Our Research


  • Our latest round of coaching caused changes in career plans, and it exceeded our targets for the fraction of people coached who significantly change plans. 56% of people (10 out of 18) participating in case studies made significant plan changes. 39% of people (7 out of 18) participating in one-on-one coaching sessions also made significant plan changes.

  • The cost of the time put into coaching from July to February was £9,198. With 17 significant plan changes, the average cost of a change was around £541. The time put into coaching led to additional benefits, like the value of the research involved in the case studies.

  • The coaching taught us more about which questions are relevant to decision-making, and which are commonly faced by people wanting to make a difference through their career. The most common kind of question involved comparing career options. The most commonly asked about careers were those in finance, entrepreneurship, working in effective altruist organisations, software and consulting.

  • We also learned how to further improve our coaching through the feedback we received, and by analysing who didn’t change plans and why. We have subsequently made several changes to our coaching process.


The purpose of this document is to estimate: 1. How much do people pursuing earning to give donate, and how much can we expect them to in the immediate future? 2. How much more giving has 80,000 Hours caused?

The second part fits into our upcoming impact evaluation.


How much do people pursuing earning to give donate?

  • We estimate there’s at least 100 people pursuing earning to give in the effective altruism community, based on survey data from the effective altruist organisations.
  • From our own surveys, we’ve found 39 people pursuing earning to give whose career plans have been changed by 80,000 Hours.
  • A random sample of ten of these 39 reported total donations to high impact and meta-charities over the last three years of £210k.
  • The top three donors we know among the group of 39 gave £230k over the last three years.
  • The members of the random sample of ten estimate they will donate £1.6m over the next three years to high impact charities and meta-charities. The top five donors we know expect to donate £2.1m over the next three years. If a significant number continue earning to give, donations will be substantially higher after 2016 due to rapid expected earnings growth.
  • The majority of the donations are expected to be to effective altruist organisations, followed by GiveWell recommended charities.
  • The estimates are complicated by: (i) the difficulty forecasting salary (ii) the chance of mass drop outs from earning to give (iii) biases in reporting (iv) dependence upon a couple of individuals, who account for a large fraction of the donations.
  • Overall, our best guess estimate is that the group of 39 has donated £230k - £400k over the past three years, and will donate about £2m over the next three years (with an 80% confidence interval of £500k - £4m).
  • The entire earning to give community of around 100 is likely to be donating about twice as much.

How much more giving has 80,000 Hours caused?

  • We asked the random sample of ten from among the group of 39 to estimate how much of their expected giving to effective charities is due to 80,000 Hours. On average, they estimated 30%.
  • We searched the group of 39 for the donors who attributed the most donations over the next three years to 80,000 Hours’ influence. Collectively, the top five attribute £565k. More detail on each individual is in the Appendix.
  • These estimates are complicated by all the issues that complicate the overall estimates of donations, plus additional biases and the difficulty of separating our influence from the rest of the effective altruism community.
  • Based on the survey data and these considerations, our overall estimate is that 80,000 Hours has caused £50k of donations over the past three years. We expect to cause £500k of donations over the next three years, and substantially more after that, although our estimates are highly uncertain. The increase over the next three years is because more of the community will soon start work, and others are expected to see rapid salary growth during their first years of employment.

80,000 Hours visits Number 10

Benjamin Todd on April 2nd, 2014


In December, Will and I had the opportunity to visit Number 10 Downing St. to meet with policy advisors to discuss government policy on careers advice.

After the meeting, we wrote up a white paper on how we think nationwide careers advice can be improved

Below, you can find the executive summary.

Review of progress on the website

Ozzie Gooen on March 11th, 2014

This document outlines the website updates from the period of August 2013 to January 2014. It’s part of our annual review, the rest of which will be released on the blog over the next month.

The most significant change was a site redesign, followed by several new features such as a hierarchical categories system, a research rating system, and newly designed pages.

Throughout this period we’ve decided on having a more focussed brand and website in the future. In the next year, technical development will primarily support website maintenance and organizational research.


