So you want to help other people?
According to a survey by the non-profit group The Conference Board, the majority of Americans are unhappy with their current job.
However, a similar study by the University of Madison-Wisconsin shows helping others at work makes us happier.
It’s no wonder, then, that the National Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates the human services industry is “projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.”
How to Get Paid for Helping Other People
The best jobs in the world are where you are helping other people and getting paid for your efforts. What could be better than help the less fortunate in this world whilst you are keeping yourself looked after at the same time.
If this is something you’re interested in, then this article might just be for you.
In this article, we’ll explore a few jobs positioned in and around the growing field of human services, and discuss their benefits, drawbacks and degree requirements.
1. Social Worker
Social workers assist people facing difficult stages in their life to develop coping strategies that allow them to rejoin society.
Clinical social workers assist those struggling with psychological or behavioural issues, while child and family social workers help to safeguard the well-being of children and ensure the stability and happiness of their home-environment.
Benefits: A direct link between you and individuals most in need. A chance to do real societal good at the community level.
Drawbacks: The emotional toll that this career takes is unmatched. Seeing clients suffer through the legal system or not getting available resources will be hugely disappointing.
Requirements: Licensing requirements vary by state, and some states have multiple levels of licensure, but most require at least a bachelor’s degree in social work.
2. Substance Abuse/Behavioral Counselor
Substance abuse and behavioral counselors help those suffering from addictive diseases (e.g. drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling addiction or eating disorders) to deal with their symptoms, overcome their problems, and return to a normal life.
Benefits: A wide range of potential employers, from rehab treatment centers to prisons to community health clinics.
Drawbacks: A high work-load, which can lead to a thin work-life balance and general exhaustion/burn-out.
Requirements: Varies by state and position, though generally requires at least a high school diploma with extensive on-the-job training. More advanced roles are typically reserved for those holding a bachelor’s or master’s in fields like psychology or counseling.
3. School Counselor
School counselors work specifically with children and youth, acting as a guiding hand and caring presence in the lives of students. For younger grades, counselors help students to develop the crucial social skills needed for academic success.
For higher grades, counselors often double as career advisors and help students to prepare for college and adult life.
Benefits: The opportunity to work for a wide range of educational institutions, both public and private, from kindergarten to the early college level.
Drawbacks: Workload dependent on state and federal education budgets. Not enough time in the day to provide every student with the assistance they could benefit from.
Requirements: Typically requires a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, e.g. psychology.
4. Human Resources
If dealing with abuse and at-risk children sounds a little daunting, you might consider the private-sector side of human services: a career in human resources.
Human resource specialists serve the needs of private companies, helping to interview, place and train employees, as well as ensuring those employees are happy, properly paid and protected from abuse.
HR specialists also ensure an employer, and in particular other members of management, remain in compliance with state and federal labor laws.
Benefits: A 9-to-5 setting with clearly delineated work-life boundaries, and typically a management-level position.
Drawbacks: Mid-level management, so generally a thankless job. When things go right, no one notices. When things go wrong, the HR manager is held accountable. In addition, it requires a large amount of administrative paperwork.
Requirements: Most employers look for at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources, though similar degrees or equivalent work-experience can sometimes serve as an effective point of entry.
5. Life Coach
Don’t let sketchy self-help books or sales-y figures like Tony Robbins put you off: Becoming a life coach is a legitimate career encompassing a broad variety of positions.
Life coaches generally hold a degree in counseling psychology, but may also have a degree in an area of specialty, e.g. business.
Life coaches help teach their clients the tools of decision making and introspection required to manage the stresses of everyday life — from business to personal relationships — by breaking things down into actionable steps and clear goals.
Benefits: Typically a self-employed position with the freedom to work remotely, on one’s own schedule, and from a roster of personally selected clients.
Drawbacks: Like any form of self-employment, it can be difficult to establish oneself as an authority or gain a reliable rotation of clients. Thanks to high-gloss marketing campaigns by big names, can often be seen as somewhat shady, with life coaches maligned as snake-oil salesmen.
Requirements: Generally requires a degree in some field of psychology to approach work competently and establish credibility. Degrees in other fields may serve to help inform additional areas of specialization.
6. Teaching English Abroad
Teaching English as a foreign language to non-native speakers in other countries is an exciting career in an expanding field.
Instructors are typically employed by language instruction companies, which provide pre-designed curricula, a decent salary, and room and board.
Benefits: Little/no degree requirements with many companies. Opportunity for travel. Salary often increases depending on remoteness of posting, e.g. rural Saudi Arabia will pay much more than suburban Japan.
Drawbacks: Generally operate on a time-based contract, with penalties for early resignation. In addition, absent a degree in education or human services, may not offer transferability upon attempting to transition to a “normal” career at a later date.
Requirements: High school degree, willingness to relocate, and the ability to sign an annual contract.
7. Funeral Service Worker
Most people forget to realize that the funeral industry is also in fact, a service-based career. The funeral profession is an under-appreciated career option that is truly for those who care to lessen the grief of others.
Benefits: Help provide support to the bereaved during their first stages of grief. It will allow you to exhibit sensitivity and compassion for the people you work with. It’s also a way for you to translate your tolerance of how people of different faiths or cultures practice their beliefs.
Drawbacks: Work is stressful because of the emotional toll that comes with working in the death service. It might be easy to get pulled into the whole narrative of dying, as well as the potential to feel a heavy burden of sadness when the death is tragic and unexpected. The hours can be long, and you have to be on call during nights as well as weekends.
Requirements: An Associate’s degree, and passing a state and/or national board licensing exam. Many states require higher educational standards for funeral directors to maintain their license.
8. Adult Literacy Teacher
Whether you want to specialize in teaching adults who come from different cultures to speak English as a second language, or adults who just never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write, you can help your students learn a valuable skill that could potentially be life changing.
Benefits: You will be teaching people who genuinely have the desire to learn. You can choose the type of environment you want to work in – community colleges, community organizations, prisons, or even public schools.
Drawbacks: Abnormal schedule since adults generally work during the day, the classes must be offered outside of regular working hours.
Requirements: A bachelor’s degree in education is required to work as an adult literacy teacher in most states.
Start Helping Today
With a broad range of cross-transferable degrees, industries and applications, if you’re seeking a career change and want to help others, a job in human services may be just the help you need.
To get started, consult O*Net Online, or NCES’s College Navigator Tool to find programs near you.
It’s also worth considering the less explored career options of the service industry. The funeral profession is an under-appreciated career option that is truly for those who care to lessen the grief of others.