While rural America does encompass small cities and towns, the distinguishing characteristic is the vast geographic area covered.
Did you know? Rural America covers 83 percent of the nation's land. That is over four-fifth's of the country! Sixty-five million people live in rural America.
The overriding issues facing the rural United States include the following (though not all regions face all issues):
Sometimes one issue must be addressed before another can be. For example, telemedicine is a potential solution for improving health care in rural areas, but in order to implement telemedicine practices, an area must first have Internet capabilities.
Many of the challenges facing rural communities lie in the scarcity of businesses in sparsely populated areas, lack of public transportation, limited manpower and a small voice in government at all levels.
Most rural places fall along a continuum, from near-urban areas dealing with urban sprawl and land use issues, to frontier areas where there is no change, no growth and limited resources.
Did you know? There are over 3.11 million miles of rural highways in the U.S. or 78.8 percent of all roads!
Patrick Lewis, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity in Casper, Wyo. feels the three main challenges facing rural non-profit providers are the distances between communities and providers, the lack of resources within agencies and communities, and inexperienced board members.
These are just the issues and challenges facing the United States. These same issues and challenges are much greater on the global scale. They are often intensified by political unrest, cultural conflict and restrictions, difficult geographies and terrain, and extremely scare resources.
Given the scope of rural issues and the diversity of geographic locations, there are numerous types of jobs in numerous settings beyond the for-profit sector.
Opportunities exist at all levels of government — federal, state, county, tribal and local — and in non-profit organizations across the country and internationally.
You can provide direct service, work on administrative or management levels, conduct research, work with public policy, work with people, work behind the scenes, work to raise awareness, or work carrying out initiatives.
It is not unrealistic for a new college graduate to be hired as an executive director in a small rural non-profit, although this would require extensive volunteer or other work experience.
Within a rural setting you have the opportunity to be anything you want to be and often have an opportunity to quickly become involved at the regional and national level within the organization.
According to Patrick Lewis, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Casper, WY, the key is to stick it out longer than two years to see the payoff. Eighty percent of executive directors within their organization last 18 months, 15 percent last five years and 5 percent last 15 years, according to Lewis.
The scope of settings available from Alaska to Florida; California to New York is large, in a wide variety of agencies. These jobs may be in very isolated areas, such as an Indian reservation in a remote area of Washington or may be in the Mississippi Delta or Midwest farm belt.
A short list of jobs related to rural life might include:
As in many non-profit settings, the emphasis is usually on getting the job done and not the title. This is often the case in the rural setting, where there is a close community of providers.
Because of the scope of opportunities available many majors will be direct fits or easily adaptable to the positions.
Students interested in business applications might consider rural development, economic development, housing, workforce training, organizing, marketing, accounting, management positions or agencies involved in these issues.
Students interested in science applications might consider agencies working with environmental issues, agricultural issues, and water issues.
Students interested in engineering and technology might consider opportunities working with transportation, energy coops, Internet connectivity, and Internet support.
Students interested in the health care areas will find a huge demand for their services in rural health, rural mental health, health education, advocacy, community coordination, geriatrics, and telemedicine. Because of the huge demand for health care professionals in rural areas, many agencies, hospitals and clinics offer educational load repayment assistance, scholarship programs, tax credits and the opportunity for longevity bonuses to new college graduates.
Students interested in education will find opportunities in rural schools, head start programs and with government affiliated schools such as those found on Indian reservations.
Students with writing and language skills will find opportunities with numerous agencies. There are many opportunities in grant writing, research, public policy and working with populations where English is a second language.
Because many rural communities have an agricultural base, there are opportunities at federal, county and state levels, and there are also opportunities with universities, and with non-profit non-government agencies.