We’re always really happy to talk to you and answer your questions. Here’s a list of some of the things lots of people have wanted to talk to us about before.

If you’ve got another question that isn’t dealt with properly here then contact us.

If you find one of these points interesting and want to discuss it, then go to our forum. There might already be a good discussion of it, or you can always start a thread.

What is 80,000 Hours ?

80,000 Hours is a charity that helps people make a difference with their career.

80,000 Hours provides evidence-based career advice about ethical careers. They do cutting edge research on the most effective ways to make a big difference. You can find the advice on their webpage or get a free one-on-one career advice session. There’s also an active 80,000 Hours community. Members help each other launch new projects and discuss career options on the forum.

What’s with the name ‘80,000 Hours’?

Over a lifetime, a typical person spends about 80,000 Hours working. If that number sounds like a chore, then you’re thinking about it wrong. That’s an opportunity. You can achieve a huge amount in that time. Think about how much good you can do in a few hours of volunteering or campaigning. When you plan your career with 80,000 Hours , you can make an even bigger difference.

What do you mean by ‘making a difference?’ Doesn’t it mean different things to different people?

Our members have a variety of ideas about what it means to make the world a better place. 80,000 Hours is about an approach to your career, rather than a certain notion of what’s valuable or good. It’s about really thinking through what matters, and then using evidence to discover the best way to make more of that. In practice, many members of 80,000 Hours are interested in improving human welfare and saving lives, others are also interested in improving animal welfare and some care about helping future generations by reducing the risk of global catastrophes.

Isn’t it extremely difficult to measure the difference made by different careers?

It is extremely hard to measure the expected value of your possible career choices. Lots of stages of careers depend on pure chance. You usually don’t even know what the important things are going to be. The world keeps changing, and so do you. But, and this is important, you don’t have a choice about this. You can either just ignore all the evidence, and act randomly, or take some into account. Once you start using some evidence, you may as well use as much as you can and do it as well as you can. At 80,000 Hours we use the most reliable evidence we can, but we are also explicit about the uncertainties in our conclusions and the assumptions we’re making.

Is it even possible to compare the good done by different careers?

It’s not just hard to measure the expected outcomes, it seems actually impossible. After all, maybe my job helps cancer patients and their families come to terms with the illness and put their affairs in order. Yours might campaign for women’s rights to be taken seriously as an issue in a repressive state like Saudi Arabia. How could we even start to compare those things? It’s much worse than apples and oranges.

The problem is that we have no choice. Whenever we make any decision to put resources into one thing rather than another, we’re making a comparison between them. If we don’t think it through, then we’re making the comparison badly, carelessly, and unconsciously. By making our assumptions explicit, we can get to the heart of what matters to us, and end up making better decisions. Those decisions end up helping more people.

How are you funded?

As of February 2013, our funding comes entirely from individuals who believe in our mission, and expect us to deliver a large positive impact with their donations. We don’t accept any money from other companies or organisations, and nor do we charge for any of our services. If you’re interested in donating to us, please visit this page.

Is 80,000 Hours political?

No. 80,000 Hours has no political connections or aims. The things we try to achieve are so obviously good that no political group has an objection to them. Our members come from all parts of the political spectrum.

What has your research uncovered so far?

We’ve researched a lot of interesting things so far. One of the most ground-breaking things we’re doing is pioneering a new way of thinking about careers that make a difference. Unlike many other sources of ethical career advice we focus on the difference between what happens if you make a choice and what would have happened otherwise. That means we end up thinking about some problems differently. For example, it isn’t important that you are the one who does something, so long as you make it possible. It also means that we think about who would replace you in any job that you end up turning down.

We’ve also discovered that the difference in impact between different options can be huge. Some charities have much more impact than others. Some research is vitally important; some is unnoticed. Some causes are much more important to promote than others. This means it’s really important to weigh up your options in terms of how much impact you can have.

Most of our research is aimed at finding these high impact opportunities and helping people to choose which ones are for them. We’ve got a general strategy for finding them. We’ve applied this to find some broad areas to do work that helps people, which we call high impact causes, as well as some particularly high leverage types of careers.

In addition, we’ve investigated some specific jobs, attempting to assess the potential to make a difference within these careers and your chances of succeeding within them. We’ve found some interesting facts along the way, like how many lives a doctor saves and who’s likely to succeed as an entrepreneur.

