Research shows that people whose jobs center on assisting people tend to be the happiest. Here are some of the best careers for people who want to help others.

The 5 Best Jobs for Helping Others

Plenty of jobs require you to help people. In fact, with most careers, you're helping people one way or another, whether that's by delivering mail, getting a product to market, or planning events.

But we're not talking about jobs in which helping people just happens to be an outcome of the work you do. We're talking about jobs that let you truly make a difference in someone's life — careers that offer a sense of fulfillment and reward.

In one research study, 70% of respondents reported that helping others made their work more meaningful to them.

Many people thrive in occupations whose sole focus is assisting others. These workers feel satisfied knowing that they're able to improve someone's circumstances. It's the same reason people seek service opportunities: Research has shown that volunteer work aimed at helping others can increase happiness.

The same holds true for careers. According to counseling psychology professor Blake Allan, people find more meaning in their work when they view that work as intrinsically valuable and beneficial to others. In a research study conducted by Allan and others, 70% of respondents reported that helping others made their work more meaningful to them.

So what jobs provide meaning to those who work them? Here are five of the best careers you can pursue if helping others is your primary goal.

The 5 Best Careers for People Who Want to Help Others

Physical Therapist

Imagine helping a patient who had a stroke walk again, or helping a patient with Parkinson's disease retrain their muscles to slow down the progression of hypokinesia, which causes muscle rigidity and an inability to produce movement. Or even helping an injured athlete get back to peak performance.

The role of a physical therapist is to evaluate and treat injuries and physical disorders of the body.

Physical therapy is a great career choice for those interested in healthcare and supporting others. The role of a physical therapist is to evaluate and treat injuries and physical disorders of the body. These professionals help patients restore function and mobility, recover from injuries, and manage chronic health conditions. Physical therapy can be a stand-alone option or part of a larger treatment plan with other medical professionals.

While a career in physical therapy can be challenging, it can also be highly rewarding. This job requires superior communication and problem-solving skills. According to research conducted by the University of Chicago, physical therapists rank in the top three professions for overall job satisfaction. Being able to offer support and form strong bonds with patients over the course of an entire treatment leads to increased job satisfaction.

Physical therapy offers many specialties for those wanting to focus on a particular area of health, such as women's health, sports, geriatrics, pediatrics, cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, neurology, oncology, and orthopedics.

Place of Work

Physical therapists work in a wide variety of settings, including outpatient clinics, hospitals, private practices, schools, professional sports team facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and skilled-nursing facilities.

Job Outlook

Physical therapy is a highly in-demand occupation, with job growth projected at 18% through 2029. As with many healthcare professions, the aging baby boomer population is contributing to this high demand. Physical therapists make a median annual salary of $89,440.

Educational Requirements

Aspiring physical therapists must hold a doctor of physical therapy earned from a program that's been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. In addition, all states require physical therapists to obtain licensure.

Alternatively, you can become a physical therapist assistant by obtaining an associate degree and earning the relevant certification or licensure. These professionals provide physical therapy services under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.

Speech-Language Pathologist

When it comes to speech-language pathology, one of the most commonly asked questions is, "What does a speech-language pathologist do?" Simply put, these professionals help people of all ages with speech, language, communication, and swallowing disorders.

Speech-language pathologists have a background in language disorders, physiology, linguistics, and psychology.

The work of a speech-language pathologist — also called a speech therapist — goes well beyond helping people with stuttering problems or teaching children how to correctly enunciate sounds. These professionals help patients who are affected by a variety of conditions, such as cancer, seizure, stroke, chronic diseases, hearing impairments, dementia, and forms of trauma and neurological impairments that impact the ability to speak, eat, and/or communicate.

Speech-language pathologists are highly educated individuals, with a background in language disorders, physiology, genetics, language development, linguistics, audiology, phonetics, and psychology. The role requires a significant amount of patience, superior listening and speaking skills, strong attention to detail, critical thinking, and compassion.

Place of Work

Speech-language pathologists often work in settings like schools, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, research centers, private practices, and state agencies. The job usually requires working as part of a team with other professionals such as doctors, teachers, audiologists, social workers, psychologists, and occupational therapists.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of speech-language pathology jobs will grow a whopping 25% between 2019 and 2029. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association attributes this growth to several factors, including the country's aging population, the rise in K-12 school enrollment, and improved survival rates of preterm infants. Speech-language pathologists can expect to make around $79,120 per year.

Educational Requirements

State licensure and a master's degree are generally required for those who want to pursue a career as a speech-language pathologist. Students may be admitted to a speech-language pathology master's program after earning their bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders or a related field.

Another option is to become a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA). These professionals work under the supervision of speech-language pathologists and typically need to complete a two-year SLPA program at an accredited institution or earn a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders.

