20 Inspiring Jobs for People Who Want to Change the World

Make a difference (and a living).

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

People with jobs trying to change the work holding 'Keep the Ocean Clean' poster

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.

1. Legislator


What they earn: $71,100/year

What they do: Legislators have the means and resources at hand to take action where necessary. They’re involved in policy development and decision-making that shapes society, giving them a real chance to make a difference.

How to become: You’ll need to 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.

2. Humanitarian aid worker

What they earn: $39,280/year

What they do: When there is a critical incident somewhere in the world, charitable foundations and government organizations will provide aid through food, shelter and medical care. To carry out this work, relief workers are sent to do the groundwork and coordinate assistance.

How to become: This can be very demanding work with often low remuneration. People who pursue this profession can come from all walks of life, but having a background in the medical, engineering or education sectors could be greatly beneficial.

3. Environmental engineer

What they earn: $96,530/year

What they do: Our modern world is constantly faced with problems that need tackling, such as the ongoing climate emergency. This environmental career is dedicated to protecting the Earth’s ecosystems and enhancing our quality of life. Their main responsibilities include reviewing regulations, analyzing policies and protocols in energy management, water and waste treatment facilities, and reducing pollution.

How to become: If you’re interested in this profession, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in civil or environmental engineering and a license to practice.

4. Physician


What they earn: $229,300/year

What they do: As healthcare professionals, physicians are tasked with examining and treating patients in need of medical attention. This makes for 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.

How to become: Aspiring doctors must complete an undergraduate degree and an MD program before joining a residency program. They also need a medical license which allows them to practice medicine.

5. Fundraising specialist

What they earn: $124,450/year

What they do: Fundraising specialists hold a crucial role in non-governmental and non-profit organizations; they are responsible for raising the necessary funds and donations to keep operations going, by organizing events and establishing and maintaining good relations with donors.

How to become: Typically, to land this career, you need a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing or communications. You must also have great interpersonal skills and experience in NGO funding.

6. Investigative journalist

What they earn: $55,960/year

What they do: 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.

How to become: An investigative journalist should show persistence and drive in their pursuit of the truth. If you’re interested in this career, you’ll need to start with a journalism degree, build up a writing portfolio, and hone your writing and reporting skills.

7. Firefighter


What they earn: $51,680/year

What they do: If you’re looking for an active job that also entails daily acts of kindness, becoming a firefighter might be right up your alley. Firefighters spend their careers managing emergencies, responding to fire breakouts, saving lives and homes, and assisting in other accidents. They also dedicate time to educating their communities on fire prevention methods.

How to become: To become a firefighter, you’ll need to have a high school diploma and complete training at a fire academy, plus obtain an EMT certification.

8. Police officer

What they earn: $71,380/year

What they do: Another active and rewarding career is that of the police officer. They play a vital role in society, keeping communities safe and preventing and investigating crimes. Additionally, police officers often educate members of the public through outreach programs.

How to become: To work for the police force, you’ll need to complete your high school education and enroll in a police academy to receive relevant training.

9. Emergency medical technician

What they earn: $37,395/year

What they do: As first responders, EMTs and paramedics are trained to issue first aid and life-support care in emergencies. They’re the first people on the scene in a critical incident, and their job is to treat and triage individuals in need of medical assistance.

How to become: To work as an EMT, you’ll need to complete different levels of training. Specifically, there are three levels: EMT-basic, EMT-intermediate, and paramedic. You’ll also need to demonstrate resilience and excellent critical thinking and communication skills.

10. High school teacher

High School Teacher

What they earn: $62,360/year

What they do: Teaching adolescents involves a lot more than imparting knowledge on a specific subject: you are preparing students for their next steps, helping them develop as individuals and find their calling. In other words, you’re shaping young minds, which is a huge responsibility yet extremely rewarding.

How to become: To become a teacher, you’ll typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree in your preferred area of expertise and attain an official teaching qualification and training.

