Update: In which career can you make the most difference?

In the recent content release, we added a new top careers page.

It’s based on the popular blog post we released in February – “in which career can you make the most difference? – but with several changes.

How has the content changed?

  1. Replaced the ranking. Previously, we put all the careers we considered in rank order. We knew the precise order wouldn’t be robust, which we flagged, but thought it would be more engaging to present the information that way. After more reflection, we decided in favor of clarity. Now we present the list of all the careers we’ve considered (clearly stating how deeply we’ve researched each career), and break them into four groups:
    • Promising: careers that seem to offer an especially good opportunity for people aiming to make a difference.
    • Promising but uncertain: careers that seem like they might make it into the promising class but are not yet thoroughly researched.
    • Very promising but risky and extremely competitive: for paths like politics and tech entrepreneurship which look really high-impact but should not be entered lightly
    • Everything else: careers that didn’t seem unusually good, though they may still be great options for someone with good personal fit, or if you can identify an especially good opportunity within the path.
  2. Added an “ease of competition” score. Previously, we tried to take account of different levels of competitiveness by scoring the careers relative to “someone who can plausibly get this career”, which is an unclear and changing baseline. We decided it would be much clearer to create a score for how generally hard the career is to enter and succeed within, then score the other factors based on “your prospects if you make it in”. So, now it’s clear that software engineering is lower paid than tech entrepreneurship, but also less competitive, and it’s up to the reader to make the tradeoff for themselves.

  3. Expanded the career profiles. We developed a new template for the career profiles, and expanded many of them while filling out the new fields. In particular, we made tech entrepreneurship and software engineering substantially longer and updated them based on research that has happened in the interim. We also added quantitative trading and focused “founding effective non-profits” on those concerning international development only, so we could make the information more specific.

  4. Added a breakdown by career stage and skill-type. We wanted to make it very obvious that which option is best for you depends on personal fit and which stage you’re at in your career. So, we added an extra section that guides you through the careers based on skill-type (using our assessments of what’s required for good personal fit), and those that are best for career capital compared to immediate impact.

How have our views on the careers changed?

  • We no longer rate front-office finance as promising (when previously it was ranked 5th) due to concerns over (i) competitiveness and crowdedness (ii) job satisfaction (iii) lack of direct impact (iv) weaker skill-building. If you were very focused on earning to give, it would still be one of the best options; however, we feel that someone able to succeed in this path is often going to be better served by consulting (better for career capital, keeping options open and job satisfaction), tech entrepreneurship (better for direct impact, and maybe also better for earnings and career capital), and quant trading (better for earnings); unless they’re an especially good fit for finance.
  • We also didn’t rate law and medicine as promising, though there were only ranked 15th and 10th before.

See the new top careers page to see all the updated scores.

What would we like to improve in the future?

We’re still thinking about how to present the list to minimise misunderstandings for people new to 80,000 Hours.

One measure we plan to take is to clearly present the list as a way to “get ideas” rather than a definitive ranking. In our coaching and workshops, people seem to find it really useful just to have a concrete list of particularly interesting suggestions to help them check they haven’t missed an option. It’s not useful, however, to read much into the list beyond that. Which option is best for you on the list mainly depends on personal fit. Moreover, there are many careers we haven’t considered, and even those we didn’t rate as promising can be very good options for some people in some situations.

We’d also like to add an FAQ addressing some of the most common misunderstandings.

Beyond that, it’s a top priority for us over the next six months to further deepen the research behind the career profiles. We’ll continue to adjust the top careers lists based on what we discover.

What questions came to your mind when you first saw the page? What do you think we should put in the FAQ?