Is nursing or headhunting the best career for you?

80,000 Hours is a non-profit that gives you the information you need to find a fulfilling, high-impact career. Our advice is all free, tailored for talented graduates, and based on five years of research alongside academics at Oxford. Start with our career guide.

RedCrossNursen

Read our full review of nursing.

Read our full review of executive search.

 
One of the most frequent criticisms of our career recommender is that it usually recommends highly competitive options that are beyond the reach of most people. Furthermore, it disproportionately recommends careers for people with strong mathematical skills.

To begin to address this we have written two shallow career reviews of options that are both less competitive and less quantitative – nursing and executive search (also known as headhunting). Both are primarily ‘earning to give‘ careers.

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What were the bottom lines?

Nursing:

  • is quite well paid in some countries, with a low risk of unemployment
  • provides a launching pad for a career in medical management
  • is satisfying work for most nurses, with flexibility around hours, though nurse ‘burn out’ at unusually high rates
  • offers the opportunity to study advanced nursing degrees which are even better paid.

On the other hand,

  • we expect more nurses in the developed world will improve health outcomes only a small amount
  • we are cautious about recommending a nursing degree to high-school leavers because it won’t be much use to them if they decide not to become nurses – and it is hard to predict what career you will want from a young age.

Executive search:

  • is also well paid, with large commissions for the best performers
  • is accessible to people with suitable social skills from almost any undergraduate major
  • offers better work-life balance than most professional services jobs.

On the other hand,

  • the work itself probably isn’t very valuable to society
  • the skills gained and exit options seem worse than some other corporate/business positions, and the work is less prestigious.

If either sounds like an good fit for your skills and preferences, you should certainly check out the full review – there we suggest who we think should most seriously consider pursuing each path.

If you find an error or have information that can answer our remaining uncertainties, please leave a comment and help us improve our work.

Author: Robert Wiblin

Rob studied both genetics and economics at the Australian National University (ANU), graduating top of his class and being named Young Alumnus of the Year in 2015.

He worked as a research economist in various Australian Government agencies, and then moved to the UK to work at the Centre for Effective Altruism, first as Research Director, then Executive Director, then Research Director for 80,000 Hours.

He was founding board Secretary for Animal Charity Evaluators and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community.