There have been major advances in the study of how we make decisions, and where we tend to go wrong. We’re collecting the latest research on decision making and applying it to how to make career decisions. We’ve also been through the latest research on how to be happy in your job.

There is a lot more career research to explore.

What research are you doing at the moment?

We’re pushing forward our research on several fronts. We’re reviewing all the evidence to select the most high-impact causes to work on. We’re looking at the best ways to pursue the activities we’ve selected as the most promising. We’re working on finding high impact research topics to work on, and on our career profiles. We’re also researching how to be successful in your career.

How can you help me with my career?

You can make use of our extensive free online career advice. We also offer free one-on-one career advice sessions.

This process can help you answer questions like:

Our career advice just gets better when you join (also free) our vibrant global community. Our members can offer tips and advice, mentor you, and collaborate with you on world-changing projects.

How does your approach differ from conventional careers guidance?

Conventional careers guidance doesn’t put much emphasis on careers aiming to make a difference. The focus is on the, admittedly important, task of identifying your goals and trying to reach them. For those of us looking for a focus on making a difference, there isn’t much on offer. The standard advice is to work for a non-profit, or work for a company with a good corporate social responsibility image.

What we care about is making a difference. That means we take seriously the indirect consequences of your choices. We think about what would have happened if you hadn’t taken a job. We use the most up-to-date research and evidence to find the best opportunities to make a difference. You can find out more about how we are different.

What are the best career options you’ve discovered?

The short answer is that it depends on who you are. We have found that anyone can make a big difference by donating or volunteering for the right charity.

We’ve also picked out some careers that can be really good. There is definitely potential to make a big difference as an entrepreneur or high earner who sets out to give some large portion of their income to charities. We call that Earning to Give. Some research careers can make a huge difference, particularly in neglected fields. Social entrepreneurs and other innovators often have a chance to make a big difference by setting up organisations that work on high impact causes. Campaigning can also be very effective, if you promote the right cause, because it gives you the opportunity to get lots of people working for a cause, rather than just you. Similarly, getting involved in politics can be one of the best options. Finally, there’s lots of scope to increase the impact of already existing organisations.

Which one of these suits you will depend on your strengths and interests. We can talk through your options if you book a guidance session.

What are the best areas to research?

This is a tough question to answer without a lot of specialised subject knowledge, but we have developed some general rules of thumb for finding high impact research questions in your areas of interest. We’re also currently gathering ideas in many fields from our members. If you’re interested in finding a high impact research question within your field, please contact ben@80000hours.org.

See our pages on research for more.

In which career can I earn and donate the most?

This depends on your skills. It seems like medical careers offer some of the highest expected earnings for many college graduates (especially in the US). Other high earning professions include accountancy, being an actuary, working in business (e.g. management and marketing), engineering, architecture and software development If you can get top jobs in law (for humanities orientated people) or wall street, or set-up a successful start-up, then you’ve got the opportunity to earn and give substantially more. For non-college graduates, there are opportunities to earn substantial amounts of money as a pilot, air traffic controler, train driver, trade-jobs (e.g. carpentry) and in business or sales (especially if entrepreneurially minded).

See our pages on Earning to Give for more.

What are the best organisations to volunteer for?

A good starting point would be checking out what volunteer opportunities are available at the most cost-effective organisations that work in your cause area of interest. For the global poverty cause, this would consist of Givewell recommendations. For the animal welfare cause, check out Effective Animal Activism’s volunteering recommendations. Organisations that work on high impact research questions are also worth considering. If you’re interested in spreading the ideas of effective altruism or working on prioritising causes, then you could consider volunteering for us(!), Giving What We Can, Effective Animal Activism, THINK or the Future of Humanity Institute.

See our volunteering pages for more.

What is the best charity to donate to?

To an extent, this depends on what matters to you. But we can suggest some useful directions to turn your thoughts.

