How to Choose a Career That Makes a Difference

For many recent college graduates, finding a fulfilling job that pays the bills isn’t enough. They want a career that also makes a difference in the world. If you are looking for a first job or making a career change, there are lots of meaningful job possibilities. It doesn’t matter if your degree is Global Studies or Mathematics, you can find a job that makes the world a better place.

Highest Paying, Highest Satisfaction Careers

Payscale, a Seattle, Washington, company that collects employment data, conducted a survey from July 2012 to July 2013. The survey measured both job satisfaction and salaries. Using the compiled data, Payscale published a “25 Most Meaningful Jobs That Pay Well” list in August of 2013. Not surprisingly, individuals in the healthcare industry scored highest on both job satisfaction and pay scale. The most meaningful and highest paid job was the neurosurgeon. Cardiothoracic surgeon and anesthesiologist ranked second and third respectively. Health care workers at all pay levels expressed extreme satisfaction and said their work was very meaningful. Other highest paid, highest meaningful professions on the list  included veterinarian, certified nurse midwife, deputy fire chief and speech-language pathologist.

There were some surprises in the survey results. Number seven on the list was CEO. Most executive jobs ranked low on the meaningful scale, but 82 percent of the CEOs surveyed said their job makes the world a better place. In a couple of other surprises, restaurant owners came in at number 20 and realtors at 21.

Meaningful Jobs, But Less Pay

Teaching is one of the most satisfying jobs, but is not a career known for its high salaries. The median salary for teachers in public schools in the United States is $42,900. Most teachers believe their jobs are highly meaningful and that making a difference is more important than money. Preschool and child care administrators earn less than teachers, with a median salary of $32,400,  but score 89 percent on the meaningful job scale. It’s obvious that people who work with children do so because it’s meaningful and not for the monetary rewards.

Social workers, particularly those in the mental health and substance abuse fields, find their jobs meaningful. Social workers are highly educated, most with secondary degrees, but only have a median salary of $41,200. Many people go into the field, however, because they feel they make a difference.

The median pay of firefighters is only $43,500, but their overall meaningful job score sits at 93 percent. Clearly, fighting fires to save the lives of people and animals brings a feeling of personal fulfillment that outweighs the risks and the low pay.

Jobs With Varying Pay, But Lots of Rewards

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic and vocational subjects. Teaching at a research university typically requires a PhD, but many technical and vocational schools merely require expertise, along with state certifications, if applicable. Teaching is one of the most satisfying career choices, whether the students are children or adults.

If there is a cause near and dear to your heart, consider becoming an activist advocate. Many political and charitable organizations hire activists to work socially, environmentally or politically for their stated cause. Similarly, congressional aides work for a specific legislator at the federal or state level. The job typically requires a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but requirements vary.

Find Real Meaning With a Non-Profit Organization

The job opportunities in the nonprofit sector are wide and varied. A faster growing sector than the utilities, construction, and entertainment sectors combined, nonprofits currently employ over 14 million people in the United States. Nonprofit organizations include community development organizations, schools, research centers, community groups, social advocacy, hospitals, human services, churches and religious institutions.

Nonprofits require many of the same staffing skillsets as businesses and employ professionals with a variety of skills, talents and educational backgrounds. Jobs are available in the human resource, accounting, legal, managerial, research and evaluation, information technology, writing, marketing, graphic design, social work, communications, public relations, public policy and lobbying divisions.

A job in the nonprofit sector does not necessarily mean little pay and no benefits. In fact, a recent survey done in the Milwaukee area found that nonprofit salaries were comparable, and sometimes higher, than the average salary in other city sectors. Many nonprofits offer competitive benefits as well. Nonprofit employees express high job satisfaction and feel a sense of pride about where they work.

6 Kids Who Are Changing the World

Learning a second language and exploring different cultures are great tools for teaching children to think beyond themselves and think about the lives of others. Such awareness fosters a feeling of kinship and caring that often leads to the desire to make a difference. In fact, thousands of kids across the United States are doing just that within their homes, their local communities and on a global scale.

Real Kids Make a Real Difference

Brazienna Hook and Haley VanScoyoc live in Pinellas, Florida. The two friends collect blankets and socks for the homeless. When temperatures start falling, as they do sometimes even in Florida, they load a parent’s car up and hand deliver one blanket and one pair of socks to the homeless people in the community. The girls spend their own money to purchase supplies when donations aren’t enough. They do it because it, in their words, “warms” their hearts.

After a 2013 typhoon devastated the Philippines, Audrey Wood of Providence, Utah, came up with a tasty fundraising idea. Audrey and her mom baked cinnamon rolls over the long Thanksgiving weekend and sold them to neighbors and friends. A donor agreed to match the funds Audrey raised, which turned her initial collection of $320 into $640. Audrey plans to turn her fundraiser into an annual event.

Erin Manuel of North Carolina was seven years old when an earthquake hit Haiti. She donated her life savings of $3.08 to Partners in Health (PIH), a global nonprofit health organization that was on the ground in Haiti, and then held a bake sale to raise more money. Erin was moved by the extreme poverty in Haiti and wanted to do more. When she was 9 years old, she began selling greeting cards and bookmarks made from her own artwork. She also began playing her violin during farmers market season for tips, all for the cause. Four years later, Erin has raised over $8,000 for PIH. She says, “No child should have to grow up in poverty.”

Already involved in volunteer work at eight years of age, Martand Bhagavatula played his violin for patients in the local hospital’s pediatric ward. He noticed that the kids didn’t have any toys or “fun things” in their rooms. To remedy the situation, he founded an organization called Kids and Smiles. Initially founded to collect toys for pediatric patients, Kids and Smiles now has an expanded role of encouraging other kids to get involved. The organization holds several themed events throughout the year that the youth volunteers organize. They then hand deliver toys to local hospitals.

Parker Willman of Kenton, Kentucky, loves animals. He wanted to do volunteer work at the local animal shelter, but was too young to be accepted. Instead, he started Parker’s Pet Project when he was six years old. He collects pet supplies, food and toys and donates them to the shelter. To date, he has donated several car loads full of donations as well as hundreds of dollars.

Zach Affolter made headlines when he campaigned to have his San Diego’s high school functions removed from SeaWorld because of its unethical treatment of marine animals, particularly cetaceans. A vegetarian and animal activist, Zach is writing two books to spread the word about his cause.

Making a Difference at Home

Making a difference starts at home. One of the simplest ways to encourage social responsibility is by employing an energy and environment saving way of life. Children of all ages can actively participate and learn about how their actions impact the world around them.

Here are some simple and fun activities to get kids started :

Turn off the lights: The simple act of turning the lights off when you leave a room and unplugging small appliances saves energy throughout the day.
Save water: Don’t let water run when brushing teeth. Use the water only as needed. This simple act saves as much as 25 gallons of water a month.
Plant something: Plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide and naturally clean the air. A family garden also provides fresh vegetables and, as an added benefit, is a perfect family activity.
Recycle: Most communities offer recycling services of some kind. Recyclables include magazines, newspapers, glass and, most importantly, plastic.
Reduce heat: Layering clothes and lowering the thermostat drastically reduces a family’s energy use.
Compost: Composting returns nutrients to the ground and is ideal for fertilizing gardens.