Many young people are understandably looking for careers that do more than allow them to bring home a decent salary. It is now common to want a meaningful job that enables you to contribute towards community awareness and make your community a better, safer or healthier place to live. The pandemic, which kept many people more confined to their local community than ever before, followed by a financial crisis with effects that can be seen all around us, may well have contributed further to this trend. There are several jobs that involve working within your community, raising awareness around important issues and finding local solutions to collective problems.
Community service officer
Community service officers work with local law enforcement in order to make the local community a safer and more pleasant place to live. They are involved in initiatives to help with crime prevention and are often responsible for responding to situations in the community to prevent their escalation. They typically deal with situations that don’t necessitate the police and tend to provide problem-solving and conflict resolution when there are issues within the community.
Community service officers may also be involved in communicating with members of the public about crime prevention initiatives, raising awareness of how people can keep themselves safe, advising individuals on crime prevention or how to respond to a crime in progress and assisting with investigations into minor crimes in the neighborhood. Community service officers may give talks in schools and other institutions to raise awareness and promote practices that aim to keep communities safe and crime-free.
Community service officers are usually civilian employees rather than trained police officers. To become a community service officer, you will have to demonstrate organizational and negotiation skills, empathy and excellent communication skills as well as the ability to show initiative and work independently. You will also need at least a high school diploma, although a bachelor’s degree in a related area may be required as well.
Public safety officer
There are a variety of careers that focus on public safety within a community, but a public safety officer tends to have a more general role than other public safety officials such as a police officer or firefighter. Depending on the city or state you live in, the specific role of a public safety officer can vary. They may be responsible for patrolling a specific area (such as a school or college campus), safeguarding those nearby and providing emergency response services when needed. Public safety officers may also be involved in raising community awareness around everything from crime prevention to fire safety.
You can study for a bachelor’s degree in Public Safety Administration both online and in person, and there is now even a Master’s Program available online from Wilfrid Laurier University. The Public Safety course at Laurier aims to provide a deeper understanding of contemporary issues, social aspects and technologies that affect public safety practice. These degrees can lead to careers as a public safety officer or within the arena of public safety, such as a police officer, firefighter, border service officer or emergency manager.
Community health worker
Community health workers provide support to communities by raising awareness, providing health information, and organizing events focused on health education. This may involve anything from information on vaccines, healthy eating and other preventative health measures to spotting the early signs of serious health issues. Community health workers may also advocate for their communities, advise individuals, and gather health information and resources for people within the community. These workers are mainly focused on providing information, support, education and advocacy to the people in their communities but can also provide first aid treatment and other health-related services as needed.
Community health workers may go by other job titles, including community health advisor, family advocate, health educator, health and wellness liaison, outreach worker or public health aide. In fact, the National Library of Medicine has stated that they go by over 100 different job titles. There are also a variety of routes into the job. Many workers have a bachelor’s degree in public health, health education or a related topic, but it is also possible for those already qualified and working in various job roles within the healthcare service to apply for a job as a community health worker. You will need to demonstrate excellent knowledge, communication skills and problem-solving ability to be considered for the role.
Charity fundraiser or communications officer
Many charities employ someone to work on raising awareness and funds within a local community. Again, these workers go by various job titles, and their job descriptions will certainly vary, but a major part of the role is to educate the community about what it is the charity does, the support it provides, how people in the local community can access that support and how they can help the charity, through fund raising, donating and volunteering.
Community charity workers may work for a local charity that addresses an issue specific to the area, or they may work for a local chapter of a national charity. Charity fundraisers come from a variety of backgrounds and may have previously worked in communications, public relations, education, or social services. The main skills for the job will include organization, communication, and public speaking skills. Many employees in this sector will have a bachelor’s degree and experience in management, marketing, communications, or public relations, but this is not always essential and will depend on the exact requirements of the job.
A youth worker has a wide job description, with a strong focus on helping young people with their personal, social and career development. Youth workers may work with specific populations who have social or educational challenges, such as youth in the foster care system, those with learning difficulties or individuals who have missed out on education because of health or social challenges. They will also aim to provide access to community support for all young people and raise awareness of programs, services and opportunities for young people throughout the community.
