Careers related to Social Justice

The range of careers associated with social justice is enormous, from local government service to international human rights law, from developing green products and initiatives to providing resources and training in less-developed nations, from responding to natural disasters to ensuring the rights of women. 

Some careers (e. g., social work or law) may require graduate training, so see our link for information about possible graduate programs.  But there are many job possibilities for those with a BA degree.

These fields are competitive, so it is important to prepare.  As the information below will emphasize, the three aspects of our social justice program (course work, volunteer involvement, and off-campus programs or internships) will all be important as you explore career directions and prepare for a career related to social justice.  See our link for co-curricular possibilities in social justice.

Thinking about Careers: Your Contribution

Seeking a Career related to Social Justice

Exploring Possibilities

A Sampling of Possibilities


 Thinking about Careers: Your Contribution

When thinking about careers, it’s important to reflect on where you can make a difference, that is, on what contributions you can make. This will, of course, be related to your skills, temperament, academic training, and experiences.  As the Greeks emphasized, know yourself, but also know (through academic work) the issues, causes, and structures that can inform solutions to social problems and (through co-curricular, volunteer, and internship efforts) life on the ground and how that enriches the intellectual understanding.  For example, a student might really want to help homeless people, but they might discover that working on policy issues isn’t as satisfying as working directly with people in need or vice versa.  In a more dramatic example, sometimes people think they want to go into healthcare, but by volunteering learn that they can’t stand the sight of blood.  Supplementing academic study with related volunteer and internship experience is always helpful, because it gives students the opportunity to discover the most fruitful ways for them to make a contribution to the cause they are committed to. 

Spend some time with the Career Advancement Center career exploration pages.

Resources in the Ethics Center reading room may also be helpful.  Consider, for example:

Making a Living while Making a Difference by Melissa Everett

100 Best Nonprofits to Work for, Find Your Dream Job—and Launch a Rewarding Career Doing Good!  By Leslie Hamilton and Robert Tragert


 Seeking a career related to social justice


Some general notes:  Some aspects of a job search are fairly standard no matter what type of position one might be seeking.  For general info about job searches, see our Career Advancement Center pages.


But some aspects of a typical social justice job search can be different.

  • Perhaps even more than for business, specific experience in areas related to your job search may be important.  Such experience can be gained through participation in related co-curricular groups, volunteer efforts with local organizations, or internships.  These efforts may begin as a way for you to figure out your focus, but as you clarify your career interests, find ways to contribute—and to gain experience—while an undergrad.
  • Cover letters (and articulation of verbal interest) tend to matter more for social justice jobs, but it’s also harder for students to stand out, because it is more important that they show their specific interest in the particular organization, cause, or position.  It’s not enough to make comments like, “I want to work for your organization, because I like to help people.”  There needs to be more depth for their top-tier employers.  (Again, relevant experience, in volunteer or internship efforts, will be important.)
  • Whereas major companies will start recruiting college students in the fall for summer training classes, social justice employers that have structured programs will likely be running them as fellowships, grant-based projects, or limited term service programs — examples would be programs like Teach for America or the Peace Corps.  Both business and typical social justice employers also do “just-in-time” hiring, which means that when students network before jobs exist, they are more likely to be selected, because they were in the pipeline early.


 Exploring possibilities


Useful Information from our Career Advancement Center:

Career Finder: Social Service and Public Administration 

Career Finder: Government and Public Administration

Career Finder: Law


Other useful materials:

Human Rights and Social Justice Organizations

Williams College social service career site


Useful general sites


Common Good Careers

Non-Profit Jobs

Making the Difference

Non-Profit Career Network

Non-Profit Job Seeker

Jobs for Change:


Also note that working in business need not require a sacrifice of your values.  Many businesses are committed to social justice issues and environmental sustainability.  Take a look at these sites:

Sustainable Business:

Net Impact:


 A Sampling of Possibilities


For a listing of current job and internship postings, see the Online Career Center.

Examples of NGOs and other organizations, from 100 best nonprofits to work for, Find your dream job—and launch a rewarding career doing good!  By Leslie Hamilton and Robert Tragert:



Outward Bound


Clean Water Action


National Wildlife Federation

The Nature Conservancy

The Sierra Club

Trust for Public Land


Doctors Without Borders MSF

Human Rights

Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Issue or Constituent Advocacy/Social Change

American Civil Liberties Union –ACLU

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People- NAACP

National Organization for Women- NOW

Union of Concerned Scientists- UCS 


United Negro College Fund- UNCF

United Way of America


American Red Cross

International Rescue Committee


Jane Goodall Institute

Social Service

Goodwill Industries International, Inc.

Habitat for Humanity International

Make-a-Wish Foundation of America

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.



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