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.