8 Compelling Careers that Make a Difference in Young Lives

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early childhood careersThe idea of going to work just to clock your forty hours a week doesn’t sit right with everyone. There are those of us who want to go home each night knowing we have made a difference — where days are spent impacting others in a positive way. Where you’re driven by more than just a paycheck and challenged in a career you know actually means something.

If you’re of these rare and special people, know that working with children can offer all of this fulfillment and more. Most assume if you want to work with kids you need to be a teacher, but teaching also isn’t for everyone.

Take heart, because there may be more options out there than you realize.

Here, we’ll explore other careers that make a difference in the lives of children. Any one of these options will allow you to serve on the frontlines in an effort to protect and empower the next generation in your community.

9 careers that will make a difference to the children in your community

1. Social worker

How they make a difference: Becoming a social worker would allow you to assist individuals through changes and challenges in their lives. You would assess clients’ needs and help them secure resources and support networks. Child and family social workers may work with children who have been abandoned or abused. You may assist in placing children in foster homes or work within schools to address behavioral problems and advise teachers.

When clients work with social workers, they’re often at their most vulnerable, plagued with unfortunate circumstances that they simply cannot overcome on their own. This is even truer when children are involved. Whether they’re seeking safety, support or lifestyle modifications, you have the opportunity as a social worker to be their greatest advocate. Even though you’ll only work with clients for a certain season of their lives, the impact you can have has the potential to last a lifetime.

How to become one: Social workers need to obtain a bachelor’s degree, most commonly in social work. They also must be licensed or certified in order to practice — requirements vary by state.

2. Early childhood or elementary teacher

How they make a difference: If you really want to make an impact in the lives of young children, becoming an early childhood or elementary school teacher will let you do just that. Early childhood educators lay the groundwork in developing young minds at the most critical point in development. Elementary school teachers continue to build strong learning habits at a young age, working with children of varying backgrounds and abilities.

Aside from their families, teachers are among the most important adults in the lives of young children. If you follow this career path, you’ll not only have the chance to be a positive role model in the lives of your students, but you’ll get to help instill the foundational knowledge and skills that could lead them to happy and successful lives. We all remember the teachers who made lasting impacts on us as young children — you could have the opportunity to be that positive influence your students will never forget.

How to become one: Requirements to work in early childhood education vary. One could enter the field with a minimum of a high school diploma, though employers typically prefer to hire teachers with postsecondary education. Public schools only hire teachers with bachelor’s degrees — applicants for public schools will also need to acquire a teaching license.

Elementary education teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. They must also obtain a license or certification before working in a classroom.

3. Child life specialist

How they make a difference: Child life specialists are important supporters to young patients navigating the unfamiliar territory of hospitalization and long-term care. In this position, you would have the responsibility to provide emotional support to children and their families undergoing medical procedures in healthcare facilities. You may also assist children through therapeutic play, provide information and assistance to families and educate caregivers on working with children under stressful situations.

Imagine how scared and vulnerable a child feels before undergoing a major surgery? You could be the hero who calms their nerves and saves the day. You could have the privilege of organizing a Valentine’s Day party for the children’s ward at a hospital, to help take their minds off of their conditions. Seeing the joy and comfort in their faces will leave you feeling fulfilled as you head home each day.

How to become one: Child life specialists are required to hold a bachelor’s degree. They must also become certified, which includes passing an exam.

4. Youth correctional counselor

How they make a difference: Youth correctional counselors strive to rehabilitate and counsel youth offenders in order to help them transition back into life outside of the justice system. In this position, you would work to address and change negative behaviors and structure a rehabilitation program for each offender.

The youths you would work with in this position may have made mistakes in their past, but as young offenders, they still have their whole lives ahead of them. In this position, you could be the safe haven of advice, wisdom and guidance these kids may not even realize they need. As such, you’d act as a beacon of hope that they can turn their lives around and make more positive, productive choices in the future.

How to become one: Youth correctional counselors typically need a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science or a related field. They may also need to pass a written exam, depending on the state of practice.

5. School psychologist

How they make a difference: School psychologists typically work in K-12 schools, though you may also be employed in juvenile justice programs or residential care facilities. You’d work to promote positive behaviors amongst students and support diverse learning needs, which in turn creates environments conducive to learning.

The importance of addressing the mental health and learning needs of our young students cannot be overstated, as these elements will often impact student success both in and out of the classroom. You could be the key to unlocking a student’s true potential — you could be the one who recognizes needs and disparities that no one else has, and in doing so you’d forever impact the lives of these young students.

How to become one: School psychologists will need to have a master’s degree or doctorate degree. In order to practice, they typically need to complete an internship and become credentialed in their state.

6. Speech language pathologist

How they make a difference: Speech language pathologists work to help treat and prevent communication and swallowing disorders in patients. You may work specifically with children, addressing speech problems such as stuttering, articulation and fluency.

Language and communication are nothing short of necessities in today’s world. Any type of communication impediment or disorder is something that will follow a child around for the rest of their life. You could have the opportunity to help these kids overcome their insecurities and instill a sense of confidence within them. Every time they successfully overcome their speech struggles thereafter, they’ll remember your impact.

How to become one: Speech language pathologists typically need at least a master’s degree and a state license. Those working in schools may also need to obtain a teaching certification.

7. Lobbyist

How they make a difference: Lobbyists work to fight for the issues that keep them up at night. They leverage their influence and affect positive change through lawmakers. Though you wouldn’t be working directly with children in this position, your efforts would affect millions across the country.

There’s only so much parents and teachers can do to educate and help children if the systems they’re operating within are flawed. That’s where you could come in as a lobbyist, working to instill changes at a high level that will undoubtedly impact children on an individual basis. Whether you’d fight for laws regarding the education system, foster care or adoption processes, healthcare services, childcare or all of the above, you’d have an opportunity to make lasting change in the areas in which it is needed most.

How to become one: There are no formal requirements to becoming a lobbyist, though a bachelor’s degree and relevant knowledge or experience definitely help, as does a strong passion for the issues.

8. Special education teacher

How they make a difference: Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional or physical disabilities. You’d be responsible for developing appropriate lesson plans for the students you worth with. You would work to present information in unique ways that will cut through the barriers and maximize learning and comprehension.

Students who have special needs require some extra attention in school that only a special education teacher can provide. You’d have the opportunity to guide these young students as they work to overcome some of their daily struggles, helping them learn to cope with difficult situations and hone skills they never knew they had. In this career path, you could dramatically change the learning experiences of the students you work with, and likely their lives outside of school as well.

How to become one: Special education teachers need at least a bachelor’s degree. They also need to be licensed — requirements vary by state.

How will you make your impact?

As you can see, careers that make a difference in the lives of children span far beyond being a teacher. Now you’re aware of a handful of other opportunities that could help you turn your passion into a profession. Any one of these opportunities would allow you the opportunity to make a lasting impact on your community and the kids you work with.

Did one of these scenarios light a flame inside for you? Learn about how Wheelock College can help equip you to carry out your mission.

If you’d still like to explore more options, check out our article, 7 Careers in Education You Won’t Find in a Classroom.

1 Comment…

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  1. Dr. Catherine Donahue May 4, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Add Infant-Toddler teacher – make a difference right at the start and during critical years for brain development!