Guest post by Justin Bailey - Poverty. Racism. Access to healthcare and education. These are just a few of the issues that our society is dealing with today, both here and abroad. For some people, eradicating these problems and creating a better world for all to live in is their life goal. In order to meet that goal and more effectively tackle these and other issues, they enter social justice programs to study the notion of social justice and how it can be used to improve lives.
What is a Degree in Social Justice?
Social justice degree programs combine studies of politics, development, human rights and more to explore social issues through the lenses of justice and equality. Those who study social justice believe in the dignity of all people, and want all to have access to basic human needs, such as education, healthcare, safe food and water, housing and freedom from violence and persecution. They advocate for human rights at all levels, and through their studies, learn methods of effective advocacy.
Where Can a Social Justice Degree Take Me?
The vast majority of students who study social justice go on to work for organizations that strive to solve problems around the world. For example, they might work for a nonprofit organization or government agency that works to improve educational achievement in poor communities, or feed the hungry in urban areas.
Some social justice students combine their study of the issues with coursework in business, management or leadership, in order to prepare to manage organizations. For example, it’s not uncommon to combine social justice studies with a degree in organizational leadership as preparation for leading a NGO or nonprofit organization. Combining the two tracks gives you a unique perspective on how to solve problems. With a thorough understanding of the social implications of the issue and practical skills in leadership, financial management and communication it is possible to ensure the organization is as effective as possible.
Other areas that lend themselves well to a combination with social justice include education, social work, criminal justice and politics.
How Can I Promote Social Justice?
Of course, NGO and nonprofits aren’t the only employers who hire social justice grads. With this degree it’s possible, for example, to fill a role within a government agency, helping members of the community access the services and resources they need. Research, analysis and advocacy roles are also common for social justice grads. Some may move into roles with organizations lobbying state and federal governments for changes that benefit underserved groups, for example, or work with organizations to research the accessibility of services for low-income residents.
Is Social Justice Right for Me?
Only you can decide whether a particular program is right for you or not, but if you have a passion for equality and want everyone to have the same opportunities regardless of social class, race, gender, religion or other identifying characteristic, then it might be the place for you. Studying this field allows you to build the skills you need to create a measurable impact on society, whether it’s through leading a large organization that helps the poor, or working in a local Department of Human Services office to help local residents apply for food and housing assistance. With a thorough understanding of the issues, and how to apply principles of social justice to them, you’ll be better prepared for a career in a philanthropic or social work related field.
On a practical level, succeeding in social justice studies requires good communication skills—both written and oral—as well as an ability and desire to think critically, good problem solving and decision making skills, and a desire to discuss issues, often with opposing sides, to reach solid solutions.
Social justice studies is a relatively new, but growing, field of study. Combining the best of several fields, it is an exciting and stimulating option for the student who wants to save the world—one problem at a time.