Information security could be a top option for people looking to have a high-impact career.
This might be a surprising claim — information security is a relatively niche field, and it doesn’t typically appear on canonical lists of do-gooder careers.
But we think there’s an unusually strong case that information security skills (which allow you to protect against unauthorised use, hacking, leaks, and tampering) will be key to addressing problems that are extremely important, neglected, and tractable. We now rank this career among the highest-impact paths we’ve researched.
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In the introduction to our recently updated career review of information security, we discuss how poor information security decisions may have played a decisive role in the 2016 US presidential campaign. If an organisation is big and influential, it needs good information security to ensure that it functions as intended. This is true whether it’s a political campaign, a major corporation, a biolab, or an AI company.
These last two cases could be quite important. We rank the risks from pandemic viruses and the chances of an AI-related catastrophe among the most pressing problems in the world — and information security is likely a key part of reducing these dangers.
That’s because hackers and cyberattacks — from a range of actors with varying motives — could try to steal crucial information, such as instructions for making a super-virus or the details of an extremely powerful AI model.
This means that even if the people developing advanced AI or biotechnology are sufficiently careful with how they use their inventions, they may fall into the hands of far more reckless or dangerous people. This increases the chances of misuse. Plus, it’s plausible that poor information security could contribute to unhealthy technological race dynamics. Strong information security makes this less likely to happen.
So these careers have the potential to be really impactful. But we also think they’re underrated — which means that each new talented person to enter the field can potentially add a lot of value.
And these skills are likely to be in demand for some time into the future. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of information security analysts is likely to grow by 35% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average field.
We’ve also spoken to a lot of people in key organisations, particularly AI labs, who often say that these roles are very important but difficult to hire for.
A lot of these organisations want to hire people who care about doing good and reducing the risk of catastrophe, so having more altruistically motivated people enter the field could be really beneficial.
Another reason we feel comfortable recommending information security as a top path is that even if someone follows this advice but doesn’t find a job at a highly impactful organisation, they will have gained valuable skills to use on the job market. In other words, it has limited personal downsides as a career path.
Of course — as we discuss on the site — there’s no career path that’s right for everyone. You need to at least have some technical knack to enter this field, and you shouldn’t enter if you wouldn’t be happy doing the work!
For more details on what the career involves:
And if it’s not a good fit for you, you could share it with a friend who might be well-suited to the work.