8 important jobs that people should be paid a lot more to do.

There's nothing like a hard day's work to give someone a sense of purpose.

Sure, you may come home feeling like a puddle of a human, drained from long hours...


GIF from "Arrested Development."

...but if you take pride in your work, you can plop down at home with a feeling of triumph from all you were able to achieve for the day.

And maybe some cheese as a bonus. (#TreatYoSelf). GIF from "30 Rock."

Unfortunately, self-worth is not an accepted form of payment for your creditors and bill collectors. So your paycheck really matters.

But in this age of gaping inequality, many aren't earning fair wages for their labor. That's especially the case in certain lines of work. Every day, millions of people clock into jobs that both support our daily lives and are critical to the country's future.

They may not be developing the latest and greatest apps and gadgets or performing Wall Street wizardry to make money out of thin air, but they do make important contributions. And they're being grossly underpaid for it.

If you work in one of these eight jobs, here's to the prospect of a well-deserved raise:

1. Public school teachers

Photo by Michelle Collins/FEMA Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons.

Median income: $53,760 - $56,310

By 2021, the U.S. Department of Education projects that public pre-K-12 schools will enroll 91% of students in the U.S. If you really believe "children are the future," then logic would follow that, y'know, brighter students, brighter future, right? That's where teachers come in.

Though more research has to be done, an early study on the effects of paying teachers much more handsomely has shown significantly improved academic outcomes for students. So boosting public school teachers' salaries could be seen as an investment our the future.

2. Registered nurses

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Median income: $66,640

Certainly compared to most U.S. workers, nurses seem to have it pretty good salary-wise. But if we look at how nursing has changed in a time of extreme health care costs and the rising care demands of an aging population, envy starts to fade.

Nurses are working longer hours and taking on more responsibility than ever before. Those with advanced nursing degrees now do work historically performed by doctors simply because it's cheaper for them to do it.

And as the frontline of patient care, modern nurses are increasingly expected to be big thinkers who can help identify answers to industry challenges through research and new technologies.

3. Farm workers

Photo by CIAT/Flickr.

Median income: $19,330

These folks toil in the unforgiving heat of the sun to feed and clothe the rest of us. And they do it for a minimum wage — if they're lucky. Some farm workers are paid a "piece rate" or a volume-based payment (e.g., per pound, box, or basket).

If they're undocumented, as many of these workers are, they not only might not get the minimum they're due, but they may also face daily abuse and harassment by their supervisors — especially if they're women.

4. Child care workers

Photo by Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images.

Median income: $19,730

Parents want the best for their kids, sometimes obsessively so. Since crating children is neither helpful nor legal, child care workers are there when parents can't be to provide little ones with a safe and nurturing developmental experience.

In the earliest years of human life, capable child care workers play an integral role in preparing kids for the challenges of being bigger kids, teenagers, and beyond. It's a big responsibility that's worthy of at least a living wage.

5. Paramedics


Photo by Jenny Starley/Flickr.

Median income: $31,700

When sh*t hits the fan and emergency medical situations arise, these folks are the first on the scene to help people in trouble. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to save lives day in and day out, often in unpredictable and dangerous situations. They deserve more than what amounts to an entry-level office worker salary.

6. Home health aides


Photo by Tunstall/Flickr.

Median income: $21,380

No one wants their grandma to be that "I've fallen and I can't get up!" lady. Home health aides help to prevent that from happening. They care for those who've logged their hours, raised their families, and now need a little help living their golden years with dignity and in the comfort of their homes. Should that work not be similarly dignified with a fair wage?

7. Social workers

Photo by Joe Houghton/Flickr.

Median income: $45,500

They do the hard work of guiding families and individuals along life's rockiest roads. Social workers help people stay afloat emotionally, socially, and even economically when they need it most.

Though lawmakers and other talking heads tout family values and home stability as a virtue of civilized society, we rarely if ever hear them advocate for the investments in the social workforce necessary to help people achieve that.

8. Food service workers

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr.

Median income: $19,560

As the economy recovers, our appetite for dining out is making a fierce comeback. Someone has to feed that hunger, so food service has seen some of the largest job growth since the recession.

But how optimistic can we be about a labor recovery based on poverty-wage gigs — especially with a federal minimum wage that, when adjusted for inflation, peaked in 1968?

With fast food and other low-wage workers protesting throughout the country, seven states and a handful of cities decided to raise their minimum wages to $15 last year. And 16 more states are expected to raise their minimum wages in 2016.

Hopefully these are signs that we're on the verge of a tipping point for wage justice.

This is far from an all-inclusive list. And you don't have to agree with every one of the above to appreciate the larger point.

A Pew Research Center headline said it best: "The American middle class is losing ground." Middle-income earners comprised the majority of the working population 45 years ago.

Charts by Pew Research Center.

Today, middle earners are dwindling, forced into a growing low-income tier as higher earners — the highest earners, really — capture an unfair share of the country's income and wealth.

And no amount of bootstrapping or hard work on the job will change this trend. Only widespread pressure from a pissed-off majority will.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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