Careers in Public Service
Want a successful career that pays well and gives back to the community? Learn how careers in public service can help you make a living while making a difference.
Last Updated: 10/24/2019
There are few better feelings than making a difference. It could be a Saturday packing food for families in need, or a summer-long stint building houses for the homeless. Yet for some, helping others goes beyond a single weekend or season with a hammer and nails. It’s a 24/7 drive that starts with a passion and turns into a bachelor’s degree, that first job in a nearby town, and then climbing the ladder to a successful and long-term career. Could this be you?
The following guide looks at careers across education, criminal justice, healthcare, and other fields with a focus on helping others. It breaks down each profession, how it gives back, how to get started, and what to expect as you learn, earn, and grow. Read where you can work in public service and whom you can impact on a daily basis.
Working in the Community
Serving the community at large can mean anything from enforcing law and maintaining order to managing a neighborhood rec center. It’s near impossible to list each and every career path with a concentration on community, but we’ve listed some of the most popular that are attracting both students and young professionals across the U.S. today. How can you make a difference across your community?
Working with the Elderly
An estimated 50 million Americans are 65 and older, according to the Administration for Community Living, a number expected to reach nearly 100 million by 2060. This means an increasing need for professionals to help our senior citizens work through medical- and health-related issues. For example, the number of home health aides is slated to grow 36% from 2018 to 2028. If you’re looking to make a difference within the elderly community directly, here’s how you can do it.
These are just a few of the many ways to help the elderly community. If you’d like more info on elderly-focused careers, or on the degrees that can help you move into one of these careers, read our full guide on Careers Working with the Elderly.
Working with the Impoverished
More than 40 million people lived in poverty in the U.S. in 2016. Poverty impacts individuals, families, and communities through challenges such as hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and crime. The good news is, there’s plenty of opportunity out there to help those who fall below the poverty line. Career counselors help the under- and unemployed find new or better jobs. Social workers may also help with unemployment, but extend their services to locating temporary or permanent housing and/or finding sources of food in a pinch. Every community has people in need, and professionals who work with the impoverished often go the extra mile to fill those needs.
Working with Children
Children are the future, and they deserve the very best we have. Careers helping youth cross a wide range of fields and cover infancy through the age of 17. Pediatric nurse practitioners, pediatricians, daycare specialists, teachers, school counselors, social workers, and many more help children grow, learn, and succeed until their early adult years. Here’s a more detailed look at some of the most popular fields working with today’s youth, as well as links to resources to further your research. And for even more information, check out our dedicated guides to careers working with children and careers helping foster kids.
Working with Veterans
Transitioning from active service member to veteran can be difficult in more ways than one. There’s moving yourself and your family, finding employment, and adjusting to living and working outside of the military in general. And for some veterans, a disability can make the challenge even more of an uphill battle.
In addition to the VA, numerous private companies, nonprofit organizations, and other public programs specialize in helping veterans with some or all of their transition. For example, career counseling can help veterans translate their military occupation to a civilian career. Financial planning can make sure veterans get their military retirement and benefits set in time to integrate their civilian ones. You can get more details on careers where you can help veterans succeed in the table below. And if you or someone you know is a veteran looking for meaningful civilian careers that are a great match for military skills and experience, check out our complete guide to public service degrees and careers for veterans.
The guide is not exhaustive. It barely scratches the surface on the ways you (or anyone) can turn a passion for helping into a long-term career in giving back. Whether it’s a career helping people with disabilities, children, veterans, the elderly or homeless, helping people in need goes a long way toward building healthier, safer, and stronger communities.