Much existing charity evaluation is focused on things which often aren’t a good guide to impact. For instance, a charity could have zero administration fees, but also zero impact. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of progress made in identifying some charities that make a big difference to the lives of many people per dollar donated. Givewell is the leading source of well-researched charity evaluation. Giving What We Can has a similar approach, and offers similar answers. Both organisations tend to recommend charities that fight global poverty. Givewell is starting to look more broadly for high impact opportunities, for instance within the future generations cause. This is being carried out by Givewell Labs. This project is still in its early stages, so stay tuned.They also offer recommendations within some other cause areas, like developing world education (although they feel they offer less impact).

Givewell restricts itself to charities promoting human welfare, but many of our members also care about animal welfare. So, a group of our members set up Effective Animal Activism, which evaluates animal welfare charities. Check out their site for the latest recommendations.

Another option to consider is donating to the organisations which promote cost-effective giving. If the organisation is successful, then this can act as a multiplier on your donations. Also off Givewell’s radar are opportunities for funding start-up projects in highly effective areas, those these can require more research on your part. We attempt to identify and create these kinds of opportunities, so please contact ben at 80000hours.org to find out more.

If you’re in the fortunate position of having a very large amount of money to give, then you’ll need to take a slightly different approach. We can introduce you to people at the foundations which we feel represent best-practice in cost-effective giving. Please contact ben at 80000hours.org for information.

See our pages on donating for more.

What’s the best degree to study?

If you’ve already got a job in mind, then it’s question of working out which degree will be most useful for your job. You can often obtain this information from conventional sources of careers guidance, like your university careers service. If you want job ideas, then check out our other resources. If you’re considering research and want to work in a high impact field, then check out our ideas.

Of course, many people have got no idea what job they’d like, or they have several ideas in mind. That’s no problem. You might be able to pick something that keeps your options open. A good rule of thumb is to tend towards the technical, mathematical or theoretical subjects. It’s generally easier to move from them into more qualitative and applied subjects than the other way around.

Often, you don’t need to worry too much. Most jobs don’t have specific academic qualifications. The most important thing is getting good qualifications. So, in this case doing what interests you most is a reasonable route.

We’re always really happy to talk to you and answer your questions. Here’s a list of some of the things lots of people have wanted to talk to us about before.

If you’ve got another question that isn’t dealt with properly here then see our page on this topic or contact us.

If you find one of these points interesting and want to discuss it, then go to our forum. There might already be a good discussion of it, or you can always start a thread.

How does the one-on-one advice process work?

You can set up a one-on-one career advice session with us using our web form. We’ll ask you for some basic information about your career goals and current experience. Then we can set up a skype video call between you and one of our careers research team to talk about your career. We might also be able to introduce you to another 80,000 Hours member in your area or in your career.

Who can request one-on-one advice sessions?

Anyone can. All that we ask is that you’re familiar with the basic ideas of 80,000 Hours, and have already glanced through content that might be relevant on our website.

Note, however, that our capacity is limited, and we can’t guarantee that we can give you a session.

I haven’t heard back about my advice session

Our apologies. We are often flooded with requests and might not have been able to reach your request yet. If it has been more than two weeks, please send a reminder email to careers@80000hours.org.

How does the one-on-one advice process work?

You’ll meet one of our research team on Skype for about 25min. The contents depend on your situation, but generally the person from 80,000 Hours will first attempt to understand your situation in more depth (clearly stating your situation, what options you’re considering and what questions you have before the session can make this stage much quicker). Then they will attempt to apply what we’ve discovered about career choice to your individual situation. At the end of the session, they will try to help you come up with some next steps to work on. This might involve carrying out more research with the help of our team or other people to talk to.

Note that the guidance sessions provide information only. Our counselors do not provide recommendations about what you should do. They are also not professionally qualified careers advisers, so we recommend that you use our research as a supplement to professional advice.

Are advice sessions confidential?

By default, the contents of guidance sessions are kept between you and the 80,000 Hours careers advice team. This allows us to most effectively improve our service. On request, we’re happy to make the session confidential between you and the person you speak to.

Note that we only take reasonable precautions to keep the information private, and we do not take responsibility for damages caused by data that is leaked or stolen.

What does it mean to make the world a better place “in an effective way”?

If you care about doing things effectively, then you make sure to think about the best way to do them. You try to make choices that will make the biggest difference. For example, when you donate to charities, you work out which charity can do the most with your donation. If you’d like to be a researcher, you think about which project will let you have the biggest impact. You might even think about whether there are other jobs where you could make an even bigger difference. We’ll all have our own answers. What unites us is our desire to take these questions seriously.