80,000 Hours impact survey evaluation

Benjamin Todd on March 10th, 2014

To understand our impact and learn how to improve as an organisation, we recently ran an open survey of our users.

We released the survey (see here) on 7th January through social media, our blog, newsletter emails and some individual emails. The following post analyses the 206 responses we had received by the 7th February.


  • The survey identified sixty three people who said engaging with 80,000 Hours significantly changed their career plans. These people could specify the changes and how they came about. We know from other sources of a further forty people who changed plans, bringing our total to over one hundred.
  • About a third of the changes resulted only from reading online content. This is the first systematic evidence that our online content can change plans without one-on-one contact with the team.
  • One-on-one coaching, discussion with people in the community and attending events were all significant in changing plans.
  • We also collected evidence of impact beyond plan changes. We found for every three plan changes, there was a ratio of 1.5 people introduced to effective altruism for first time who now identify as supporters, and two people who changed their attitudes towards careers.
  • Giving What We Can, Less Wrong, word of mouth and Peter Singer’s TED talk also bring people to the effective altruism community.
  • Important sources of promotion for 80,000 Hours seem to be word of mouth, Less Wrong, our Oxford and Cambridge events, online search, social media and Peter Singer’s TED talk.
  • The rate at which we caused people to change plans roughly doubled when we became a full-time rather than voluntary organisation. This rate has been roughly steady since.
  • After seeing what kind of help people want, we decided to increase the priority put on bringing back some simple member networking tools.
  • We identified several themes in the feedback, detailed later in the post.
  • We received thirty very positive testimonials, which we take as a strong show of support.
  • We collected data on the careers and causes that supporters of 80,000 Hours commonly pursue, detailed later in the post.

Coaching Applications Analysis

Ozzie Gooen on March 5th, 2014

Who has been applying to coaching from 80,000 Hours? In this post, we analyze our coaching applications to understand what kinds of people are requesting coaching.


Data sources and quantity

We analyzed responses from our Social Impact Coaching applications. These consisted of multiple choice questions, text-response paragraphs, and CVs or resumes. This analysis looked at all 91 Social Impact Coaching responses from Oct 15th 2013 to Jan 22 2014.

Key questions

What were the key demographic characteristics of the audience?

  • Only 30% were from the UK. 38% were from the US, with others spread around the globe, especially Australia and Canada.
  • 73% were in their twenties, and 20% were over 30.
  • We estimated that approximately 40% of applicants were not students.

Where do most coaching applicants come from?

  • The most important source was personal referrals at 28% of applicants.
  • Next, came the student groups in Oxford and Cambridge, which yielded 24% of applicants.
  • Google search was a surprisingly common source at 16% of applicants.
  • Two other important sources were the CFAR/LW community and Peter Singer’s TED talk.

How high achieving is the audience?
Our impression of the audience was that they were extremely ‘high achieving’ from the standpoint of intelligence and general prestige. It seems like we have a surprisingly high number of top young academics, entrepreneurs and charity workers applying.

This could have been biased because it has become known that 80,000 Hours coaching applications are highly competitive. Therefore it may be that many applicants who didn’t feel impressive did not apply.

How knowledgeable about effective altruism is our audience?
Approximately 1/4th of the applicants seemed to be very familiar with effective altruism, 1/4th somewhat familiar, and the other 1/2 seemed unfamiliar (see the ‘Knowledge of effective altruism’ rating below for more details). About 45% said that they support one of the causes common in the effective altruism community.

How altruistic is the audience?
They appear to be highly altruistic on average, with 30% pledging at least 10% of their income to charity and over half saying that positive impact is the main or only relevant factor in choosing their career. We might expect this to be biased upwards because it was obvious from the application which answers we’d prefer. From examining CVs qualitatively, we classified about ⅓ of the audience as ‘highly altruistic’.

Is there a subsection of the audience who might be willing to pay for coaching?
We’re interesting in the possibility of making part of the coaching self-funding. Our best guess was that the people who will be most willing to pay for coaching are people from tech and finance backgrounds aged 25-35. We found that about 20% of the requests fell in this category, which was higher than our expectations.

