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Top Careers for Students Who Want to Make a Difference

Looking for a major and career path that will allow you to help others? Consider these life-changing fields for your academic and career journey.

Picking your future career can be totally overwhelming. Should you become a teacher, veterinarian, cop, dancer, or any of the other jobs you imagined when you were little?! However, though you may not know the exact career you want, you probably have at least some ideas about what you want to do with your life. Maybe you want to use your creative skills or work with children, or maybe you want to travel a lot. And maybe, like many students, you just want to help people in some way. If that sounds like you, take a look at this list of careers for people who want to make a difference in the world.

Medicine

One of the more obvious professions when it comes to helping people is medicine. Of course, depending on what area of health care you go into, it can take years of medical school and be a pretty big time, stress, and emotional drain. But there are also a lot of health and medicine–related careers that are more 9-to-5 friendly. You’ll find a lot of specific health and medicine jobs, including:

  • Athletic trainer
  • Corporate wellness leader
  • ER nurse
  • Laboratory technician
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Occupational therapy aid
  • Oral surgeon
  • Paramedic
  • Pediatrician
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physician assistant
  • Prosthetist
  • Public health educator
  • Recreational therapist

No matter what you do in the medical field, whether you’re searching for a two-year nursing certification, bachelor’s degree, or doctorate, you will always be helping people live their best lives. And to be perfectly practical about it, people are always going to need health care, so you will never have to worry about job security, and the pay is usually pretty good too.

Related: 5 Tips for High School Students Considering a Career in Medicine

Teaching

Teaching is a great profession if you want to help people, and you can truly have a life-long impact on your students. As Nelson Mandela famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Whether you want to go into elementary, secondary, or higher education, there are many opportunities to teach and empower the next generation. Most teachers can start out with a bachelor’s degree and teaching license, then work up a graduate degree later on (teaching at the college level usually requires a master’s or higher). If classroom teaching isn’t for you, there are plenty of jobs in or related to education that might fit you too, like school administration, college or emotional counseling, or working in government entities that oversee education. Some other education-related jobs include:

  • Childcare center teacher or director
  • Children’s book writer
  • College professor
  • Drug abuse counselor
  • Educator of the hearing-impaired
  • Elementary teacher
  • Learning disabilities teacher/consultant
  • School counselor
  • School psychologist
  • Social worker
  • Tutor/tutoring center director

Nonprofits

“Nonprofit” doesn’t automatically mean an organization is philanthropic, but many nonprofits are committed to serving the greater good and helping as many people as possible. They include organizations like the Red Cross, Oxfam, and World Wildlife Fund, among countless others. These organizations are great choices because not only are you helping people but get a great sense of purpose walking into work every morning. You’ll find nonprofits in a wide variety of industries—and they need workers to fill almost every professional role you can think of. So you can pursue basically whatever field is the most interesting to you and look for jobs that are the best fit for your own unique skills. Some specific examples might include:

  • Chief development officer
  • Copywriter
  • Event planner
  • Fundraiser
  • Grant writer
  • Lawyer
  • Nonprofit director/administrator
  • Office manager
  • Program manager
  • Volunteer coordinator

Related: Service Learning and the College Search

Law enforcement and armed services

Law enforcement and armed service members often put their lives on the line to help people—it doesn’t get much more selfless than that. Although it’s important to remember that you can get involved in law enforcement/criminal justice and even the military in positions that aren’t necessarily in the line of fire, and that’s okay too. In the military in particular, you can find positions related to practically any career interest, from engineers to music directors! Here are just a few examples:

  • CIA Agent
  • Coast Guard
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Criminologist
  • Emergency Management Director
  • Fish & Game Warden
  • Forensic Pathologist
  • Fraud Investigator
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • K9 Officer
  • Radar Operator
  • Sheriff
  • Special Forces Officer
  • US Marshal

You can also support the overall mission of criminal justice organizations and military outfits in administrative roles. Whether in the US or around the world, these men and women are keeping people safe everyday.

Psychology

Similar to the medical professions above, psychology is another good health-related career for people who want to help others. You can work with any specific age group, from children to adults, helping diagnose and treat psychological disorders. Or if you’d rather work on larger projects, you can pursue a career in psychology research, where your findings can help countless people. Again, you’ll find tons of specific psychology jobs; some include:

  • Alcohol/drug counselor
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Lawyer
  • Probation officer
  • Psychotherapist
  • Public health officer
  • Rehabilitation therapist
  • School counselor
  • Social service aide
  • Social worker

You can find work in psychology with a bachelor’s degree, though you may need to get a master’s or doctorate, depending on what you want to do.

Related: Major Spotlight: Psychology and Your Academic Path

Faith-based organizations

Depending on where you stand on religion, working with faith-related organizations can be another meaningful choice if you want to help others in your career, since philanthropy and community outreach are such a big part of what faith groups do. This can mean becoming a priest, pastor, rabbi, or other spiritual leader, but there are also plenty of other options if you’re not looking to stand at the front of the room. Like secular companies, religious organizations still need hire to administrative employees, like accountants, office managers, and even public relations professionals. There are also religion-based outreach and charitable organizations committed to many causes, from supporting refugees to food banks to helping the disabled, and they need help in many areas. Examples include:

  • Chaplain
  • Clergy
  • Lawyer
  • Minister
  • Missionary
  • Pastoral counselor
  • Professor of religious studies
  • Religious educator
  • School administrator
  • Social services manager
  • Social worker
  • Theological writer
  • Therapist

Government and politics

No matter what side you’re on, it’s important to remember that most politicians get into that profession because they truly want to help people and influence meaningful changes at various levels of the government. Some examples include:

  • Attorney general
  • City manager
  • Councilman/alderman
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Mayor
  • Representative
  • Secretary of state
  • Senator
  • Sheriff
  • Treasurer

You may also be able to hold some political positions part time while working in another area that interests you—that can be a lot of work, but you get to be involved in all the stuff you’re passionate about!

Related: What Can You Do With a Political Science Degree?

Whether at the local, state, or federal level, politicians get the chance to create policies that can help countless people every day. If you follow politics, are active in student organization leadership, or simply have issues you are passionate about, politics might be a good career choice for you.

Check out the tag "college majors" to read a ton more advice on finding the right major for your desired career path. 

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