A youth worker can work in a variety of settings, including youth shelters, community centers, schools and within specialist organizations providing community support to specific populations. Youth workers often have a bachelor’s degree with a relevant major, such as Youth and Community Development, Child and Adolescent Development or Recreation Management and Youth Leadership. It is also possible to obtain a job in this field with a relevant associate degree. Like other community workers, the skill set required will include being able to communicate clearly, show empathy, develop support plans and respond to individual needs and situations.
The job of a youth counselor may overlap somewhat with that of a youth worker, but youth counselors focus more on mental health and providing counseling services, as opposed to youth workers who may focus more on practical support and advice. A youth counselor can help young people address and manage their social and mental health problems and work on building social and interpersonal skills. They will also often refer clients to more specialist mental health or psychiatric services, or services to help with specific issues such as addiction or trauma. Youth counselors may work with young people via schools, colleges, shelters, residential facilities, healthcare providers and other mental health facilities.
Youth counselors ideally need a bachelor’s degree with a major in a relevant subject such as psychology, social work, or education. Those with an associate degree and some relevant experience may also be considered by some employers. Most youth counselors, including those with a relevant bachelor’s, will find it useful to get experience initially through volunteering or perhaps through an internship program. In order to get better jobs in the field, it may be necessary to pursue a master’s or other post-graduate study and to obtain state licensure to offer counseling services.
There are various roles in a range of facilities throughout any community that may fall under the role of support worker. Such workers may work in medical, social care or mental health facilities to provide extra support and care for patients and clients. They may also operate as outreach workers, going out into the local community and visiting service users in their own homes.
Support workers may specialize in working with a specific population such as young people, new mothers or the elderly, and their job description may involve anything from assisting their clients with personal tasks, managing their day-to-day life, attending appointments and developing a schedule. Outreach support workers who operate within their local community may be involved in helping clients buy groceries, engage in social activities and organize transportation to enable them to make it to medical and other appointments.
Support workers will need to be efficient and organized as well as caring and compassionate. They need good listening skills, communication skills and leadership skills and an ability to adapt to individual client needs. The level of qualifications needed will vary greatly depending on the job, situation and employer. Some support workers may have relevant degrees, while some will have few qualifications but the right skills and relevant experience.
Community outreach worker
Community outreach workers generally work for a government or non-profit agency and aim to engage and educate the community about the organization, its goals and what it can do for them and their community. This is a position that focuses on community awareness and education, and employees in this sector can come from a wide range of backgrounds, although they will often hold a bachelor’s degree in a social sciences field such as sociology, psychology or social work.
Roles that make up the community outreach worker’s job description will depend on the agency they work for but will often include things such as recruiting and coordinating volunteers, acting as a liaison with a variety of community partners, stakeholders and other relevant audiences, organizing community and volunteer education and managing or participating in community fundraising events.
Community development worker
Community development workers tend to work with individuals, groups and families to improve the quality of life that the community offers them. Again, they can have different job titles, job descriptions and roles but will typically be involved in the creation of community programs and initiatives and the development of resources that residents can use to improve life in the community. A community development worker may focus on a specific group within the larger community, such as young people, the elderly or those with disabilities.
These workers will often have a degree in the area of social services or a specialized qualification, such as a Youth Community Development Degree. Some senior workers in the field will have a master’s or doctoral degree in a related field as well. The most common employer of a community development professional will be local government, but such workers may also be employed by charities and non-profits, NGOs and even religious or educational institutions. There are opportunities for community development workers to work overseas with international aid agencies and similar organizations, as well as within their own local communities.
Ultimately, there are a number of careers that involve working within local communities and contributing towards increasing community awareness in a variety of areas. It is simply a case of choosing one that fits your aims, skills and talents. Your choice of degree will impact the professions you can access, but as this article has demonstrated, there are various pathways into these community focused jobs, and a degree in any relevant field can help you find the kind of job you are looking for.
If you want to work in a community focused job, it is never too early to start getting relevant experience and potential contacts and references. The best first step is to volunteer with a local community agency or non-profit and start developing the right type of experience and skill set while also getting a feel for the type of work involved in serving your community in one of these very rewarding roles.