests include international students and students with disabilities.  Mason also serves as Co-Associate Editor for the Workplaces department of NCDA’s Career Convergence web magazine.  He may be contacted at mmm210@txstate.edu.




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Paul Timmins   on Monday 02/06/2017 at 10:04 PM

Thanks for this book review, Mason -- it sounds like a resource that would really interest many of the liberal arts students I support in my college.

Brian Montalvo   on Tuesday 02/07/2017 at 08:15 AM

Excellent book review Mason!

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