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Top Degrees for a Career in Social Justice

Being passionate about change is important for a career in social justice, but it’s not the only thing you need. Learn how having the right degree can equip you with the facts, figures, skills, and techniques to make a positive impact.

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Tori Ford
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Tori Ford



You’ve probably heard “social justice” used a lot in recent years. Between network news and social media, the term has become something of a buzzword, but what exactly does it mean? Simply put, social justice refers to the belief that every person, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic status, deserves equal access to all the rights and opportunities enjoyed by others. It’s an ambitious goal to achieve, but there are a variety of avenues one can take to begin to make a difference.

If you want to enter the fight for equality for all, you’re not alone. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that 90% of people said they would take a lower salary if it meant having a career that helps others. From teachers and lawyers to social workers and healthcare professionals, a career in social justice can take many forms. Deciding which degree makes sense for your social justice aspirations is the first step on the road to change. Keep reading to discover which degrees can prepare you to fight for justice and get expert advice on how you can increase your impact.

Access to Quality Education

A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that those with higher education levels typically live longer. However, students from low-income families and those who experience social discrimination are less likely to finish high school or pursue higher education—a gap that could possibly shorten their lives. Ensuring from the earliest age that students have equal access to quality education is one of the most important things we as a society can do to improve our country’s overall health and prosperity. Here are of the best degrees to pursue if you’re passionate about education for all.

Degrees That Make a Difference

Homelessness & Housing Insecurity

Almost half a million Americans experienced homelessness in America in 2022, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. The rate varies widely across the country, with 93 of every 10,000 people experiencing homelessness in the District of Columbia and 4 of every 10,000 people experiencing homelessness in Mississippi. This issue affects individuals of every age, gender, ethnicity, and religion. Helping house homeless individuals and creating housing security changes the trajectory of countless lives. You’ll make a difference by working in advocacy, resource management, temporary housing, or transitional services. These degrees can help you on your road to helping others.

Degrees That Make a Difference

Poverty and Income Gap

The percentage of Americans facing poverty had been inching downward in the five years before COVID-19 hit. While final reports on how the pandemic will affect the number of Americans living below the poverty line are still forthcoming, early studies show an increase. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sets poverty guidelines each year. The last few decades have also shown a shrinking middle class and growing upper and lower classes. If you’re serious about lessening the poverty and income gap, enrolling in one of these degree programs can be a smart first step.

Discrimination and Racism

When looking at the numbers, there’s no denying America has a problem with discrimination and racism. Black students are far more likely to receive disciplinary measures in their schools when compared to white peers. Similarly, 88% of the individuals New York City police stopped in 2018 were Black or Latinx. Discrimination and racism have long roots in the U.S., requiring dedicated professionals who understand what it will take to fight for civil rights extending to all people, regardless of their skin color or where they come from. Below are just a few of the educational paths you can take to help put an end to discrimination and racism.

Degrees That Make a Difference

LGBTQ+ Rights

While LGBTQ+ individuals gained the right to marry in 2015 and President Biden recently repealed the ban on transgender military members, there is still much work to be done in ensuring those who identify outside heterosexuality enjoy the same rights as others, avoid discrimination, and aren’t victims of violence. Many LGBTQ+ people experience far higher levels of harassment, bullying, and violence, creating the need for professionals who fight for their rights, address mental health concerns, and ensure continued advancement in equality. If you want to become one of these valued professionals, these degrees can help you get there.

Degrees That Make a Difference

Domestic Violence

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published by the Centers for Disease Control found that one out of every four women and one out of every seven men experience severe physical violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives. In 2020, The New York Times reported domestic violence was on the rise due to COVID-19. Addressing the realities of violent crimes committed by romantic partners requires the work of professionals in many different fields, meaning you can use a variety of talents and skill sets to help keep people safe. Below are some degrees that can help you make an impact in domestic violence.

Degrees That Make a Difference

Climate Change

Climate change concerns can take many forms, ranging from a warming planet, a proliferation of more diseases and viruses, higher carbon dioxide concentrations, and increased emissions. Opportunities for making a difference are varied, with some climate warriors focusing on the scientific side of things and others working on topics such as emergency preparedness for natural disasters, raising awareness, and fighting for better laws and policies. Positions exist in governmental, nonprofit, and private companies, making this a very versatile career path. If your passion lies in ensuring our planet is hospitable for generations to come, enrolling in one of the degree programs below can be a great start.

Degrees That Make a Difference

Healthcare Access

Healthcare access presents many problems in America, ranging from the high cost of services and lack of insurance coverage to culturally insensitive care and lack of hospitals in rural areas. A report from the Centers for Disease Control found that 8.3% of adult Americans do not receive needed medical care due to prohibitive costs. In 2018, 27.5 million people lacked health insurance coverage. While a complicated, multifaceted problem, there are many ways to be involved in helping every person, regardless of age, income, race, or location, gain access to necessary medical care and preventative services. These degrees can place you at the forefront of the fight for quality healthcare access for all.

Degrees That Make a Difference