Careers advice and planning

Careers that make a difference

25 Jan 2023, 13:36

Find out about careers that you’ll find fulfilling and rewarding if you want to help people and make a difference.


If you care about making a difference, there’s a job out there for you that will enable you to have an impact and bring about positive change, regardless of your degree background. We’ve put together a list of eleven different areas to consider as a starting-point to help you explore your options.

1. Politics, activism and campaigning

Are there particular issues you feel strongly about? Do you want to bring about change by raising awareness and influencing policy? If so, you might be interested in the following:

2. Helping groups of people with specific needs

You could specialise in supporting people who are affected by a specific issue, for example, by applying for jobs in the following areas:

You can find out more about what's involved in working with refugees by checking out this inside view from a refugee adviser .

3. Careers with charities

Fundraising, marketing, administration, advising on policy… There are many different roles available with charities, and some of the larger organisations run graduate schemes. Alternatively, you could develop your skills in a job in the private sector and then move into working for a charity. Our advice on your graduate career options in charity work and how to get a job with a charity will help you plan your job hunt.

4. Working in international development

You could focus on providing humanitarian assistance at times of crisis or contributing to long-term projects to support development, and could be employed by the government, a charity or an international organisation such as the United Nations. Here's where you can find out more about your options:

5. Social work and community work

If you train as a social worker you could specialise in working with children and young people or adults. There are many different potential career paths open to you within social work, from youth justice work to supporting people who are experiencing domestic abuse.

You can find out more about how to qualify and where to find work from our overview of careers in social work . We also have in-depth advice about the Frontline graduate programme , which focuses on child protection work, including application tips and insights into how it’s different to other routes into social work.

Are you considering a career in community work or youth work, or as a volunteer organiser? You can find out more from our job descriptions for different roles:

6. Education and teaching

In a career as a teacher, you’ll be able to develop the potential of children and young people – and you could also make direct use of your degree by teaching a subject you love. There’s also the possibility of funding to help with the costs of training and early career payments in some subjects. You could teach in a primary or secondary school, specialise in the early years, or focus on working with children with special educational needs. Other career paths in education include teaching in settings such as pupil referral units and hospital schools.

Our advice on careers in teaching explains how to apply successfully for teacher training and explores your career options after qualification, as well as offering tips on how to set about getting a teaching job:

7. Emergency services

Are you interested in working for the fire and rescue service or ambulance service, or joining the police? Find out more about what’s involved, how to train and how to get hired from our job descriptions:

If you’re considering a career in policing, the Police Now graduate scheme is a two-year programme which offers two options. The Police Now national graduate leadership programme offers the opportunity to become a leader in neighbourhood policing, while the Police Now national detective programme will give you the chance to learn the core skills involved in investigating and solving crimes.

Browse our list of key employers in public service, charity and social work for more ideas about where you could work.

8. Green careers

Green careers are focused on sustainability, ecology and protecting the environment. There are many different professions where you could choose to specialise in areas relating to the environment, including law, engineering and education. Alternatively, you could find work with an employer that is committed to becoming more sustainable.

Our advice on green careers explains highlights the range of jobs open to you and gives some tips on how to find an environmentally friendly employer.

9. Law

You could specialise in a field such as human rights law or environmental law, and you'll also have opportunities to undertake pro bono work. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to be a barrister or a solicitor, and you’ll then need to look into different areas of practice to see which appeal to you.

Our advice will help you choose the right law career path for you:

10. Government and the Civil Service

In a career in the Civil Service, you’ll be able to make a difference to people’s lives by improving the delivery of public services. Graduates can apply to join the Civil Service Fast Stream, which offers many different specialisms to choose from. There are also graduate training schemes in local government and with the intelligence services to consider:

11. Medicine and healthcare management

If you’re interested in becoming a doctor but haven’t studied medicine for your first degree, you could explore the fast-track medical degree courses available, which are mainly open to graduates of biology-related subjects. There are also routes into nursing for graduates of other subjects.

Have you considered training as a speech and language therapist, physiotherapist or counsellor? You can find out about these professions and many other roles by browsing our job descriptions – filter by healthcare to focus on jobs in this area.

There are also opportunities to work in healthcare management. The NHS graduate management training scheme in England offers a range of options, including general management, finance and HR. These are open to graduates from all degree backgrounds, apart from the health analysis stream which is open only to graduates of numerate degrees. There are similar NHS management training schemes in Wales and Scotland, and there is a general management training scheme in health and social care in Northern Ireland. Our advice on healthcare management training schemes gives more details.

How your degree can help

Your ability to help others and make a difference at work will be all the greater if you're in a role where you can make use of your strengths. So what are the skills and strengths you've developed during the course of your degree? Here are some broad suggestions for areas that might suit you, depending on what you've studied at university. Browse our degree subject guides for more ideas about careers open to you with your degree.

Arts and humanities graduates

Your communication and research skills and creativity would be helpful for roles in the following areas, among others:

  • teaching and education
  • marketing and PR
  • journalism
  • law.

Social sciences graduates

Your communication skills and understanding of social issues will be useful for jobs in the following areas:

  • humanitarian work
  • politics, policy and international development
  • law
  • therapeutic occupations.

Graduates of finance, business and numerate subjects

Many different organisations, including charities, will be looking for applicants with commercial skills and the ability to analyse and interpret data. Here are some examples of roles in which these skills will be useful:

  • general and financial management
  • accountancy and audit
  • IT
  • data analysis
  • corporate social responsibility.

Science graduates

Scientific data and analysis can play an important part in making the case for change, and a science degree equips you with the skills to support that. A scientific background could help you launch a career working to promote understanding of issues to do with the environment and climate change.

Roles open to you could include the following:

  • scientific research
  • providing scientific expertise to a think tank, pressure group or other organisation.

Key skills for careers that make a difference

You can make a difference at work whatever your strengths – whether you’re an extroverted, persuasive public speaker or a data specialist with an eye for detail. There are three key qualities that will help you to have an impact, whatever role you take up:

  • empathy
  • the ability to listen to others
  • a passion for enacting positive change.

When you’re researching employers, look up their core values and consider whether you’re a good match. Values-based assessment is increasingly used as part of the recruitment process for all kinds of organisations. Our advice on how to answer values-based interview questions will help you prepare.

There could also be opportunities to make a difference outside of your everyday work – for example, some organisations encourage their employees to volunteer and may even set aside time for this. You can find out more about employers by browsing our employer hubs .

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