The Best Jobs That Help People

Careers for do-gooders

We spend just about every waking moment doing our jobs, or so it feels. So it’s understandable if you want your career to really mean something.

Granted, most jobs, even the most obscure, add value to someone’s life and society at large, or else the opening wouldn’t exist. But some careers really allow professionals to directly help others. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out these careers that help people from the 2021 U.S. News Best Jobs ranking. Salary data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial Advisor

Median Annual Salary: $87,850
Education Required: Bachelor’s degree

If you can advise someone on how to manage money better, you’re truly doing them a service.

Of course, bad financial advice could potentially wreck their life. Which is why many financial firms require or encourage financial advisors to become licensed or get an advanced degree. To be successful in this career, you truly need to understand how markets and finances work.

Financial advisors may have a stressful career at times, especially if the economy is suffering. Still, if all goes well, you’ll help clients increase their wealth — and hopefully increase your own bottom line, too.

Learn more about financial advisors.

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Median Annual Salary: $68,410
Education Required: Master’s degree

This is a job with the capacity to truly change someone’s life. Some people, due to genetics or perhaps a turn of very bad luck, lose a limb or struggle to walk. These situations may be permanent or temporary, such as when a patient needs braces to help them walk while a bone heals.

It’s your job to help decide what type of braces someone might need to walk, or what sort of artificial limb a patient may need. No patient’s body is the same, so this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Do your job well, and you’ll truly improve patients’ lives.

Learn more about orthotists and prosthetists.

Physical Therapist

Median Annual Salary: $89,440
Education Required: Doctorate

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, specialize in helping people with difficulty moving. They teach patients, who may have chronic conditions, illness or injuries, techniques to help them move better, minimize pain, restore function and prevent more health issues involving mobility.

It may sound pretty straightforward, but you really are changing someone’s life when you help them learn to move around better and with less pain.

Physical therapists usually have an undergraduate degree and then get a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. They must be licensed in each state that they practice.

Learn more about physical therapists.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Median Annual Salary: $49,610
Education Required: Master’s degree

When the stress and tension between a married couple or family becomes too much to bear, that’s when you’ll be called in.

Marriage and family therapists help couples and families manage clashes and disagreements and, with any luck, help strengthen their relationships. Some couples and families really struggle to get along. You’re a kind of referee, helping each see the other’s side and assisting them with coming up with decisions everyone can live with.

You may run your own practice or work for a health care provider or perhaps the government.

These professionals need master’s degrees and licenses.

Learn more about marriage and family therapists.

Occupational Therapist

Median Annual Salary: $84,950
Education Required: Master’s degree

If you take on this profession, you’ll be working with patients to help them complete the daily tasks of life. That isn’t easy for patients with physical, mental, emotional or developmental disabilities, and sometimes, patients have a combination of these issues.

As an occupational therapist, you’ll help your patients create a plan of attack to complete these tasks and help them meet certain challenges, which can be anything from holding a fork to using a calculator.

You might be working in a hospital, rehabilitation center, a school system, a medical office or even directly in a client’s home.

Learn more about occupational therapists.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Median Annual Salary: $208,000
Education Required: Doctorate

This career pays very well because it takes many years of hard work studying and training to become a surgeon. Plus, you have all those student loans. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgeries on the face, mouth and jaw. It often can take about 12 years before you receive your medical degree.

It’ll be worth it. One day, you may be helping a patient battle oral cancer; another day, you may be repairing a cleft lip.

Is this a job in which you’ll make a difference? Absolutely. Just look at the smiles on your patients’ faces when you see them after surgery.

Learn more oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Median Annual Salary: $46,240
Education Required: Bachelor’s degree

For people suffering from addiction, often to alcohol or drugs, these therapists can literally be a life-saver.

If you take on this job, you may save lives. It’ll be a slow process, of course. No one beats an addiction quickly or easily, but the people who do shake off alcoholism or a drug problem often do it thanks to substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.

No day or patient will be quite the same, and if you take on this career, you’ll probably counsel patients one-on-one or in group settings to help set treatment and recovery goals. This is a profession that can be emotionally rewarding (you’re saving lives) but also grueling (you probably won’t save them all, and you’re working with some people who are at the lowest point of their lives).

How do you enter this profession? You’ll likely need at least a bachelor’s degree, many hours of supervised clinical experience and a license to practice therapy.

Learn more about substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.


Median Annual Salary: $208,000
Education Required: Doctorate

If you’re an anesthesiologist, you’re the doctor who administers general or regional anesthesia so that a surgeon or another doctor can conduct invasive procedures without the patient feeling any pain. You’re doing work so other physicians can do their work.

