A good job is about so much more than a paycheck. It's the satisfaction of doing something well, being a valued part of a team and feeling like your work makes a real difference in people's lives. Some of the most deeply satisfying jobs involve working with kids and young adults. Not surprisingly, they are also some of the hardest jobs out there. Working with kids requires an excess of energy, patience, sensitivity and love. But the reward of a wide smile and a sincere "thank you" makes it all worthwhile.
If you truly care for children and want to give them a head start toward successful, happy lives, consider the following list of five job ideas for people who love kids. We'll start with one of the most important figures in a child's life outside of the home: a good teacher.
It's hard to imagine a job more rewarding (or more challenging) than teaching. It starts with a love of children and a deep respect for the transformative power of education. But a good teacher must also possess near-saintly patience and persistence. It's one thing to be a master of your subject, but another skill altogether to plant a portion of that knowledge in a restless young mind.
There is always a high demand for skilled, caring, effective teachers. As the Baby Boomer workforce begins to retire, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimates that the U.S. will need approximately one million new teachers over the next five or six years to make up for the mass exodus [source: NPR]. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest growth sectors for teaching over the next 10 years are preschool teachers (19 percent), special education teachers (20 percent), and elementary through middle school teachers (15 and 16 percent) [source: BLS].
To teach children older than preschool age, you not only need a college degree (or even a master's degree), but a license from the state. Many states have instituted an emergency credentialing process to fill high-demand positions, but check with your state department of education before quitting your desk job.
A good coach, like a good teacher, can turn a child's life around, setting him or her on a path to high self-esteem and a successful life. Youth sports are excellent opportunities to teach important life lessons and to build personal character. A good coach isn't necessarily the one who wins the most games, but the one whose players improve as athletes, grow as individuals and, most importantly, have fun!
The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a national training program for youth athletic coaches. The PCA teaches coaches how to create a culture of respect for the game, for the opponent and for the players themselves. A good coach certainly isn't overly hard on his or her players, but not too soft, either. Empty praise can be equally damaging to a child's development as an athlete and his or her emerging sense of self-worth. The PCA guidelines talk a lot about "filling the emotional tanks" of kids [source: PCA]. For example, tell them three things they did well before correcting a swing or improving a jump shot.
Most middle school and high school coaches are also teachers at the same school. That means you would at least need a college degree, preferably in education or physical education, to be paid to coach youth sports. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs available to coaches and scouts will grow by 25 percent over the next decade [source: BLS].
A job as a camp counselor can be the perfect summer gig for a high school or college student that loves kids and the outdoors. Camp counselors are powerful role models for campers, showing them what it means to be a responsible, respectful, yet fun-loving young adult. But at the most basic level, camp counselors are chiefly responsible for the safety and security of their campers.
A lot of camp counselors are former campers themselves who have graduated to counselors through a formal or informal training program. But you don't have to be a lifetime camper to get a job as a counselor. Most camps will hire any responsible young person with solid recommendations and some work experience with kids (babysitting, life-guarding or tutoring, for example). Pre-camp training sessions teach you what you'll need to know to go a good job. Another great route to becoming a camp counselor is to excel at a particular skill like crafts, tennis, swimming or backpacking, and apply for a position as an activity leader.
The American Camp Association offers some great resources for finding camp jobs.
Every parent knows the value of a good pediatrician. It's the veteran doctor who still answers his or her pager at 3 a.m. to comfort a worried new father. It's the sensitive caregiver who respectfully alerts a parent to an emerging physical or emotional disorder that needs special attention. It's the pediatric cardiologist, pulmonologist or oncologist that labors diligently through a 12-hour surgery to vastly improve -- or even save -- a child's life.
Pediatricians, like all medical doctors in the U.S., need to complete four years of medical school, plus three years in an approved pediatric residency program. Even longer residencies are required for pediatric sub-specialties like emergency medicine or hematology [source: KidsHealth].
Pediatricians are not only responsible for the treatment of acute illnesses, injury and disease, but for the prevention of common and uncommon childhood medical conditions. A good pediatrician will advise parents on healthy eating choices, physical exercise, and the warning signs of possible emotional, psychological or behavioral problems [source: OSU Medical Center].
Pediatric residency programs are the most competitive of all medical residencies: In 2010, there were 15 applicants for every available spot [source: Medliorate]. So, if you're serious about being a pediatrician, expect to take the most challenging coursework available in both high school and college. It wouldn't hurt to get straight A's, too.
Ice Cream Truck Driver
If you want to make a kid happy -- and we mean really happy -- then all you have to say are two simple words: ice cream. And if you want to spend your day bringing cold, creamy happiness to hundreds of neighborhood kids, all you have to do is find yourself a reasonably priced truck with a rotating soft-serve twisty cone on the roof.
As for job qualifications for ice cream truck drivers, there aren't too many. A good memory for multiple ice cream orders is a plus, as is the ability to quickly and accurately make change. Most employers will require a clean driving record, so keep it slow and safe on the roads. You're not going to get rich selling ice cream sandwiches and rocket pops all summer, but there are worse ways to spend your break. The only downside to driving an ice cream truck is the music, which could very well drive you crazy.
For more lists of great job ideas, drive to the links on the next page.
HowStuffWorks Now looks at a new twist in the sharing economy: renting your home for office space.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Athletes, Coaches, Umpires and Related Workers" (Accessed July 5, 2011.) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos251.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Teachers --Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle and Secondary" (Accessed July 5, 2011.) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos318.htm
- KidsHealth. "Finding a Doctor for Your New Baby" (Accessed July 8, 2011.) http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/doctor/find_ped.html
- Medliorate. "Top 10 Most Competitive Residencies." 2010. (Accessed July 9, 2011.) http://www.medliorate.com/2010/04/07/top-10-most-competitive-residencies-2010/
- NPR. "Arne Duncan: How Dream Act Can Cut Deficit." July 7, 2011(Accessed July 5, 2011.) http://www.npr.org/2011/07/07/137672099/arne-duncan-how-dream-act-can-reduce-deficit
- The Ohio State University Medical Center. "The Pediatrician" (Accessed July 7, 2011.) http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/pediatrics/the_pediatrician/pages/index.aspx
- Positive Coaching Alliance. "Sample Parent Guardian Meeting Agenda" (Accessed July 8, 2011.) http://www.positivecoach.org/uploadedFiles/Free_Tips_and_Tools/Coaches_Tools/Sample_ParentMtgAgenda.pdf