11. Policy analyst

What they earn: $65,306/year

What they do: Policy specialists research, analyze and evaluate policies in areas like immigration, human rights and the environment. They use their findings to push for necessary changes and amendments by briefing policymakers and legislators.

How to become: This role requires sharp analytical and research skills, solid knowledge around policy areas, and a good grasp of economics, politics and current event trends. To pursue it, you’ll need an undergraduate degree in political science, policy making or law, and relevant experience.

12. Occupational therapist

What they earn: $93,180/year

What they do: Another essential healthcare profession is that of the occupational therapist. Occupational therapists use everyday activities to help individuals with disabilities or people recovering from injury to regain skills and cope with physical and cognitive changes, regaining their autonomy.

How to become: To work in occupational therapy, the first step you’ll typically need to take is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare or STEM field. Then, you’ll need a master’s degree as well as a license to practice.

13. Social worker

Social Worker

What they earn: $55,350/year

What they do: Social workers support vulnerable groups and individuals by assessing their needs and improving their living conditions. These groups include families, children, refugees, trauma patients and victims of domestic violence.

How to become: If this sounds like your ideal way to give back to your 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.

14. Nurse

What they earn: $81,220/year

What they do: While doctors diagnose and prescribe treatment to patients, nurses must monitor their health, administer medication and check vital signs, among other duties. Indeed, nurses play a key role within any medical facility.

How to become: To pursue a career in nursing, formal education is necessary, as well as mental and physical stamina. Attaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing is necessary (though, in some cases, a master’s degree is needed, too) before you can obtain a license and choose your specialty.

15. Grant writer

What they earn: $51,838/year

What they do: If you want to use your writing talent to make a difference, consider becoming a grant writer. Non-profit organizations, charitable foundations and researchers have a great need for these professionals, as they are essential for furthering the work of many institutions: they write grant proposals and funding requests to convince potential donors to offer financial support.

How to become: To tap into this profession, you’ll need to have a degree in a relevant field such as English literature, communications, marketing or journalism.

16. Lobbyist


What they earn: $89,650/year

What they do: Lobbyists work for NGOs, private or public companies, government agencies, and 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 favor the interests they represent.

How to become: 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.

17. Conservationist

What they earn: $64,460/year

What they do: As a conservationist, you have the responsibility to protect and maintain natural habitats. To achieve this, you must ensure compliance with regulations, find solutions that will prevent damage to natural areas, and gather important data to advise on new policies.

How to become: To pursue a career in conservation and protect the Earth for future generations, you’ll need to complete a degree in a field such as environmental or agricultural sciences, geology, forestry or biology.

18. Sustainability consultant

What they earn: $71,833/year

What they do: 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. They help organizations adapt their processes and plans to comply with sustainability legislation. By doing this, they contribute to the creation of a cleaner future.

How to become: To take on this role, you need to have a background in an area like environmental science, estate management or civil engineering.

19. Meteorologist


What they earn: $83,780/year

What they do: By studying weather conditions, we’re able to understand and predict natural phenomena. This allows us to prepare for natural disasters and save lives. Thanks to the work of meteorologists, who analyze 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.

How to become: A bachelor’s degree in meteorology, environmental science, geography or a related discipline is essential to tap into this rewarding profession.

20. Psychologist

What they earn: $85,330/year

What they do: Another way to make the world a better place is by helping people work through challenging situations. Through therapy, individuals learn to overcome serious mental health issues and live more fulfilling lives. Undoubtedly, psychologists play a major role in the health sector. They assess and diagnose individuals and advise on specific treatments through therapy and medication.

How to become: Most psychologists must have a master’s degree as a minimum, and usually specialize in a certain area. It’s also necessary to have a license to practice.

Careers to Change the World

Final thoughts

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. If you want to improve your local community or assist worldwide organizations, 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!

Originally published on June 5, 2015. Contains contributions by Emma Harris.