6 degrees of inspiration: how you can make a difference

Former news anchor Tom Brokaw once said, "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference." The man knows his stuff. While most of us work in our lifetimes, very few of us become real-world super heroes. That doesn't mean we can't accomplish both. With a little training -- and a lot of passion -- you can make a difference and a living, all at the same time. Here are six careers to help you do just that.

1. Community Advocate

Ever wonder how the civil or women's rights movements got their start? Often some of the most wide-reaching social or political victories begin with a few people determined to make a difference. Community advocates do this for a living. Professional pot-stirrers, community advocates identify problems in their communities and work to solve them, usually through political or civil means. Anyone can be a community advocate, but those with law or political science degrees really know the ropes. Online pre-law studies degrees can help future advocates get their feet wet without the commitment of more demanding law programs.

2. Registered Nurse

If you have ever been admitted to the hospital, you probably noticed pretty early on that it wasn't the doctor with the spiffy white jacket that provided the bulk of your care -- it was nurses. Registered nurses are the backbone of the American health care system and as our population and life expectancy grows, so does our dependence on them. Providing life-changing (or saving) patient care requires education, however, so research online registered nurse programs to get the ball rolling.

3. Special Education Teacher

For those suffering with severe physical, cognitive or behavioral disorders, a great teacher can mean the difference between surviving school and getting a meaningful education. That's what makes special education teachers so, well, special -- they ensure students with special needs get the support and direction required not just to succeed in the classroom, but in life. Sure, it takes a little patience and a heaping dose of commitment, but so does wrangling a classroom full of middle schoolers. According to the BLS, demand for special education teachers is expected to grow notably in the next few years, so if you are considering landing a career in this field, the time has never been better. All teachers must be licensed, so the right training is a must. Online special education teaching degrees are a convenient way to earn your credentials.

4. Web Developer

When Japan was rocked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami, people all across the globe donated millions through charities online. When soldiers serving overseas want to touch base with their loved ones, they turn to the likes of Facebook or Skype. The Internet has become a medium for connecting with (and sometimes helping) one another, but only because do-good web developers were willing to design the platforms that make it possible. Want to design a Website or tool that makes a difference in our world? Research online computer science degree programs to get started.

5. Non-Profit Executive

What do oil companies and environmental watchdog groups have in common? One strives to make a profit, the other a difference, but both depend on business-savvy leadership to stay afloat. Just think: With the right training, you could earn a living managing an organization that makes the world a better place. According to Forbes, running a non-profit organization is just as complicated as running a for-profit company, and requires just as much skill. Online business degrees, particularly those with a management or entrepreneurial focus, are a great start.

6. School District Chef

Jamie Oliver made headlines when he and his camera crew took on U.S. student lunch programs, visiting schools to highlight their less-than-stellar meal standards. (Did you know pizza is considered a health food?) Oliver's challenge: Proving that schools really can dish up fresh, nutritious food despite their increasingly marginalized budgets. Inspired to follow his lead? You don't need a pocket camera crew and national air time. (Really!) The USDA sponsors a program called Chefs Move to Schools that invites chefs into their local schools to help design and implement healthier school lunch programs. Virtually anyone can prepare a healthy meal now and again, but running a major school lunch program at the district level takes serious credential; online culinary management degrees go a long way.

More ways to help

You don't need to major in a specific field to make a difference; with a little creativity, you can put any degree to good use. Having a goal isn't enough -- you have to be willing to put in the time and energy required to accomplish it. The right training makes this easier. Research online degree programs today to make a start.

Featured Schools