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Your guide to national civil service in France

Learn about the programs available, how to apply, and more.

6 min read

Are you under 25 and looking to spend some time in public service? If so, then signing up for a  national civil service post might be for you! To get a leg up on the competition, read our guide for all the practical information you need to kick off your civil service.

What is national civil service?

National civil service (Service civique in French) is a form of volunteering for young adults set up by the government in 2010. After compulsory military service was suspended in 1998, the program was set up to help young people get involved in a months-long mission that served their country. The idea is to help young citizens develop their skills, get them thinking about their professional future, and offer support to their community.

Interested? Here are some of the areas where you could get involved in civil projects:

  • Leisure and culture
  • International development and humanitarian aid 
  • Education (for all ages)
  • The environment
  • Emergency crisis response
  • Remembrance and citizenship
  • Health
  • Solidarity volunteering overseas
  • Sport
  • European citizenship

Missions can range from raising awareness about recycling to helping disadvantaged youth through sports or culture. Each volunteer is assigned a mentor who makes sure their volunteer experience runs smoothly and helps them with their next steps after their service period comes to an end.

It’s important to note that the work you do through national civil service should be a complement to the work of the employees or volunteers at the organization you join. Essentially, you commit to a project that supports initiatives already in place, or help to launch a new initiative entirely. This means that you won’t be allowed to do tasks related to running the organization—such as administration, human resources, etc.

There are also other types of volunteering that are recognized as national civil service, including:

  • Civil service volunteering for those over 25
  • European Solidarity Corps volunteering (formerly the European Voluntary Service)
  • Volunteer firefighting
  • International solidarity volunteering, where volunteers carry out general interest missions in developing countries
  • International administrative volunteering, for those looking to gain experience in state services abroad
  • International corporate volunteering, for those who work in a French company abroad.

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Who is eligible for national civil service?

One of the specific features of national civil service is that it’s open to all young people—no qualifications required. The only criteria is to be between 16 and 25 years of age, or up to 30 for those with disabilities. Making these posts accessible regardless of participants’ qualifications is part of a push for championing diversity, as was the case with the former military service.

To apply for a national civil service contract, you’ll need to provide a copy of your ID document (French or European) or a French residence permit. For minors, parental authorization is also required.

How long does national civil service last?

National civil service lasts anywhere from six to 12 months. If your contract is for less than 12 months, you can extend it up to 12 months in total.

Your weekly commitment to your project should be between 24 hours and 48 hours over a maximum of six days. For minors, this commitment is reduced to 35 hours over five days. This restriction makes it possible to combine national civil service with your studies or part-time work.

How many times can you do your national civil service?

You can only participate in the French national civil service once.

How do you find a national civil service project?

National civil service can be carried out at associations, foundations, federations, or public institutions. To apply, you’ll need to register on the Service Civique website. Feel like embarking on an adventure abroad? While you can perform your national civil service anywhere in France, there are also international missions on offer.

How do you write a cover letter to apply for a national civil service post?

Your cover letter is especially important for landing a national civil service assignment, as highly motivated candidates with the best skills tend to get chosen. In the same way that finding a first job or a job as a student isn’t always easy, getting a national civil service gig can be difficult when you don’t have much work experience. To give yourself the best possible chance, here are some tips for writing a letter that stands out from your competition:

  • Highlight your soft skills. Prioritize skills that are focused on the way you conduct yourself. Autonomy, adaptability, creativity, and team spirit are some especially sought after “soft skills” in the world of work. Remember to illustrate your skills with concrete examples.
  • Take care with your wording. Cover letters are often impersonal, as they tend to copy ready-made templates and turns of phrase. Don’t fall into this trap—be sincere in your writing. Take your time to read the ad carefully so you can tailor your letter to it, and be sure to highlight the values ​​that have led you to apply.
  • Avoid sentences longer than two lines. Any longer, and your letter could end up in the rejection pile! 

Do you get paid for your national civil service?

Civil service volunteers have a special status defined in the National Service Code. They’re not employees or interns, or “typical” volunteers. So, civil service volunteers don’t get a salary, strictly speaking, but they do receive an allowance.

The national civil service allowance is a minimum of €580.62 per month, broken down as follows:

  • €473.04 per month is paid by the government, regardless of the number of hours undertaken.
  • €107.58 per month is paid by the host organization, whether in cash or in kind. This sum can be used to cover the costs of food or transport. For example, it can be applied to restaurant vouchers or to the use of the organization’s canteen.

In addition to this basic allowance, national civil service volunteers who receive RSA benefits, or belong to a household that receives them—or who are 5th level scholarship students or higher—also receive €107.68 per month. In this case, the total amount comes out to €688.30. Volunteers are also entitled to two days off per month.

It’s also worth noting that your national civil service contract entitles you to state-funded social welfare. And, since the allowance isn’t classed as income, it’s not subject to income tax. It can also be combined with other social benefits, such as housing benefits.

Does your national civil service allowance count toward your pension?

Yes—the period of national civil service counts toward your pension contributions.

Now you’ve got all the information you need to find a national civil service assignment. Are you a student? Get all our practical tips in our dedicated student section.

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