What do you mean by “using your career”?

Your career is the time you spend on productive activities, including training and volunteering as well as your job. We also see donating some of your income as part of your career. So by ‘using your career’ we just mean that you dedicate some of your resources (whether time or money) to making the world a better place.

What do you mean “make the world a better place”?

Our members have a variety of ideas about what it means to make the world a better place. 80,000 Hours is about an approach to your career, rather than a certain notion of what’s valuable or good. It’s about really thinking through what matters, and then using evidence to discover the best way to make more of that. In practice, many members of 80,000 Hours are interested in improving human welfare and saving lives, others are also interested in improving animal welfare and some care about helping future generations by reducing the risk of global catastrophes.

Do I need to be in Oxford?

No. We’ve got members all over the world. Our offices are based in Oxford, and it’s where we run the most in-person events, so if you get a chance, do drop by!

Why should I join the community as a member?

There are many reasons to join 80,000 Hours. Here are some of the most common:

  • Meet other people who want to make the world a better place
  • Help each other with career plans and get mentoring from more experienced members
  • Collaborate on new projects
  • Be first in line for our unique high-impact careers advice
  • Stay energised by our active community
  • Show your support for effective altruism

What does the 80,000 Hours community do?

We’ve got members all over the world, who communicate via our website and forums. Each has an online profile, which you can use to find members with similar interests and knowledge that you need.

Many members are involved in exploring career options, and telling other members about what they find. They also collaborate to set-up new high impact projects. Our first members project is www.effectiveanimalactivism.org.

In person, our members arrange meet-ups and participate in events at our chapters. Some members act as mentors to others who are following similar career paths.

What does joining involve?

Members just declare that they intend to use their careers, at least in part, to make the world a better place in an effective way. For a clarification of which this means see here. In practice, our members encompass a wide range of people, from those who donate a small fraction of their salaries to effective charities each year, to those for whom making the world a better place is their main goal.

It’s possible to join anonymously and not to have a public profile.

The only thing we ask from members is that they confidentially update us once per year on their altruistic activities in broad outline. This is crucial for us to demonstrate our impact, which allows us to raise funds to provide free advice. It also enables us to make the community more useful, and is a valuable opportunity to reflect on your career.

Can I join anonymously?

It’s possible to create a profile that only publicly shows a pseudonym rather than your real name and it’s also possible to hide your profile from non-members. Being public about your membership makes it a more powerful show of support, but in some cases it can make sense to join anonymously. Other members prefer to remain private about their altruistic intentions.

One of our ideas, of Earning to Give, has sparked some wide-spread debate and discussion. For example, it’s received substantial media attention at the BBC and in an interview with Ian Hislop on the Today Show. It’s also been heavily discussed by many other authors.

Since so many people are interested in this idea, we have some extra discussion below. We think earning to give is a good career choice, but it’s by no means the best.

What is Earning to Give?

Someone who Earns to Give takes a deliberately takes a high paying job with the intention of donating a large part of what they earn to charity. By funding the best causes, they can bring about a change that’s far bigger than what they could do if they worked for those causes directly.

They don’t just try to get rich and then give it all away in their will (although that works too). Instead, they publicly commit to giving some percentage of what they earn away. Some of our members have said “It’s like being Robin Hood, but you earn the money instead of stealing it.”

Here is a discussion of the basic case for Earning to Give.

Why don’t you just give in a will?

You could just give in a will, but there are some reasons to give as you earn the money.

  • Most good causes build on themselves. That is, if you do it right, helping people now makes it easier for them to help themselves in the future. For example, SCI works with developing countries’ health ministries to support their ability to distribute deworming treatments in schools. That helps expand the health ministries’ capacities. But it also means that we’re raising a generation of students who are healthier and smarter because they weren’t stopped from developing by horrible parasitic diseases. That will open up opportunities and let them be more productive in the future. The sooner we get that process started, the better.

  • We tend to adjust our spending to the point where we spend about as much as we earn. That means that if you just plan to give whatever is left at the end of your life, you can end up having much less to give than you could have if you’d budgeted your tastes to be a little more frugal earlier.

