If your vision of the ideal career involves service to others, it may be possible to realize your goal in almost any career. Engineers, for example, help people by solving real-world problems like improving acoustics in a room, or designing bridges to move people safely over waterways.
However, a more typical definition of service careers puts “helping others” as the focus and purpose of the occupation. And there is a big variety of careers to explore that embrace this definition.
To begin, it’s helpful to understand different angles on “helping others.” Consider these concepts of “helping careers”:
- For some people, helping others means changing the world in some way – such as through finding cures for diseases, negotiating peace agreements, fighting hunger, poverty or global warming, or advocating for government programs and policy changes.
- For others, there is a more classic definition of helping through providing direct care. For example healthcare, mental health services, childcare, relief work for disasters, elder care, or care for people who have disabilities.
- Many helping-oriented people want to inspire and guide others in roles such as teaching, which varies significantly from preschool through elementary, middle and high school, and higher education. Clergy or other religious and spiritual work also fit here.
- Some helping roles center on advocacy – people who may speak for others and seek to improve the immediate life situation for others – such as social workers, school guidance counselors, social justice /nonprofit workers, translators / interpreters, social or community services managers, and human resources positions.
- There are also public safety and protective service careers that contribute to creating safe living conditions and resolving disputes, like law enforcement, mediators, probation officers, lifeguards, or military service.
One way to narrow down your ideas is to take an interest assessment and explore the careers listed in your results. You can take a career interest assessment on CareerOneStop to identify your strongest career interests and then view a list of related occupations.
The assessment identifies helping interests as “Social”, described below:
At work and at home, you may:
- be patient, insightful, responsible, cooperative, outgoing, and skilled with words
- like to work in groups, volunteer, solve personal problems, or serve your community
- be able to teach others, mediate, lead a discussion, communicate well, or plan and supervise activities
In terms of careers, Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
Check out these examples of careers with a high match to Social interests:
View the full list of Social occupations on O*NET, our partner site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.