It isn’t easy. You’ll monitor a patient’s vital signs and life functions before, during and after the surgery, so it’s a very serious job to take on.

Learn more about anesthesiologists.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Median Annual Salary: $58,790
Education Required: Associate degree

Physical therapist is on this list, but it’s such a stellar profession that physical therapist assistants make the cut as well.

As you might expect, a physical therapist assistant works closely with a physical therapist — and patients. You’ll help the physical therapist execute a plan to help a patient. That might involve, for instance, assisting and monitoring the patient while they do exercises designed to improve their joints and mobility.

Learn more about physical therapist assistants.


Median Annual Salary: $208,000
Education Required: Doctorate

You could say an orthodontist is a dentist 2.0. It’s essentially a dentist who specializes in straightening teeth and fixing misshapen jaws. Got an overbite or an underbite? An orthodontist will help with that.

The hours are usually pretty good, and many, if not most, orthodontists don’t work weekends. Plus, they definitely help people. Straightening teeth is a gradual process, so many patients probably take it for granted and, since they’re shelling out a lot of money for treatment, don’t think to thank their orthodontist.

Learn more about orthodontists.


Median Annual Salary: $155,600
Education Required: Doctorate

For years, you dreaded going to the dentist — or maybe you enjoyed the experience. Either way, you’re coming full circle if you take this job. After years of checkups, now you’ll be the one encouraging patients to brush regularly and floss. You’ll also be filling cavities and extracting teeth and, in general, taking care of people’s mouths.

If you own a practice, you’ll also be running a business. It’s a profession that comes with a lot of responsibility, with employees who depend on you, and, of course, your patients.

Dentists generally get an undergraduate degree, and then move onto a four-year dental program at a dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, where they earn a doctoral degree in dental medicine or dental surgery.

Learn more about dentists.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Median Annual Salary: $79,120
Education Required: Master’s degree

When people struggle with their speech, they enlist the help of a speech-language pathologist. If you make this your career, you’ll help people find their voice. That’s something you can feel great about every evening when you return home.

These professionals assess and treat communication and swallowing problems that may have come about due to an injury, disease or developmental delay. They teach children and adults how to make sounds and develop their swallowing muscles.

This career requires a master’s degree and often a license.

Learn more about speech-language pathologists.


Median Annual Salary: $206,500
Education Required: Doctorate

Physicians can choose from many specialties. There are physicians who specialize in delivering babies, for example, while others become ER doctors.

One thing is for sure: Physicians help patients every day. They may stop a disease in its tracks by diagnosing it early. They may save someone’s life; a lot of drama can happen, even at a general practitioner’s office. Regardless of what type of medicine you practice, you’ll always be guiding people on the right path toward better health.

Learn more about physicians.

Nurse Practitioner

Median Annual Salary: $109,820
Education Required: Master’s degree

The job of nurse practitioner can be confusing to somebody who isn’t in the know — is this a career in which you’re a nurse? A doctor?

Something in between. If you’re a nurse practitioner, you won’t study as much as a physician, so you’ll have fewer student loans (but, alas, also a lower salary), and you will probably work under the guidance of a doctor. Still, you’ll be a registered nurse who can take patient histories, perform exams, order labs, prescribe medicine and do a host of activities that doctors generally handle.

Most importantly, you’ll be helping a lot of people every day. Not everyone can say that.

Learn more about nurse practitioners.

Physician Assistant

Median Annual Salary: $112,260
Education Required: Master’s degree

The profession of physician assistant is one in which you may earn half of what a physician makes, but you may be happier. Physician assistant is the No. 1 job on the 2021 U.S. News Best Jobs ranking. Physician came in at No. 5.

Why is the job of physician’s assistant such a wonderful career? Well, you’re directly helping patients every day by diagnosing illnesses and assisting in surgeries and performing procedures and generally doing a lot of what a physician does. But you don’t have all of the pressure that a physician sometimes has; ultimately, you are generally working under the guidance of a physician or surgeon.

In any case, you will be helping patients get healthier. Because of what you’re doing in the day, you can sleep very well at night.

Learn more about physician assistants.

The 15 best jobs that help people:

— Financial Advisor.

— Orthotist and Prosthetist.

— Physical Therapist.

— Marriage and Family Therapist.

— Occupational Therapist.

— Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.

— Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor.

— Anesthesiologist.

— Physical Therapist Assistant.

— Orthodontist.

— Dentist.

— Speech-Language Pathologist.

— Physician.

— Nurse Practitioner.

— Physician Assistant.

More from U.S. News

The 25 Best Jobs of 2021

25 Best Jobs That Pay $100K or More

16 Low-Stress Jobs

The Best Jobs That Help People originally appeared on

Update 07/19/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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