Social Worker

Social work is a rapidly growing field that's been around for more than 100 years. According to the National Association of Social Workers, Columbia University held the first social work class in 1898. Though not the world's oldest profession, social work offers a solid foundation from which to grow.

Today’s social workers not only serve as people’s voices but also concern themselves with prevention and early intervention programs.

Ask any social worker why they got into the field and they'll likely say they wanted to help people who are unable to help themselves. At-risk populations normally need the most assistance and have the most difficulty accessing help. Social workers serve as these people's voices and advocate on their behalf.

The role of social work continues to evolve and is no longer limited to fixing problems. Today's social workers concern themselves with prevention and early intervention programs, thanks to new ideas and strategies. Nowadays, more organizations and communities are recognizing the need for more social workers.

Social work is a challenging and rewarding career that requires a great amount of emotional strength and emotional intelligence. Potential areas of specialization include administration and management, advocacy and community organization, aging, child welfare, developmental disabilities, healthcare, justice and corrections, substance abuse, and mental health and clinical social work.

Place of Work

Social workers work in an array of settings, such as hospitals, military bases, schools, government agencies, rehabilitation centers, mental health clinics, hospices, senior centers, private practices, prisons, and other public and private agencies.

Job Outlook

Social workers currently boast a strong job outlook. The BLS projects a high 13% employment growth rate between 2019 and 2029. The median annual wage for social workers is $50,470.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, like psychology or sociology, is generally required to seek licensure and become a social worker. Those planning to perform clinical social work must typically earn a master of social work. Students interested in research or advancing their career may go on to receive a doctorate in social work.

Dietician/Nutritionist

It's no secret that people are more health-conscious than ever before. Every day, researchers uncover more facts about the correlation between disease and improper nutrition. As the saying goes, "You are what you eat." This is proving to be much truer than originally thought.

Dieticians and nutritionists are specialists in food and nutrition. They help clients achieve nutritional goals often associated with disease management and prevention for conditions such as diabetes, obesity, allergies, cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

Dieticians help clients achieve nutritional goals often associated with disease management and prevention for conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

Their role is to educate others on the benefits of proper nutrition related to a particular condition or the patient's overall health. They also plan menus and monitor clients' progress toward achieving their nutritional goals, often as part of a team of health professionals.

Dieticians and nutritionists are well educated in the areas of food science, food management, food safety, nutrition, biochemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, and behavioral and social sciences, with an expert knowledge of food composition and metabolism.

Place of Work

Nutritionists can work in a diverse number of environments, such as schools, hospitals, private practices, clinics, long-term care residences, government agencies, laboratories, food manufacturing companies, and other public and private institutions.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, dietician jobs are projected to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029. This growth is partly due to an increased understanding of how nutrition impacts people's health. The median annual income for nutritionists is $61,270.

Educational Requirements

Most dieticians and nutritionists hold a bachelor's degree in nutritional science, dietetics, clinical nutrition, food service management, or a similar field. Many schools also offer online nutrition degrees.

Licensure is required in most states. To become a registered dietician, you must complete an internship and pass the registration examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Some states may also require you to earn the certified nutrition specialist certification through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists.

Registered Nurse

One of the best careers for helping others is nursing. Registered nurses (RNs) have been providing care to the sick and injured for hundreds of years, but it wasn't until the pioneering work of Florence Nightingale in the mid-1800s that nursing gained recognition as a legitimate health profession.

Today, more than 3 million RNs are employed throughout the U.S.

Today, more than 3 million RNs are employed throughout the U.S., and this number continues to rise. In every corner of the country, nurses provide critical care, serving as the backbone of our healthcare system.

RNs have numerous functions depending on their specialty. Some of these duties may include screening patients, administering care and medication, assisting with surgeries and other medical procedures, running diagnostic tests, working with physicians to develop treatment plans, and educating patients on health issues.

Those considering becoming an RN should possess the following skills:

  • Active and patient listener
  • Strong communicator
  • Can work well in stressful situations
  • Detail-oriented
  • Confident decision-maker
  • Empathetic
Place of Work

RNs can work in many kinds of environments in which some form of healthcare or access to healthcare is necessary. These include hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, healthcare organizations, clinics, the military, schools, doctor offices, outpatient centers, and government agencies.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects that nursing jobs will grow 7% — faster than the average for all jobs — between 2019 and 2029. The demand for RNs is fueled by an aging boomer population and the fact that people are living longer and requiring more care as they age.

RNs can expect to earn around $73,300 per year. Nursing can be one of the most lucrative careers for helping others that doesn't require an advanced degree. Salary depends on several factors, including area of specialization, education, and level of expertise.

Educational Requirements

To become an RN, you must have at least an associate degree in nursing; however, a bachelor of science in nursing is preferred by most employers. Upon graduation, degree-holders need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.


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