When it comes to careers, people are driven by different factors. These can include financial gain, personal and professional interests, and prestige. One element that is increasingly appealing to jobseekers is finding a way to positively change society while earning a living.
Finding the right career can feel like an impossible task. But, if you want to pursue a profession that has a positive impact on the world, then you have options. Jobs that can change the world aren’t as few and far between as they may seem.
Nor do they have to be underpaid or require years and years of specialist education. Take a look at our list of inspiring jobs that give altruistic individuals a raison d’être as well as a decent living wage.
Average annual salary: $47,620 (£34,570)
If you’re fueled by determination, passionate about current affairs, and looking to do good in your community, becoming a legislator could be the answer.
Legislators have the means, by way of their position, and the resources at hand to take action where necessary. Daily, legislators are involved in policy development and decision-making that shapes society, giving them a real chance to make a difference.
You’ll need to have strong beliefs, be willing to work long hours and dedicate a lot of time and effort to your political party. Although there are no official educational requirements, many politicians hold degrees in political science, business, law, economics and philosophy.
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2. Humanitarian aid worker
Average annual salary: $34,863 (£25,300)
Someone with a desire to help people in the middle of the action could do well as a humanitarian aid worker.
When there is a critical incident somewhere in the world, charitable foundations and governmental organisations will provide aid through food, shelter, medical care, etc. To carry out this work, relief workers are sent to do the groundwork and coordinate assistance.
This can be a very demanding work with often a low remuneration. People who pursue this profession can come from all walks of life, but having a background in the medical, engineering or education sector could be greatly beneficial.
3. Environmental engineer
Average annual salary: $88,860 (£64,500)
Our modern world has brought about new problems that need tackling. One of the biggest threats to humanity at the moment is the ongoing environmental and climate emergency.
This inspiring environmental career is dedicated to finding solutions to protect the Earth’s ecosystems and enhance our quality of life. Main duties and responsibilities include reviewing regulations, analysing policies and protocols in energy management, water and waste treatment facilities and reducing overall pollution.
If you’re interested in creating a healthier future, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in civil or environmental engineering and a license to practise.
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Average annual salary: $208,000 (£151,000)
Physicians and surgeons carry out medical procedures and directly care for people within their communities. As healthcare professionals, they are tasked with examining and treating patients in need of medical attention.
Looking after peoples’ health is a truly rewarding career, and if you’re willing to put in the work, becoming a doctor will give you the best opportunity to have a positive impact on others.
In the US, prospective doctors must complete an undergraduate degree and an MD programme before joining a residency programme. You will also need to attain a medical license which will allow you to practise medicine.
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5. Fundraising specialist
Average annual salary: $57,970 (£42,100)
Fundraising specialists hold a crucial role within non-governmental and non-profit organisations; they are responsible for raising the necessary funds and donations needed to keep operations going.
This is achieved through fundraising events, campaigns and drives, and finding new donors and maintaining good relations with them.
Typically, to get into this inspirational career, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing or communications. You must also have great interpersonal skills and experience in NGO funding.
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6. Investigative journalist
Average annual salary: $62,400 (£45,300)
With the invention of fake news, it’s now more important than ever to seek out accurate information about what’s going on in the world around us.
Investigative journalists research and examine news stories around the globe to report on social issues. The work they do helps shape society by providing us with crucial information that enables us to make decisions and action plans.
An investigative journalist should show persistence and drive in their pursuit of the truth. If you’re interested in pursuing this career, you’ll need to start with a journalism degree, build up a writing portfolio and hone your writing and reporting skills.
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Average annual salary: $50,850 (£36,900)
If you’re the active type looking for a job where you can help people but keep you moving, becoming a firefighter might be right up your alley.
Firefighters spend their careers managing emergencies, responding to fires breakouts, saving lives and homes, and assisting in other accidents. They also dedicate time to educate their communities about fire prevention and help in rescue missions.
To become a firefighter, you’ll need to have a high school diploma and complete training at a fire academy as well as obtain an EMT certification.
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8. Police officer
Average annual salary: $65,170 (£47,300)
Another active and rewarding career is that of the police officer. The police play a vital role in society, as they are tasked with keeping communities safe and preventing and investigating crimes. Additionally, police officers often educate members of the public through outreach programmes.
To be a part of the police force, you’ll need to complete your high school education and enrol in a police academy to receive relevant training.
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9. Emergency medical technician
Average annual salary: $35,400 (£26,000)
As first responders, EMTs and paramedics are trained to issue first aid and life-support care in emergencies. They are the first people on the scene in a critical incident, and their job is to treat and triage individuals in need of medical assistance.
EMTs are caring, responsible professionals who make life-and-death decisions daily. It is certainly not a job for the faint-hearted and requires excellent critical thinking and communication skills.
To work as an EMT or paramedic, you’ll need to complete different levels of training. There are three levels, to be exact: EMT-basic, EMT-intermediate, paramedic.
10. High school teacher
Average annual salary: $61,660 (£44,700)
Adolescents going through high school are at a crucial time in their lives. Having a good teacher throughout this period is especially important and will influence their teenage experience and perhaps even their future.
A high school teacher’s main responsibility is to prepare their students for the next step, help them develop as individuals, and find their calling. Teaching involves a lot more responsibilities than imparting knowledge on a specific subject.
