People, Data, Ideas or Things?

Vocational testing often given in high school and college helps differentiate an individual's ability to work best with people, data, ideas, or things.  Those who test well in working with people are encouraged to consider a career that features helping others.  Positions can be found in health care, teaching, social work, psychology, rehabilitation, and religion as well as leadership and human development positions in business and industry.  Most of these positions, however, require a minimum of four years of college and may require as many as twelve years of education plus continuing education once in a professional position.

In interviewing applicants for graduate school, I often would ask "Why do you want to prepare for this career in health care, rehabilitation, or education?" Frequently the response was: "Because I want to help people." 

Having the desire to spend a life time of service to others is a beginning step.  Next consider your attributes and what is involved in being a helping professional. Do you have some of the attributes that are needed in one of these helping professions?  These include Objectivity,  Respect for others, Belief that people can change, Compassion, Honesty, Reliability, Self-Discipline, Discreetness, Self-Knowledge.  If so, consider entering one of the helping professions.  


Helping Professions

A professional is an individual who has completed formal education and acquired professional certification and/or state licensure to practice a specific occupation or vocation.  

The helping professions is a name given to a group of occupations whose focus is on helping people solve problems or overcome difficulties ranging from physical to spiritual and from financial to legal.  Here are sample career options:

  • Physical -- Physician including specialists, registered nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, audiologist, speech pathologist, optometrist, rehabilitation counselor, orientation and mobility specialist, vision rehabilitation therapist, and other
  • Mental and emotional -- Counselor or psychotherapist who may be trained as clinical psychologist, physician specializing in psychiatry, or clinical social worker
  • Family-oriented -- Social worker, counselor, psychotherapist
  • Spiritual -- Pastor, priest, rabbi, other 
  • Educational--Teacher, professor, school psychologist, special education 
  • Legal -- Lawyer, judge
  • Financial -- Social welfare worker, debt counselor, financial planner



Professional status involves the following:

  • Completing formal education and requirements for certification or licensure in one or more states
  • Recognition that no one profession can solve all problems and interdisciplinary services are sometimes required
  • Recognition that helping professionals provide a service(s) that may be overvalued or undervalued in financial compensation
  • Recognition that people who need help may not recognize the need for help or may not be aware of the kind of help your profession can offer
  • Recognition that people who need help may be afraid to accept it and even reject it
  • Recognition that some people expect the professional to do all the work and fail to see their part in resolving their own difficulties
  • Recognition, acceptance of, and reinforcement of boundaries between the professional and the client
  • Recognition that professionals because oftheir education and status have power that can be used to be helpful or harmful