How has our audience changed over time?
There was a 0.17 correlation between audience ID (the order in which they joined) and the achievement score. Therefore it seems like the applications are becoming slightly higher in average achievement, which is a positive sign. However, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions because the period of time was very short (October 15th 2013 to Jan 15th 2014).

What were the most common types of question?
The vast majority of questions were about choosing careers. Approximately 30% of questions seemed directly focussed on optimizing social impact as opposed to improving the career from a personal perspective. Taking other parts of the applications into account, it seemed that most applicants primarily care about social impact. After reviewing these questions we came up with an alternative method of categorizing questions.

Additional findings

Doing this analysis required us to personally read each application and skim each resume. These were highly revealing.

  1. Entrepreneurs, global ‘shapers’, international lawyers, genius geeks, and lots of otherwise different groups all share uncertainty but desire to do good in the world. Our audience base seemed diverse indeed.

  2. Some applicants discussed frustrating experiences at the forefront of careers in several ‘ethical’ industries. For instance, several applicants experienced frustration at the difficulties of getting positions at international nonprofits (and some of these people spoke several languages and did diverse work on many different continents). These could represent very useful opportunities to learn from this community, perhaps in direct interviews.

  3. Many of these applicants could probably benefit greatly from meeting each other. They are, on the whole, extremely intelligent and talented, but often confused. Many are looking for future startup or nonprofit co-founders. We’re not sure what organization or who should facilitate connections in the community, but this seems like a really valuable service.

  4. 80,000 Hours’ coaching service attracts a large community that is not familiar with effective altruism. Much of this seems to be what is call the ‘Globalists’ above. This group seems to have very different goals and needs from the ‘Rationalists’. It may make sense for 80,000 Hours to either focus on one of these groups, or at least experiment more with the ‘Globalist’ group.

  5. We noticed that a significant number of the applicants wanted to do one of the following:
    a. Consult international NGOs on effectiveness
    b. Create new social ventures to help the world, (often not particularly effective altruism inspired)
    c. Technology related to decision making, policy making, or global poverty
    This leads us to believe that impressive new organizations doing (a) or (c) may be able to find many excellent employees. It may be useful to create an incubator or social groups to encourage (b).

Interview with Matt Gibb

Thomas Hendrey on February 25th, 2014


Matt Gibb has been involved with 80,000 Hours since its inception. Early on, he was influenced by the idea of earning to give and has been pursuing this for the last few years through entrepreneurship. When we spoke to him he was focussed on a company dropkic.kr at the startup incubator Betaspring. With dropkic.kr, Matt has tied himself and his co-founders to the mast by adding a legally binding agreement to the company charter to donate ⅓ of any proceeds they from selling their stake to GiveWell or Giving What We Can recommended charities.

Charitable Contributions. Each Founder hereby agrees that, upon the earlier to occur of a Sale of the Company or a Transfer of all Company Securities held by such Founder (such time, the “Charitable Contribution Trigger”), such Founder shall contribute not less than one-third (1/3) of such Founder’s Aggregate Proceeds (measured as of, and after giving effect to any amounts received by such Founder as a result of, such Sale of the Company or Transfer) (such amount, the “Charitable Contribution Amount”), to one or more global health-related charities as may be recognized by givingwhatwecan.org and givewell.org or any similar or successor research organization; provided, however, that each Founder shall be entitled to deduct from such Charitable Contribution Amount, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the amount of any and all global health-related charitable donations made by such Founder from and after the date hereof and prior to such Charitable Contribution Trigger. (emphasis added)

He has some experience as a successful entrepreneur, having co founded Promo Push Ltd. in 2010 an electronic dance music promotion company, now servicing 250,000 customers including Sony Music and a subsidiary of Universal music. We talked to him about his experience in tech entrepreneurship and his views on getting into it for those just starting out. What follows is a edited and reworked version of the interview.

