How to Turn Your Education Into a Career Fighting Inequality
Social justice careers allow professionals to help combat various inequalities based on factors like race, gender, and class. Potential social justice jobs include social worker, teacher, counselor, and health educator. All of these professionals provide essential services that support marginalized groups. This guide covers the top careers for social justice and what learners can expect from a college degree for social justice that focuses on eliminating social inequalities.
Teaching, social work, counseling, health education, and community development jobs support efforts to lessen social disparities. Many entry-level positions in these fields require a bachelor's degree. Careers in counseling and psychology generally require at least a master's degree. Prospective social justice professionals can also major in areas like labor and economic development, gender studies, and public affairs. These pathways cover various social justice theories and practices.
Some fields, such as healthcare and social work, require certifications in addition to a degree. Prospective students should check their state's guidelines to determine if they need licensure or certification to practice.
Career Ideas for Fighting Inequality
Many career paths allow professionals with degrees for social justice to combat inequalities. The lists below describe jobs that help combat social disparities.
Careers Providing Immediate Support
Social workers advocate for clients and research community resources that can help them. Social workers may refer individuals and families for services like food stamps and childcare. Some social workers provide counseling and treatment. Careers in social work typically require a master's degree and a license. Students should consult their state's guidelines for information about social work licensure.
Social and human service assistants identify resources that can help those in need. They often work with social workers to coordinate services for individuals and families. Some social and human service assistants work with specific populations, like children or the elderly. Most jobs in this area only require a high school diploma. Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in human and family studies to increase their job prospects.
Rehabilitation counselors offer individual and group counseling to people with disabilities. They develop treatment plans and work with doctors, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals to coordinate care. Rehabilitation counselors may also provide clients with skills or career training. This job generally requires a master's degree and state licensure.
Careers Improving Education
Teachers educate young people and adults. Most educators work in K-12 settings, but some teachers may work at community centers or nonprofits. Teachers instruct students, serve as advisors, and collaborate with other educational staff to support student needs. Teachers may work in public or private schools. The field requires a bachelor's degree and state certification.
Adult educators provide instruction to adult students. They may work in community organizations or schools. ESL teachers instruct students for whom English is a second language. They typically work in K-12 settings, but some tutor students outside of school hours. Most adult and ESL teachers hold a bachelor's degree along with a state license.
Special education teachers educate children and adults with special needs. They develop individualized education plans and assess student development. They also coordinate lessons and activities tailored to student needs and collaborate with family members and administrators on educational efforts. They may supervise teaching assistants and other support staff. Special education teachers must hold a bachelor's degree and certification.
Careers Helping Guide Others
Health educators provide health-related instruction and services to individuals and groups. They may work in schools, public health departments, healthcare facilities, and nonprofits. Health educators inform community members about health outcomes, facilitate access to key services, and advocate for better public health programs. Many health educators hold a bachelor's degree in education, public affairs, or a related field.
Psychologists work to improve mental health outcomes and standards. They may practice in schools, hospitals, or private clinics. Counseling psychologists primarily offer counseling to individuals and groups with mental health needs. Clinical psychologists conduct diagnostic tests, assess mental disorders, and conduct research. School psychologists work in schools, offering support for students with mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. These careers require a master's degree or doctorate, depending on the role.
School and career counselors provide children and adults with counseling services that focus on career development. School counselors often help secondary students apply for college and pursue careers. Career counselors help adults acquire professional development training and support career transitions. School and career counselors typically hold a bachelor's degree and state certification.
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College Courses Discussing Social Justice
Many schools offer social justice-related courses, covering topics like the history of inequality, practical methods for eliminating injustice, and community development and service. The list below highlights five courses that students may encounter during a degree for social justice.
This course offers a foundational overview of social justice. Learners study foundational texts and ideas about inequality. They also explore the history of social and political struggles in the U.S. and worldwide.
Students in this class learn how the stratification of human society leads to health-related inequalities. The course focuses on methods for combating health inequalities for children and teens. Learners study topics such as life expectancy disparities, mental health services, and public health outcomes.
Many societies struggle to provide sufficient food for individuals and families. This course examines local, national, and worldwide food systems from a social justice perspective. Students engage with key texts and theories that focus on food justice.
This class explores prominent ideas about social inequalities through sociological and anthropological lenses. Students learn how social stratification causes pervasive inequality. The course helps students understand how power and privilege function in American society and globally.
Courses on community engagement and organizing prepare students to advocate for local, regional, and national communities. Learners study how communities actively work to spur social change. The class may feature experiential activities that provide students with hands-on skills.
Chief of Staff at Project Rousseau
Expert Interview: How to Launch a Career Fighting Inequality
Q. How can students best prepare for a career focused on fighting inequalities?
Inequality encompasses a huge variety of fields. It's important to recognize this early and identify which area you find most compelling and where you could have the greatest impact.
While the goal to "end inequality" is admirable, it is, for most of us, unrealistic. A narrower focus allows you to find an organization having a concrete impact but doesn't mean you can't work on other aspects of inequality in that position. My organization aims to reduce educational inequality, but I've also been involved with reducing other types as well. I narrowed my focus by learning as much as I could about educational inequality, but also [about] other types to rule those out.
Q. What are some ways students can gain experience and knowledge while still in school?
A theoretical understanding is important. I wrote my dissertation on nutritional inequality and its relationship to academic performance, and it's been helpful in my career for introducing me to different approaches to topics I now work with directly. I also recommend participating in community service and/or internships related to the field. Practical experience, whatever the level, is very appealing to an employer. Having hands-on experience with people facing the inequality you hope to address gives you a more holistic understanding of issues.
I've also found that developing other skills, such as organization and leadership, have been imperative in my career. Organizations fighting inequality need a whole spectrum of skill sets.
Q. Why should students (or anyone) care about inequalities or injustices they do not experience themselves?
Did you know that students from low-income families are seven times more likely to drop out of high school than those from high-income families? Or that under 4% of Tennessee's African American students graduated as "college-ready"? These facts should compel anyone to care about inequalities.
Additional Resources for Social Justice Issues
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