The idea this week: there are many potentially high-impact career paths — so don’t limit your options too soon.

Which careers are best for helping others? It’s a simple-sounding question, but it’s not so simple to answer.

We’ve written about this question extensively, and it’s a key part of our career guide. We also have a list of the highest-impact career paths our research has found so far.

Readers naturally focus most on the top of the list. But while we want readers to consider our top-ranked paths (and we think it’s good to be transparent about what we think are the best opportunities to do good), you shouldn’t underrate the personal factors that will make one path or another a better fit for you — both in terms of social impact and personal satisfaction.

So this week we wanted to highlight a few paths and career steps (in no particular order) that we think people should consider if they want to have a lot of impact:

1. Journalism

Public discourse shapes the way societies understand and react to key problems in the world, and journalists have a significant role in shaping it. So if you can become an influential journalist, you might be able to have a big impact by drawing attention to pressing world problems, how to solve them, and how to generally think well about these issues. The article — based in part on my personal experience in journalism — covers how to have an impact, how to get started, and the potential downsides of pursuing this path.

2. Grantmaker

Grantmaking can be an especially promising way to have an impact if you focus on pressing world problems. You could join a foundation that already works in these areas and increase their capacity to make important grants, or you could join a more broadly focused foundation and try to encourage it to focus on the most pressing problems. The best way to pursue this path is to first become an excellent and broadly knowledgeable generalist in a field like global health or biosecurity.

3. Public intellectual

With a similar theory of change as journalists, public intellectuals can change the world for the better by promoting important ideas and educating the public. But this path looks pretty different, since it typically involves obtaining academic credentials or similar before branching out into public communications. By its nature, it’s highly competitive and hard to do well, so we certainly don’t recommend it for most of our readers. But for the right person it could be a terrific option.

4. Software engineering

While it’s not traditionally seen as a top career path for altruistically motivated people, software engineering has a lot of appeal as a potentially high-impact option. It’s an extremely versatile skill set that can be applied to many pressing problems, and lots of important organisations need high-quality software engineering support. It also gives you the opportunity to potentially work on AI safety or pursue earning to give.

5. Academic research

A lot of hard work and effort doesn’t end up doing much good in academic research. This is because many academics end up driven by institutional and funding constraints, “what’s hot”, or personal interests (which can be gratifying but not always useful for the world). But some research can be — and indeed has been — extremely valuable for the world. If you choose your focus well and find good mentors, it is very possible to do excellent and impact-driven research in academia. And being an academic can prepare you well for eventually doing impactful research and work elsewhere.

6. Forecasting

Institutions and individuals working on important problems would benefit a lot from radically better methods of forecasting future events to improve decision making. So efforts to generally refine our forecasting abilities could be broadly good. We’re not sure exactly what kind of work is best in this domain, but we’d be excited to see significant advances come out of the general aim of improving forecasting.

7. US law degrees

Should you become a lawyer to have a high-impact career? We think a lot of people probably default to going to law school without much of a plan, but the article on our site explains why and when it can be a great option for some people. For example, you might find high-impact opportunities practising law or — perhaps even more importantly — influencing public policy (for which you could also pursue a policy master’s degree).

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