Summary of Matt’s points

  • The best way to learn what you need in order to make a successful startup is by trying, so the best path into entrepreneurship is to aim to start as soon as possible.
  • For those interested in entrepreneurship web startups are a good option because they are the cheapest to start, but the startup costs of new businesses in physical products is dropping rapidly.
  • When starting out as an entrepreneur it is much more important to focus on execution than the idea, because it is unlikely the idea you end up with will be the same one you started with.
  • The demand for technical skills in backend or frontend development outsrips supply in the startup world, so they are very valuable skills to learn if you want to become an entrepreneur.

Case study: should I finish my degree?

Benjamin Todd on February 21st, 2014


Martin is taking a year out from an applied science degree at a Russell group university to work in industry. He came to us very undecided about his path after graduation and wondering whether he should finish his degree at all.

The following is our notes on what was discussed and the results that followed.

Lessons learned

  • We discovered there is fairly strong academic evidence for high financial returns from doing a degree.
  • Career capital, earnings potential and keeping your options open have been highly relevant factors for assessing entry level jobs for most students who have come to us so far, who don’t already have several strong options on the table.
  • We want to prepare an overview of the options in finance, since lots of people have asked us about this.


Ramit came to us with a simple question: should I try to train as a medic with the aim of doing biomedical research, or should I seek a high earning job in finance and pursue Earning to Give?

He’s currently doing both - working as a quantitative financial analyst giving away more than a third of his salary (he was an early stage funder of Give Directly) and taking pre-med courses part time, as well as other projects!

Ramit’s initial thought was that the biomedical research path would be better. Read on to find out how he came to change his mind, and came up with a new set of next steps.

Should you do a degree?

Benjamin Todd on February 18th, 2014


As university fees have continued to increase, there has been debate in the press over whether doing a degree is still worth it: the Telegraph asks ”University: was it worth it?” and a Daily Mail headline reads: [“Degree earning power falls 22% in a decade - and top graduates are working in pubs”] (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2229587/Value-university-education-falls-Graduates-degree-earn-22-decade.html). The same debate is raging in the US, and has received excellent in-depth analysis by Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post.

The question of whether or not to do a university degree has arisen in our careers coaching. In a recent case study, we were asked by our coachee whether they should finish their degree. We’ve previously been asked by a member whether they should start a degree, and we’ve discussed career decisions with Joey and Xio, who decided to put their degree on hold in order to start Effective Fundraising. So, we decided to write up our thoughts.

This article is aimed at the UK, though we think many of the ideas apply in other countries.

In summary:

  • If you have the option of doing a degree, it’s normally best to take it. There are several good reasons to think it’s one of the best ways to boost your career capital.
  • We’re open to the idea that there can be better paths, but our guess is that they’re relatively rare, because they would need to offer unusually high social returns or be unusually good for building career capital.
  • If you’re not going to do a degree, some alternatives that we guess might be particularly promising include learning a high-earning trade, learning to program, working at a small company, and founding a new project.

Internship opportunities at 80,000 Hours

Tom Ash on February 14th, 2014

We are looking for interns to join our Graduate Volunteer Scheme, which involves a period of 6-10 months of work in our Oxford-based office (although we are also interested in students who want to intern with us over the summer, and sometimes consider 2-3 month placements). We have roles in research, outreach, operations, fundraising, tech and design. Taking up a Graduate Volunteer position is a great way to gain experience for your future career, as well as meet a diverse range of interesting and highly motivated people, and do a lot of good.

As a Graduate Volunteer, there are lots of different areas to work on, and there’s plenty of flexibility to adjust the role so it plays to your strengths and development aims. We make it our responsibility to ensure your time here allows you to grow as much as possible, as well as just being lots of fun! Many interns say the experience was a significant boost to their career, and we introduced several to the people who set them up with their current jobs. You can see why past interns have found the Graduate Volunteer Scheme a great experience at the bottom of this post.

The scheme has proved very popular with our current interns, with a stimulating and dedicated atmosphere in the office and a lively and welcoming community outside office hours. Perhaps the strongest evidence of this is that many have extended their stays repeatedly. Once you have applied, we are happy to connect you with a current intern to discuss what it’s like to work with us. Read more about why working at 80,000 Hours is an excellent experience.

