Research

How can you compare careers in terms of impact, and in which can you make the most difference?

How can you compare causes, and which are of the highest priority?

What are the most important factors in picking a career that both makes a difference and is fully satisfying?

How can you tie everything together and create a career plan?

Summary

We want you to change the world.

How do we help you do that? You want a meaningful career that makes a real difference. But you face a tough career decision: What job should I take? Should I do further study? Should I leave my job for one that does more to help the world?

We think the conventional advice isn’t good enough.

We’re the first organisation that helps you answer: how can I use the 80,000 hours of my career to make the most difference?, that is, how can I help the most people, in the biggest ways, now and into the future? We identify the most pressing problems in the world, and work out how you can do the most to solve them using your career. Our recommendations are based on in-depth research and transparent, rigorous analysis, conducted with help from the leading experts and academics at Oxford.

This page contains the most useful results we have learned from analysing the decisions of hundreds of people in our coaching process and our independent research.


High Impact Careers

In which careers can you make the most impact? We’ve made a basic framework to help you compare your options.

Career Value Equation

We think valuable careers do two key things.

First, high impact careers move lots of resources into effective solutions to pressing problems. So, look for options that give you lots of influence (whether that consists of campaigning, research, money, or something else) and let you help effective causes (see below for more on that).

Second, they give you career capital: skills, connections and credentials that improve your opportunities to make a difference in the future.

Which career opportunities seem best? Of course it depends on your individual skills and abilities, but we’ve made a list of particularly promising options for young graduates.

Don’t forget you can make a big difference in any career.


Effective Causes

Which causes are most high priority?

Look for causes that are: important, tractable and uncrowded.

What are some examples of particularly promising causes? See our ranked list.


Personal Fit

Which option is the best fit for you?

We don’t think ‘do what you’re passionate about’ or ‘do what you’re good at’ is very useful advice . Passion and ability develop out of dedicating yourself to a skill, so it’s better plan the other way round, and ask yourself “what do I want to become good at?” You’ve probably got more good options open to you than you think.

How can you decide what to become good at? Ask “what can I do that’s most valuable for the world?” Putting the value you create for others first can lead to a deeply fulfilling career.

When it comes to comparing jobs, we think people worry too much about whether their personality is a “good fit” for certain jobs. To find a satisfying job, what really matters is finding engaging work, supportive relationships with colleagues, and work that makes a difference.

Beyond that, much depends on the details of the situation, which is why we offer one-on-one coaching. Further, there’s still plenty that’s not known about how to fit people with jobs, so make sure you try lots of things out!


Your Plan

Having a plan is useful for motivation and direction, but overly rigid plans quickly go out of date and make you inflexible. We’ve developed a style of career plan that we think strikes a good balance. You can start applying our career model to your own career.

First, define your vision: in the long-term, what causes do you want to work towards solving and what role could you play? Second, map out how you might be able to achieve your vision. Third, make a plan of the concrete next steps for the next 6-24 months that do the most to take you there.

Don’t get caught up in thinking your decision to be perfect. Rather, treat everything as a best guess, that you’re going to refine and test as time goes on.

There are important biases to avoid too. You’ll probably consider too few options and be biased to stay on your current path. Going with your gut can be useful sometimes, but often it’s better to be more systematic.


Samples of our Research

  1. It could be better for many young people to support the non-profit sector indirectly by taking a high earning job and doing philanthropy, rather than working in it themselves. We’ve published a paper on this topic. Here you can see a simplified version of the arguments in favor of earning to give.

  2. Most doctors don’t save many lives: our analysis of how replaceable doctors are

  3. Fundraising for GiveWell’s top recommendation is an apparently easy way to create a highly effective charity. Learn about the case for ‘meta-charity’

  4. Some students have more than a 1 in 10 chance of becoming an MP in the British Parliament. How hard is it to become the Prime Minister

  5. Keeping your options open is really important, especially if you care about making a difference.


What’s wrong with existing careers advice for people who want to make an impact?

  1. 5 common pieces of advice that don’t work. Perhaps it’s better to “do what’s valuable”.

  2. Many common ways to make a difference don’t clearly work, like microfinance or building schools, and it’s difficult to work out which do.

  3. The impact of different paths can vary massively, but people rarely try to assess the impact of different options.

  4. We often don’t consider what would have happened if we hadn’t acted. Some people who think they are doing good are probably doing harm instead.


If you’d like more help from our research, apply to receive one of our limited number of free, in-depth, personalised consultations.

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