It’s great to have a job that makes you feel like you are making a difference. Some jobs can even change other people’s lives, and it’s hard to imagine many things that could provide as much satisfaction as helping others. Many jobs that really help change lives for the better pay wonderfully, including jobs in the medical and science fields.
Unfortunately, many jobs that change lives pay very little, like positions in the education sector. It would make sense if every teacher, firefighter, police officer, and any other position that really helped save or improve lives paid a lot. But this often isn’t the case, and unfortunately, many of the most important jobs pay next to nothing.
Here are four jobs that have the potential to positively influence the lives of others but pay very little compared to other careers.
1. Personal care aides
Many jobs in the medical or health care industry pay a lot, but this usually isn’t true for personal care aides. People who choose to become a personal care aide often help those who have disabilities or who are elderly. The help may take place in a group home, other facility, or in the person’s home. The work that these aides do includes helping with food, cleaning, chores, and sometimes, self-care.
People who work as personal care aides have to be sympathetic, considerate, and patient, and they often face grueling tasks and hours. Yet the mean hourly wage for this occupation is only $10.09. This is surprising, considering that these workers are taking care of others and truly are trying to provide a better life — or at least bring respect and happiness to the people they work with.
2. Lifeguards and recreational protective service workers
If you were ever to start drowning in a pool or fall and break your leg on a ski slope, you would want a competent and caring individual to be there to help you, right? Well, considering that the median wage for these workers is just $9.16 an hour, you can’t expect that the person coming to help you — and potentially saving your life – is being compensated fairly for his or her hard work.
Many lifeguards and other recreational jobs start at or near minimum wage, partially because they often require little educational training. However, the employees working in these jobs do save or impact lives nearly every day. It’s hard to imagine how much pressure would come with watching over an entire pool of other people and potentially having to jump in the water to rescue someone. Although people joke about lifeguards simplying enjoy a free tan, they make a difference when it matters.
3. Firefighters and police officers
If you ever find that your house is on fire or that you are in danger somewhere else and you need to call for help due to a fire or need another type of emergency assistance, you can depend on a firefighter. Firefighters have a reputation for being hard workers, and whether they are teaching kids about fire safety or literally saving lives by going into a burning building, they regularly make a difference. Yet the median wage for firefighters is only $21.92 per hour, despite the fact that they often put their lives on the risk to help others.
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers don’t make much more, with a median hourly wage of just $26.99. These officers also regularly risk their lives to save others and to help positively influence communities.
Becoming a teacher usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree, but teachers don’t make a lot of money. Each day they work hard to keep kids safe and to teach them all that they need to know to progress through the rest of school and onto a career.
Most teachers have a salary and don’t work per hour, but while the median annual wage of $53,590 for a elementary school teacher seems like a lot compared to the first two jobs, it really isn’t very much considering all of the training, preparation, and responsibility that come with the position. The median wage for secondary teachers is only slightly higher, at $55,360. Teacher assistants make much less: In 2012, the median pay was just $23,640 per year.
There are many other jobs that make a difference in the lives of Americans, from bus drivers to wait staff to artists and more. Some of the workers who hold these jobs influence people in a less direct way than the jobs we mentioned on this list, but they still make a difference. Social workers also have a huge responsibility, but rarely get paid well. If none of these jobs seem like the right fit for you but you want to help others, you can still use your current or future job to make a difference.