We’re looking for hardworking individuals with a strong desire for personal development who are deeply interested in making the world a better place in an effective way. Find out more.

We can often provide accommodation in a house with other volunteers and staff, free lunch, and expenses of up to £8 a day based on financial need, especially for longer-term interns. As you would play an important role for a significant period, we would make sure you weren’t left out of pocket.

If you would be interested in interning with us, please let us know via this form.



How much influence could you have by becoming a politician? Common sense says that politicians have a lot of influence, and it’s a serious contender as a high impact path for someone who’s altruistically motivated. But aren’t the chances of success incredibly low? Our guess was that even though the chances are low, the potential impact is still very high. So, when we were asked about UK politics in a recent case study, we decided to make a more detailed estimate of the expected influence to feed into an overall analysis of politics as a career path.

We found that chances of success are low, but for some students they’re not low enough to offset the very large potential influence. The UK government budget is £720 billion, and even a small chance at influencing a budget that large could be highly significant (and the impact of politicians extends well beyond budgets).

We’ve extended our analysis of the chances of an Oxford PPE graduate succeeding as a politician, to make a rough estimate that such a student can expect to be able to direct £7.5 - 75 million to the causes they support from their chances of making it into elected office. For a student similar to an Oxford PPE graduate, this suggests the path is competitive with the most high potential earning to give careers - such as those in finance - in terms of financial influence, which when combined with politicians’ law-making powers and advocacy opportunities could put politics clearly ahead.

Aren’t politicians highly constrained by existing policy, what other politicians want, the desires of the electorate and other factors? Yes, but these factors have already been included in the estimate. Read on to see the full process.

Summary of the estimate

Our preliminary estimate is that an Oxford PPE graduate who aims to become a politician in the UK, could expect to influence £150 million of government spending, arising from their chances of making it into office. A number of factors decrease the impact of that money; giving a quality-adjusted estimate of £7.5 - 75 million, falling towards the lower end if you’re primarily interested in very specific interventions (e.g. supporting a certain organisation) rather than broader ones (e.g. promoting evidence-based policy). This is the amount of government spending the graduate might be able to direct towards the causes they support.

For students without the typical attributes of Oxford PPE students, chances are significantly reduced. For instance, repeating the calculation but considering students from Oxford and Cambridge as a whole suggests expected influence on the order of £1 - 10 million. More generally, the expected influence is highly sensitive to the individual’s degree of fit with politics i.e. it could be substantially higher for someone with strong success in student politics at Oxford, and near zero for many others.

Our proposed estimate is extremely coarse. We rely on a crude economic model of influence within government, assume that this influence in aggregate accounts for all public spending, and try to estimate the share of influence possessed by a number of relevant groups. We believe this model is much stronger than it appears casually, and do provide some justification for some of the simplifying assumptions at the end of the document. We also explain some important caveats, such as our uncertainty over the prominence of MPs and ministers, and focussing mainly on Oxford PPE. Nevertheless, it is certainly an extremely crude model. The error on this estimate is at least an order of magnitude or so, and if there are significant issues with the methodology they may actually be even larger.

To compensate for this we have made conservative estimates throughout, and still arrived at a remarkably high number. Since the conclusion of this calculation is also supported by the common sense position that going into politics is high potential for students with the right characteristics, we conclude that the expected influence of entering this path is indeed very large.


80,000 Hours has outlined some reasons tech entrepreneurship could be a particularly promising career path. One relevant factor is that the technology sector is a candidate for a sector of the economy that produces significantly more social value than its total earnings. Some reasons for this are:

  • Anecdotally, people report that they benefit substantially more from certain technologies than they pay for them. For example, Google provides services to Google users at the very low cost of unobtrusive advertisements, and Google users benefit substantially relative to this cost.

  • Technological innovation has been a large driver of economic growth, and economic growth helps people who haven’t been born yet, who don’t pay for past technological innovation.

