9 Satisfying Jobs That Make a Difference in the World
By Will Erstad on 06/01/2023
You remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as a child.
At the time, you may have come up with classics like firefighter, veterinarian, teacher or maybe even movie star. But now that you’re older and it’s time to revisit the question, you’ve realized that you would prefer to work in a fulfilling role that makes a positive difference on the world around you.
Fortunately, there are several excellent options to consider for your “grown-up” career that span a variety of fields and industries. If you’re looking for a job that makes a difference, start here. We’ve compiled a list of helpful careers that can position you to make a positive impact.
9 Careers that make a difference
We identified nine satisfying jobs that make a difference in the world. Whether the impact is direct or indirect, these professionals all have a positive influence on society. One of these could be the fulfilling career you’ve always dreamed of!
1. Early childhood educator
We all know that teachers make a difference in their students’ lives, but many people don’t realize how much impact an early childhood education (ECE) professional has on our littlest members of society. Young children are constantly learning from their surroundings, and it falls on early childhood educators to lay the foundation for a fruitful future.
ECE professionals may be employed as preschool teachers, childcare workers or even childcare directors. Whether it be in a childcare center or a classroom setting, early childhood educators are responsible not only for teaching early math and literacy skills but also for showing children how to interact with others. They’re also on the lookout for important developmental milestones, and they’re often the first to alert parents when a child may be showing signs of a developmental delay.
Learn more about the positive impact these educators make in our article: “5 Reasons the Importance of ECE Is Impossible to Ignore.”
You’ve probably already encountered a nurse who has made a difference at some point in your life. By pursuing this rewarding career, it could be your turn to make a positive impact on others during every shift.
A nurse’s job goes far beyond taking vital sign measurements and recording medical history. Nurses provide quality healthcare and support to patients and their families, from managing routine health and wellness visits to educating a patient with a cancer diagnosis. Nurses are also able to specialize, so you can focus your work on an area you’re truly passionate about. Some specialty areas include pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing or geriatric nursing.
Learn more about the many meaningful roles a nurse plays in our article: “Who Is a Nurse? A Closer Look at These Superheroes in Scrubs.”
3. Nurse practitioner
A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice nurse who has completed a graduate-level nurse practitioner program (among other qualifying steps like obtaining licensure). While there is some overlap between the roles and philosophies of a registered nurse (RN) and an NP, the scope of practice for NPs is broader. Unlike an RN, a nurse practitioner can diagnose, prescribe medications, order tests and (depending on state-specific regulations) see clients independently, just like a medical doctor. NPs take on increased responsibility with these advanced skills.
Nurse practitioners choose their advanced specialties during graduate school and typically stay within that specialty for their career. Some of these specialties include psychiatric-mental health, pediatrics and adult-gerontology.
Learn more about the possible specialties as a nurse practitioner in our article: “Nurse Practitioner Specializations: A Newcomer’s Guide.”
4. Community health worker
Community health workers act as health advocates for people in their area by providing resources and education to promote healthy lifestyles in their community. This hands-on job allows health workers to make a significant impact by encouraging and empowering people with the tools they need to make positive, lasting improvements to their health.
Community health workers develop educational resources, run training programs, coordinate health education staff and analyze health data to make their community a healthier place. Giving people access to the information and healthcare services they need is a definite way to make a difference in the world.
Learn more about this impactful healthcare career in our article: “What Is a Community Health Worker? A Closer Look at This Rewarding Role.”
5. Nonprofit executive director
Executive directors are essentially the leaders of their nonprofit business. This position seamlessly blends business tasks like management and finance reporting with philanthropy as its nonprofit works to serve the people it’s devoted to helping.
Nonprofit executive directors are business leaders who do everything they can to ensure the success of their organization, from approving budgets and managing their team to attending fundraising events and fostering strong relationships with donors. The nonprofits that do so much good in the world wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the strong leadership of their executive directors.
Learn more about the benefits of working in the nonprofit sector in our article: “Why Work for a Nonprofit? Creating a Career with Impact.”
6. Human services assistant
Human services assistants advocate for individuals who are in need of assistance for various reasons. These professionals are employed in various fields, including psychology, social services, rehabilitation and more. They visit clients to check in on their well-being and work to connect them with different types of health and social assistance resources. Some common issues they assist with are substance abuse, domestic violence, rehabilitation or dependent care.
The human services assistant often acts as the bridge between a struggling individual and the support they need to overcome the obstacles they're facing. They help them identify and obtain the social services available to them, supporting them on their road to recovery.
Learn more about the countless ways these individuals provide support in our article: “9 Ways Human Services Professionals Help Their Communities.”
7. Software developer
Software developers are the builders of the digital world. These problem-solvers use their programming skills to develop the new software and apps that allow companies in many different industries to bring the best level of service to their customers.
At face value, software development might not seem like a career that obviously makes a difference, but it’s the work of these dedicated professionals that has led to improved patient care in the medical industry, better educational resources for students and even renewable energy systems that benefit the environment. Like any builder, their skills can be applied in a wide variety of positive ways.
Learn more about the unexpected ways this field improves communities in our article: “Why Is Computer Science Important? 8 Surprising Ways Computer Science Benefits Society.”
8. Cyber security analyst
By now, you’ve probably heard news of cybercrime and online scams. As technology advances, so do the means for cybercrime to happen. This is why cyber security analysts are so important. These behind-the-scenes workers keep tabs on the threats and bad actors that can unleash chaos in our increasingly digital world. It’s their job to plan contingencies, monitor threats and place safeguards in computer systems to prevent security breaches or minimize their impact.
On the surface, a tech job might not seem as impactful as your typical caretaking careers; however, security analysts help mass amounts of individuals every day. With many companies, schools and healthcare facilities going paperless, there is an endless supply of data out there that can be misused. Employed by consulting firms, business enterprises and computer companies, cyber security analysts work to ensure corporate and personal data is protected.
Learn more about the importance of this career in our technology-driven world in our article: “Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Cyber Security Analyst.”
9. Physical therapist assistant
Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are licensed clinicians who work under the supervision of a physical therapist. A PTA is responsible for carrying out the care plan and services set forth for the client by a therapist. They are in direct contact with their patients, helping to reach their goals whether it be for fitness, injury repair or surgery recovery.
Physical therapist assistants can work with a wide range of clients, from infants to the elderly. They can also work in a variety of settings, such as in private practices, hospitals and in-home health.
Learn more about this essential support care role in our article: “7 Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant.”
Build a career that makes a difference
No matter where your skills and interests lie, there are ways you can make a living out of making an impact. The careers we profiled above are just some of the many jobs that make a difference in the world.
If one of them piqued your interest, follow the link at the end of that section to get a more in-depth look at the position. A little more research can bring you one step closer to launching the meaningful career you were meant for!
Still not sure if these roles make sense for you? Check out our Career Aptitude Test for a helpful tool in your search.