What to Study When You Want a Job That Helps People

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You’ve been in the workforce for some time now, but you have never been satisfied with your work. Though you might earn enough in salary and enjoy a stable and even successful career, there has always been something missing — and you’ve finally identified it: you want to do good.

While millions of Americans toil away at work every day, few can honestly say their work has a consistently positive impact on people’s lives. If you want to change careers to an occupation that genuinely helps people, you probably need to return to school. Here are a few fields of study that will ensure you a career filled with good works.


Medical professionals devote their lives to ensuring that people are as healthy as possible. Physical and mental health are imperative for a sense of well-being, which leads to happiness and success, so medical professionals are necessary for building strong individuals and a strong community. Though medical doctors are the most recognizable medical professionals, the medical field also includes nurses, equipment technicians and administrators all working in concert to improve patients’ lives.

These various career paths have great diversity in their requirements for practice; for example, M.D.s pursue a grueling four-year doctorate followed by years of internships and residencies, but medical lab techs can be certified in under a year. You should be able to find an occupation in medicine that utilizes your strengths, requires an appropriate amount of training and allows you to help people in need.

Social Work

Social work is an umbrella term that describes a wide variety of activities; one social worker might help children in low-income neighborhoods find resources to succeed in school while another social worker might mediate group therapy in a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation facility. Many social workers venture into dangerous situations, such as households plagued by abuse, but some see clients in controlled environments, like a hospital or office.

Arguably the most selfless line of work, social work puts you in direct contact with struggling individuals and populations who desperately need your assistance. All social workers generously give their time and energy to helping others solve serious life problems. You can become a social worker with almost any bachelor’s degree, but you might look into online MSW programs to advance your career and make a greater positive impact.


Counseling is like a combination of medicine and social work. Indeed, some social workers eventually transition into counseling careers, and some counselors get started on medical school paths. However, regardless of a counselor’s origins, her objective is clear: develop mental, emotional and behavioral health and well-being in her clients.

There are differing levels of counseling services. Licensed counselors can have nearly any undergraduate degree as long as they pursue a graduate degree in counseling and earn licensure from their region. There are many different types of graduate degrees in counseling you can pursue, but if you are interested in working with students, you can learn more about earning a master’s in school counseling at this website. Psychologists tend to have doctorate degrees in psychology as well as appropriate state credentials, and psychiatrists are trained in medical school and capable of prescribing medication to their clients. Each type of counselor has different advantages for clients, so you should plan your studies according to your desires for providing aid.


While other caring professionals receive unending praise — and, often, high pay — there is one group that is often overlooked: teachers. In all likelihood, you have enjoyed the fruits of teachers’ labor; you have learned a wealth of information thanks to their diligent instruction, and you will find success in your life thanks to them. Most teachers assist thousands of students during their careers, meaning they do some of the most good of any caring professional.

You can work as an educator in a number of institutions, from K-12 schools to universities to hospitals to prisons. You can work with young learners or nontraditional students. You can even travel abroad to teach desperate students in other countries. The requirements to become a teacher are relatively low — just a bachelor’s degree in education and certification — so you can become a teacher and start impacting lives fast.

Political Science

In theory, a politician is supposed to work for public good. The reason we have mayors and governors, senators and representatives, is to build a society and a system that benefits the majority — if not the entirety — of the public. Though history is filled with examples of non-altruistic politicians, it is possible to function in the public sphere as a force for good.

If you want to be effective in politics and work toward a healthier and happier public, you might begin by studying political science and eventually pursuing a degree in law. In truth, anyone from any field can run for office, but you should strive to be educated in important issues and prepared to do the utmost to help your constituents.

Doing good isn’t always easy, even when it is your job. However, devoting yourself to a career in which you are poised to make a positive impact on the world is a good first step to becoming a good person who does good things.


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