We are looking for a Director of Development to join our team in Oxford! The right candidate would play a vital role growing and sustaining the donor base that enables 80,000 Hours and our sister charity Giving What We Can to serve their charitable missions. You can read more about the role below. If you’re interested in this opportunity please apply here by 28th February (and if you know anyone else who might be interested, we encourage you to pass this opportunity on to them).

Note that this is just one of many job and internship opportunities that are available with our parent charity, the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) - for a full list, see here. See also our description of why CEA is an excellent place to work.

In which career can you make the most difference?

Benjamin Todd on February 5th, 2014



Previously, we introduced a way to assess career opportunities in terms of their potential for positive impact, but which careers actually do best on these criteria? In this post, we’ll apply an adapted version of this framework to some career paths that seem particularly promising for recent graduates. Using what we’ve learned over the past two years of research and coaching over 100 people, we’ll provide a ranked list of options.


  • If you’re looking to build career capital, consider entrepreneurship, consulting or an economics PhD.
  • If you’re looking to pursue earning to give, consider high-end finance, tech entrepreneurship, law, consulting and medicine. These careers are all high-earning in part due to being highly demanding. Our impression is that software engineering, being an actuary and dentistry are somewhat less demanding but also highly paid.
  • If you’d like to make an impact more directly, consider party politics, founding effective non-profits, working inside international organisations, government or foundations to improve them, and doing valuable academic research.
  • If you’d like to advocate for effective causes, consider party politics, journalism, and working in international organisations, policy-oriented civil service or foundations.
  • Some career paths that look promising overall are: tech entrepreneurship, consulting, party politics, founding effective non-profits and working in international organisations.
  • Some paths we think are promising but are largely neglected by our members and would like to learn more about are: party politics, working in international organisations, being a program manager at a foundation, journalism, policy-oriented civil service and marketing.

Some stories of career change due to 80,000 Hours

Benjamin Todd on February 4th, 2014

What kinds of career changes has 80,000 Hours caused? The following is a collection of 15 examples we prepared as part of a grant application in October 2013.

The examples were written by us, but each was sent to the relevant person by email, who was encouraged to point out inaccuracies or exaggerations of our influence. The exact wording for each example has been approved by the career changer. ⅓ have been anonymised. In addition, we prepared 4 more similar examples, but don’t have permission to share those publicly.

We aimed to select the more impressive examples that we were most familiar with, so the selection is biased towards people we know personally and from the first two years of our existence (Feb 2011 - Feb 2013). We’re exploring the career changes we have caused among our readers and coachees more broadly through our impact survey and upcoming coaching evaluations. Nevertheless, we think this collection of examples is a good proof of concept. They show that talking to people about our ideas in the context of a community can lead to significant changes of career plan, more thoughtfulness and stronger intentions to make a difference.

They also help estimate a lower bound on our impact. Just considering those who switched to pursuing earning to give, we’ve already tracked donations of ~$150,000 to GiveWell recommended charities or effective altruist organisations.

The amount donated over the next couple of years seems clearly set to rise. * The people already donating can expect substantial salary increases as they move into their second and third years in employment. * Richard and Adam have only just entered employment. * Sam Bankman-Fried has accepted a job at a proprietary trading firm, and is on track to donate as much as Tim. * Matt’s startup is in an incubator, and he has legally bound himself to donate 33% of his exit value.

Given this, we’re confident that more than $1mn will be donated by this group in the next 3 years.

We think there is also substantial value among those not pursuing earning to give:

  • One is a Marshall scholar, and starting a promising academic career.
  • One went to work at GiveWell.
  • One has founded a network to promote effective altruism in healthcare.

In addition, we played a substantial role in the creation of Animal Charity Evaluators, which performs research into the most effective ways to promote animal welfare and now has an annual budget of $80,000. ACE developed out of Effective Animal Activism, which was founded by an intern at 80,000 Hours during their internship. 80,000 Hours contributed to the initial concept for the charity and provided it with technical support, as well as assistance fundraising and hiring full-time staff. Moreover, EAA was legally part of 80,000 Hours for 6 months, before being spun-off and independently registered.

The full stories are below.

