Careers in Social Justice

A career in social justice may be a good fit for anyone who believes that equal opportunities should be afforded to all and who has a desire to advocate for the underserved. There are a wide variety of careers in this field, and this article will examine several of them.

Options for Careers in Social Justice

The last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance are ''and justice for all'', and these words provide the backbone for those who want to dedicate their careers to social justice, ensuring that everyone has equal access to education, jobs, housing, and healthcare, to name a few. The careers within this field have varying duties, and many jobs can be found in the non-profit sector, although employment opportunities also exist within both the government (typically local government) and non-governmental organizations. Let's take a look at some of the careers available for those interested in advocating for social justice.

Job Title Median Annual Salary* Job Growth (2016 - 2026)*
Social Worker $54,870 (for healthcare social workers);$43,250 (for mental health and substance abuse social workers); $44,380 (for child, family and school social workers) 16%
Community Development Worker $41,570 (for community and social service specialists, all others); $64,100 (for social and community service managers) 18% (for social and community service managers)
Public Defender $57,440** 8% (for lawyers)
Lobbyist $68,744** 9% (for public relations specialists)
Victim Advocate $61,980 (for social workers, all others) 14% (for community and social service occupations)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017; ** as of April 2018

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Information on Social Justice Careers

Social Worker

Social workers serve as counselors to and advocates for families and individuals, helping them with and through problems they may be facing. Most social work careers are divided into the following specialties: child and family social worker; mental health and substance abuse social worker; public health social worker; and school social worker. The job responsibilities within these fields include working with clients to determine what their needs are and then providing information on and assistance with obtaining necessary resources.

Social workers maintain client files and, as caseworkers, are responsible for monitoring their client's progress, many times coordinating with other professionals to ensure that clients receive the services they need. The most common educational requirement for beginning careers in this field is a bachelor's degree in social work (BSW). However, those who want to work as clinical social workers will need to obtain a master's degree and earn licensure.

Community Development Worker

Community development workers can be found working in underserved communities, advocating not only for the individuals but also for the community as a whole. Community development workers strive to better communities by assisting with and supporting initiatives for improvement. They work closely with government officials to obtain support and funding for various programs, including public transportation, parks, and after-school programs. There are a variety of jobs within this career field, from entry-level through management and director-level positions. A bachelor's degree is required, and majors like social work and business administration will prove useful.

Public Defender

Public defenders are attorneys who work for federal, state, or local governments by providing legal representation to criminal defendants (those accused of a crime) who cannot afford an attorney and ensuring that their clients' rights are not violated within the legal system. These positions are frequently filled by newly appointed lawyers who immediately take on many responsibilities and heavy caseloads. Public defender salaries are much less than those of attorneys working in the private sector; however, the experiences gained as a public defender can provide a pathway to private firm partnerships and/or judgeships. A law degree and successful passing of the bar exam are required for this career.


Lobbyists use their communication and persuasion skills to advocate for their cause, attempting to effect changes within the government that will positively impact their cause by working with and educating government officials, typically members of Congress. Lobbyists are many times the ones responsible for the successful passing of a variety of social justice legislation. Many lobbyist careers can be found within the hundreds of social justice organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, UnidosUS, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. A bachelor's degree is typically required, and majors such as political science, public relations or law are relevant.

Victim Advocate

A victim advocate is someone who provides assistance to crime or abuse victims, many times acting as the lifeline upon which the victims rely as they are recovering from their trauma. Victim advocates work directly with victims, providing emotional support and helping them navigate through the various government systems, including the legal system, intended to provide victim assistance.

For example, victim advocates may help an abused mother find safe shelter, assist her in completing paperwork to receive monetary assistance from the government, and help her navigate the complex court system. Victim advocate careers can be found within non-profit organizations as well as the government, particularly within the criminal justice area. A bachelor's degree, and sometimes a master's degree in social work, is typically required.

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