The 12 Best Jobs That Help People

Rebecca Koenig , Geoff Williams

Careers that do good

When searching for fulfilling professions, many people reflect on whether their chosen lines of work will have positive effects on the world. These 12 jobs from the U.S. News Best Jobs of 2020 rankings stand out for the ways in which they enable workers to directly help other people. Salary data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Median annual salary: $44,630

These therapists work with clients who are suffering from addiction, often to alcohol or drugs. They may counsel patients one-on-one or in group settings to help set treatment and recovery goals. They also teach healthy mechanisms to handle stress and provide insight about fixing personal and professional relationships that have been strained by drug abuse.

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors usually 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: $151,850

People who need regular teeth care and have serious oral issues, such as tooth decay, seek the services of dentists. Dentists who run their own practice have the satisfaction of running their own business and being an important pillar of their communities.

Unlike some people in the medical profession, dentists usually aren't encountering life-and-death issues on a daily basis -- and yet still get to treat pain and help people see huge benefits in their quality of life.

Dentists generally require 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 will earn a doctoral degree in dental medicine or dental surgery.

Learn more about dentists.

Mental Health Counselor

Median annual salary: $44,840

People suffering from depression, anxiety, grief and relationship problems may seek the services of mental health counselors. These professionals assess patients' needs and recommend treatment options. They may have their own practices or work in schools, prisons or employee assistance programs.

Mental health counselors require master's degrees, many hours of clinical experience and state licenses.

Learn more about mental health counselors.

Social and Community Service Manager

Median annual salary: $65,320

Making sure programs designed to serve the public come to fruition and run efficiently and effectively are the responsibilities of social and community services managers. They may work for nonprofits, nursing homes or government agencies, and their duties may include analyzing program data, writing grant proposals to receive financial support and recruiting, hiring and training staff members.

These professionals typically need bachelor's or master's degrees to gain employment.

Learn more about social and community service managers.

Interpreter and Translator

Median annual salary: $49,930

Interpreters and translators foster communication between individuals and communities, the former using spoken information, the latter using written text. They may work in schools, hospitals, courtrooms, performing arts venues or for companies, bridging language and cultural barriers and keeping people with hearing impairments included in the proceedings.

These professionals need fluency in at least two languages, and their work usually requires a bachelor's degree.

Learn more about interpreters and translators.

Physical Therapist

Median annual salary: $87,930

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, specialize in helping people with difficulty moving do just that. 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.

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

Learn more about physical therapists.

Child and Family Social Worker

Median annual salary: $46,270

Protecting children who are at risk and families that need assistance are the primary responsibilities of these professionals. They help families access food, housing and child care services and check regularly on children who may be abused or neglected.

Child and family social workers need bachelor's degrees to enter the field, and many need master's degrees and licenses.

Learn more about child and family social workers.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Median annual salary: $50,090

Marriage and family therapists help couples and families work through conflicts and strengthen their relationships. They listen to clients describe their experiences and feelings, facilitate their conversations about difficult subjects and help them make decisions. Some of these therapists work independently, while others work for health care providers or governments.

These professionals need master's degrees and licenses.

Learn more about marriage and family therapists.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Median annual salary: $77,510

People with serious speaking disorders enlist the services of speech-language pathologists. These professionals assess and treat communication and swallowing problems caused by injuries, diseases and developmental delays. 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.

Nurse Midwife

Median annual salary: $103,770

Nurse midwives care for women and babies. They provide gynecological exams and pre-birth care, deliver newborns and teach new parents about the health needs of their children. They may work in hospitals or doctor's offices.

Nurse midwives need master's degrees and licenses.

Learn more about nurse midwives.


Median annual salary: $120,910

Although some lawyers work on behalf of corporations, many others represent the interests of individuals or the general public. They defend people's rights in court, interpret laws as government employees and research matters of civic importance.

Lawyers need law degrees and must also pass bar exams permitting them to practice.

Learn more about lawyers.


Median annual salary: $170,560

Pediatricians are doctors who care for children from when they're infants through young adulthood, managing their health, such as diagnosing and treating illnesses. They can also specialize in more niche areas such as surgery and genetic defects.

These doctors need medical degrees, residency experience and licenses to practice.

Learn more about pediatricians.

The best jobs that help people include:

-- Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor.

-- Dentist.

-- Mental health counselor.

-- Social and community service manager.

-- Interpreter and translator.

-- Physical therapist.

-- Child and family social worker.

-- Marriage and family therapist.

-- Speech-language pathologist.

-- Nurse midwife.

-- Lawyer.

-- Pediatrician.