5 ways to make a big difference in any career

Benjamin Todd on February 3rd, 2014


At 80,000 Hours, we’re focused on finding the very best opportunities for you to do good with your career. We’re worried that sometimes this continuous focus can be demoralising. After all, it’s hard to find the best opportunities. Moreover, we’re worried that sometimes our members lose sight of the fact that you can make a big difference in any career.

We don’t mean spending your birthday volunteering at a soup kitchen, giving seniors the ‘gift’ of your art, or buying a charity wristband. We mean you can transform the lives of hundreds of other people, in any career.

So, we decided to write this note explaining how…


As we continue to expand our team in Oxford, we are looking for someone to join 80,000 Hours full time as a Careers Analyst. Details of all the positions we’re offering can as always be found on our recruitment page.

This is your chance to help us fulfill our mission of helping thousands of the most talented and dedicated people work on solving the world’s most pressing problems. That’s a big project, and we’re growing fast, so we’re looking for bright and ambitious people to join us. If this sounds like something you’d like to be part of, then apply to work for us!

You can read more about the position below. For more on why working at 80,000 Hours is an incredible opportunity, see Why work for 80,000 Hours?

Details of the role

As an 80,000 Hours Careers Analyst, you will play a key part in growing the organisation as we expand over the coming years. We are looking for someone to become part of our founding team, in order to:

  • Give one-on-one coaching to amazing people who want to change the world, as part of our case studies.

  • Do research into finding the most promising career opportunities in the world.

  • Promote our research in the international media, online and through other outreach.

  • Monitor our impact.

Case study: can I earn more in software or finance?

Benjamin Todd on January 30th, 2014


Jessica is a software engineer at Google, who donates much of her income to GiveWell recommendations and 80,000 Hours. She plans to continue pursuing earning to give, and came to us wondering whether she might be able earn more using her skills; in particular by switching into finance or moving to Silicon Valley.

Summary of lessons learned

We found:

  • An engineer at Google can expect to earn about $150-$200 p.a. after 3 years of experience, which will then grow at 2-6% p.a. afterwards.
  • Google engineers are among the most highly paid engineers in big companies.
  • Google engineers do not appear to earn more in Silicon Valley compared to major East Coast cities, although software engineers on average earn more in the Valley.
  • She may be able to earn more by switching into finance, but we need to do more research.


Andrew McMichael

Continuing our investigation into medical research careers, we interviewed Prof. Andrew McMichael. Andrew is Director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford, and focuses especially on two areas of special interest to us: HIV and flu vaccines.

Key points made

  • Andrew would recommend starting in medicine for the increased security, better earnings, broader perspective and greater set of opportunities at the end. The main cost is that it takes about 5 years longer.
  • In the medicine career track, you qualify as a doctor in 5-6 years, then you work as a junior doctor for 3-5 years, while starting a PhD. During this time, you start to move towards a promising speciality, where you build your career.
  • In the biology career track, get a good undergraduate degree, then do a PhD. It’s very important to join a top lab and publish early in your career. Then you can start to move towards an interesting area.
  • After you finish your PhD is a good time to reassess. It’s a competitive career, and if you’re not headed towards the top, be prepared to do something else. Public health is a common backup option, which can make a significant contribution. If you’ve studied medicine, you can do that. People sometimes get stranded mid-career, and that can be tough.
  • An outstanding post-doc applicant has a great reference from their PhD supervisor, is good at statistics/maths/programming, and has published in a top journal.
  • If you qualify in medicine in the UK, you can earn as much as ordinary doctors while doing your research, though you’ll miss out on private practice. In the US, you’ll earn less.
  • Some exciting areas right now include stem cell research, neuroscience, psychiatry and the HIV vaccine.
  • To increase your impact, work on good quality basic science, but keep an eye out for applications.
  • Programming, mathematics and statistics are all valuable skills. Other skills shortages develop from the introduction of new technologies.
  • Good researchers can normally get funded, and Andrew would probably prefer a good researcher to a half million pound grant, though he wasn’t sure.
  • He doesn’t think that bad methodology or publication bias is a significant problem in basic science, though it might be in clinical trials.


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