  • It’s easy to say you’re going to give in a will, but when it comes to it in the end you decide not to. If you’re really committed to making a difference, then it can be good to make sure you don’t have the option of flaking at the last minute.

  • By telling people you’re earning to give, you make giving to charities a more normal part of life. That might help encourage others to follow your lead.

At the end of the day, they’re both decent options and the decision between them is a largely personal one.

You might help by giving, but what if your high-earning career does harm?

It’s true that some high-earning careers do a lot of harm – you should obviously avoid them where possible. But there are a lot of high-earning careers that cause little or no harm. As a doctor, accountant, manager, or entrepreneur you can make a valuable contribution as well as earning quite a lot.

Even professions that often seem harmful, like banking, don’t have to be. The cause of many of the problems with banking today is probably that bankers are often not the sort of people who care about the impact of their decisions on others. Arguably, the best way to fix the problem is for people who do care to get into the industry.

One important thing to realise is that you do some harm in almost every career, ethical or otherwise. If you become an aid worker in Africa you make it a little harder for a local to get a job. If you’re a doctor your treatments that work on most people might hurt a few. Jobs that don’t do any harm at all just don’t exist.

But when your job does a little harm the fact that you’re donating so much to good causes means that your choice to earn to give can be good overall. You can potentially save thousands of lives. That may be worthwhile even if your job does a little harm. We’ve expanded on this here.

Moreover, if you weren’t doing that job then someone else would be. If there’s something about the job itself that is unavoidably bad then they would be doing it too. So a large part of the small harm would happen either way. You might find some of our blog posts about taking a high-earning but unethical career interesting.

Is Earning to Give the best career?

No! It depends on the person, and it’s often tough to work out whether someone would make more impact in a high earning job donating money, or doing good more directly some other way. We don’t have any quick answers.

Giving is all very good, but does it fix the underlying structural problems?

Earning to give is sometimes the best way to fix underlying structural problems by donating to the organisations that campaign for your cause.

One of the exciting things about earning to give is its versatility. You can use donations to address almost any concern you have. If your goal is fixing structural problems, then you can donate to organisations that campaign for reform. You can even start an organisation that campaigns for something that no one else is pressing for! Your donations can fund several activists to do even more good work than you would have done.

All campaigning organisations need a steady stream of income. By earning to give you may be able to do a lot to make the campaign a success.

Doesn’t becoming a high earner support a system that creates the problems?

By spreading the word about why you chose to earn to give you can send an even stronger message.

You need to become involved in a system to become a high-earner, but it doesn’t show that you support it. One thing you can do to show that you don’t support the system is to join a society like 80,000 Hours and tell all your friends and co-workers about it. That sends out a strong signal.

Moreover, the person who would have been in your shoes, in the high earning job, would provide just as much support for a system, but without any positive signals about change.

Even if you don’t think that your earning to give will send good signals, you might still think the good you can do makes it worthwhile.

What if everyone did this? Wouldn’t that be bad?

What a high-impact career is depends on what everyone else is doing. It’s important to fill the roles that other people wouldn’t have filled otherwise. Right now, people interested in making the world a better place tend to prefer direct work. But the world isn’t full of people who want to earn to give. In fact, the highest earners typically donate a smaller proportion of their incomes than others.

When the situation changes, we no longer advise people to consider earning to give. 80,000 Hours is about a method of finding effective ways to make the world a better place, not about any one solution.

See more here

What if I get burned out or corrupted by the system?

One of the reasons the 80,000 Hours community exists is to help support people in that kind of situation. But this can be a good reason not to earn to give.

If you really think you’d burn out or get corrupted then you probably shouldn’t earn to give. A lot of people do enjoy high-earning careers. There are also quite a few different high-earning careers that appeal to different sorts of people. Before you rule it out completely, remember that there are a lot of jobs that can incorporate earning to give – it’s not all banking. Various medical and management positions are quite well paid, as are many technically skilled jobs from software development to air traffic control.

80,000 Hours is a community that is partly designed to help protect against the risks of burning out. When a group of like-minded people all decide to earn to give together it’s easier to feel connected to a sense of purpose. We provide support for each other. By publically saying we’re going to use our careers to do good we also make it a lot more likely that we’ll follow through with our promise and won’t get corrupted.