To help shape the minds of the next generation, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in your preferred area of expertise and attain an official teaching qualification and training, depending on where you are based.
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11. Policy analyst
Average annual salary: $59,500 (£43,200)
Policy specialists are tasked with researching, analysing, and evaluating policies in specific areas such as immigration, human rights and the environment. They use their findings to influence policies and push for necessary changes and amendments by briefing policymakers and legislators.
This is a role that requires sharp analytical and research skills, solid knowledge around policy areas, and a good grasp of economics, politics and current event trends.
To pursue this position, you’ll need an undergraduate degree in political science, policy-making or law, and experience in the policy area you want to focus on.
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12. Occupational therapist
Average annual salary: $84,950 (£61,700)
Another essential healthcare profession is that of an occupational therapist (OT).
OTs use everyday activities (occupations) to help individuals with disabilities or people recovering from injury to regain skills and cope with physical and cognitive changes.
They spend their time reviewing and evaluating their patients’ conditions and guiding them through a treatment plan. Occupational therapists positively impact patients and their families by helping their patients regain autonomy in performing daily activities.
To work in this field, you’ll need a master’s degree as well as a license to practise.
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13. Social worker
Average annual salary: $50,470 (£36,640)
Caring, resourceful individuals might find the work of the social worker extremely rewarding.
Social workers can support vulnerable groups and individuals by assessing their needs and improving their living conditions. These groups include families, children, refugees, trauma patients, victims of domestic violence and more.
If this sounds like your ideal way to give back to the community, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work and register as a social worker. Given this field’s nature, social workers must also keep up with professional training throughout their careers.
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Average annual salary: $73,300 (£53,200)
Nursing is an ideal career if you are a compassionate person who wants to help others.
While doctors diagnose and prescribe treatment to patients, nurses must monitor, administer medication and check vital signs, among other duties. Indeed, nurses play a key role within any medical facility.
However, this is a demanding and stressful position which requires both mental and physical stamina. To pursue this career, formal education is necessary. This will include attaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and, in some cases, a Master of Science in Nursing before obtaining a licence and choosing your speciality.
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15. Grant writer
Average annual salary: $48,860 (£35,500)
If you have a way with words and are looking for ways to use your talents for good, you consider becoming a grant writer. Non-profit organisations, charitable foundations and researchers have a great need for these professionals as they are essential for securing funding and furthering the work of many institutions.
Grant writers spend their time writing grant proposals and funding requests to convince potential donors to offer financial support.
To tap into this profession, you’ll need to have a degree in a relevant field such as English literature, communications, marketing or journalism.
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Average annual salary: $74,740 (£54,200)
Lobbyists often work for NGOs, private or public companies, governmental agencies or other institutions.
Their role involves influencing legislation by swaying the support of politicians and citizens for specific matters by providing them with information and statistics that favour the interests they represent. Their main mission is to campaign for specific policies or legislation and convince legislators to back up their case.
To succeed as a lobbyist, you need a bachelor’s degree in political science, journalism, communications or public relations and excellent research and persuasion skills.
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Average annual salary: $62,410 (£45,300)
A career as a conservationist enables you to protect the Earth for future generations.
Through this position, you have the responsibility to protect and maintain natural habitats. To achieve this, you must ensure compliance of regulations, find solutions that will prevent damage to natural areas and gather important data to advise on new policies.
To get ahead as a conservationist, you’ll need to complete a degree in a field such as environmental or agricultural sciences, geology, forestry or biology.
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18. Sustainability consultant
Average annual salary: $67,520 (£49,000)
As we become more aware of our ecological footprint, industries such as retail and tourism, are slowly beginning to develop more sustainable processes.
Consequently, sustainability experts are in-demand. Their role involves helping organisations adapt their processes and plans to comply with sustainability legislation. By evaluating and improving company practices, sustainability consultants can create a cleaner future.
To take on such as role, you’d need to have a background in areas such as environmental science, estate management and civil engineering as they will provide you with the necessary knowledge to perform your duties.
Average annual salary: $95,380 (£69,200)
By studying weather conditions, we’re able to understand and accurately predict natural phenomena. This allows us to better prepare for natural disasters and even save lives.
Thanks to the work of meteorologists, who analyse climate patterns and data, and forecast the weather, people around the world have been able to prevent major tragedies and stay safe from extreme weather events.
To get started, a bachelor’s degree in meteorology, environmental science, geography or a related discipline is essential to tap into this influential field.
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Average annual salary: $80,370 (£58,300)
Another way to make the world a better place is by helping people work through challenging situations and circumstances. Through therapy, many people learn to overcome serious mental health issues and deal with trauma effectively.
Undoubtedly, psychologists play a major role in the health sector. They assess and diagnose individuals and advice on specific treatments through therapy and medication.
Most psychologists must have a master’s degree as a minimum and usually specialise in a certain area. It’s also necessary to have a license to practise.
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Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to change careers and pursue a more satisfying vocation, there are numerous jobs that will allow you to make a positive difference. Whether you want to improve your local community or assist worldwide organisations, you can change people’s lives for the better through your work.
Which of these careers can you see yourself in? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 5 June 2015.
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 9 February 2021.