What do we do?
80,000 Hours aims to solve the most pressing skill bottlenecks in the world’s most pressing problems.
We do this by providing research and support to help people switch into careers that effectively tackle these problems.
In more depth, we:
- Carry out research to identify the careers that best solve these problems.
- Produce online content to inform people about these opportunities and how to enter them. This includes our key ideas series, podcast, job board, problem profiles, and career reviews, which collectively have over one million readers per year.
- Give one-on-one support to help our most engaged readers enter the path that’s the best fit for them by providing advice, introductions and placements into specific jobs.
We’re a non-profit funded by philanthropic donations, and all of our programmes are free.
Our advice is currently tailored to graduates age 20-35 who want to ambitiously focus on social impact, though much of our advice is useful to a broader audience.
Read more about our current programmes in our annual evaluations.
Why 80,000 Hours?
You have about 80,000 working hours in your career: 40 years x 50 weeks x 40 hours.
If you want to have a positive impact with your life, your choice of career is probably your best opportunity because so much time is at stake.
This means it’s worth thinking hard about how to use this time most effectively. If you can make your career 1% higher impact (whatever that means to you), it would in theory be worth spending 800 hours working out how.
We exist to help people work out how they can best use this time to help the world, and take action on that basis.
We believe that many people would like to have a greater impact if they had more information on how to do it effectively.
How did you get started?
80,000 Hours started in 2011, when Will and Ben were studying at Oxford and trying to figure out what to do with their own careers. It seemed clear that some careers have far more impact than others, but they couldn’t find any good advice on which paths would be most effective. So they started doing their own research.
Will and Ben presented their early ideas on these questions in a lecture in February 2011. The lecture caused several people in the audience to completely change what they were planning to do with their lives.
Inspired by this feedback, a team was formed and we founded 80,000 Hours as a part-time project in 2011. The aim was to provide the advice we wish we’d had – in-depth, based on the best evidence available, and seriously addressing the question of how to do the most good.
Many of the initial team were involved with Giving What We Can, a community of people who pledge to donate at least 10% of our income to the charities we think are most effective. This raised questions we wanted to explore, like: should we try to earn more so we can donate more, or is it more effective to work at a charity ourselves? Alternatively, might it be better to work in research or politics, or something entirely different?
In 2012, we raised funding, attained charity status and hired a full-time team. Since then, we’ve spoken to hundreds of experts, read what relevant literature we can find, and conducted our own analyses of many career paths. We still have a lot to learn, and we’ve made some mistakes, but we don’t think anyone else has done as much systematic research into these questions as we have.
You can read more about our progress each year in our annual evaluations.
What does your advice say?
Our key ideas page gives an overview of our most important advice as it currently stands. This includes what we mean by ‘positive impact’, which global problems we think are most pressing, which careers best address these problems, and how to plan your individual career over time.
What audience is this advice aimed at?
Our advice is focused on people with college degrees who want to make having a positive impact the main focus of their careers, especially in the problem areas we most recommend; who live or can move to rich, (for the most part) English-speaking countries; and who want to take an analytical approach to their career.
At any given moment many people need to focus on taking care of their own lives, and we don’t think anyone should feel guilty if that’s the case. Certain parts of our advice, such as our list of priority paths, are especially aimed at people who are unusually high-achieving. In general, the more similar you are to our core audience, the more useful the advice will be, although much of what we write is useful to anyone who wants to make a difference.
Learn more about who our advice is aimed at.
What impact have you had so far?
We’ve had over 3 million readers and given one-on-one advice to over 1000 people. More than 3000 people have told us that, due to engaging with us, they have significantly changed their career plans and now expect to have a larger social impact as a result.
We track our impact through surveys, which count the number of “significant plan changes” we’ve caused and categorise these shifts according to their size. We’ve grown this number over 10-fold since 2014.
Measuring our impact and estimating our cost-effectiveness is challenging. You can read much more about how we aim to do it in our annual evaluations.
The people who have reported changing their plans based on our advice have pledged more than $30 million to some of the world’s most effective charities, founded multiple organizations focused on doing good, and helped to start the global “effective altruism” movement. These days, we’re especially focused on finding people able to carry out or support research and policy work to aid the growing fields of AI safety, pandemic prevention and global priority setting.
Who is on the team?
Ben still runs 80,000 Hours, more than 8 years later. Will is now a professor at Oxford, working at the Global Priorities Institute. He advises us on strategy based, in part, on GPI’s research.
We also have a full-time team of more than ten people. You can read about them and some of our research advisors on our team page.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re aiming to grow our impact over 10-fold in the next three years. We’d like to continue to improve our online advice, and hire a team of over 25 to give in-person advice around the world.
Given our current view of the world’s most pressing problems, we are particularly focused on building a flourishing global community of researchers, policymakers, technologists and support staff who are focused on mitigating global catastrophic risks. We’re aiming to become the best source of advice for people who want to work on these problems.
Given how neglected many of these issues are, we have the potential to become one of the largest sources of talented people working on these issues.
You can see much more detail about our progress and our plans for the coming years, in our annual evaluations.
How are you funded?
We’re a nonprofit funded by individual donors and a philanthropic foundation. Our donors give to us so that we can help people like you have a greater impact. We haven’t accepted any advertising or corporate recruitment fees, so our advice is independent.
We’re part of the effective altruism community, which we helped to start.
We’re fiscally sponsored by the Centre for Effective Altruism.
We’re affiliated with Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, which does research into the biggest problems facing humanity, and we shared offices with them for much of our history (though we’re currently based in London). We’re also affiliated with The Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, which aims to enable practical ethics to develop and more effectively guide human choice (though we operate entirely independently).
In 2015, we attended Y Combinator — the startup accelerator that worked with Airbnb, Dropbox, and many other companies — and remain part of their alumni community.
Our cultural values
We aim to uphold the following values in carrying out our work. They’re roughly in order of priority.
- Ambitious long-term impact – will this make us into the world’s best source of career advice for people who want to maximise their positive impact?
- A modest, scientific mindset – why might this be wrong?
- Openness and honesty – default to transparency & take the red face test.
- Focus – say no to everything that’s not the top priority, then obsess.
- Fun and friendliness – say what’s true, kind, necessary (and funny).
- Self-care and personal growth – don’t forget about the long-term.
- Exceptionally well-researched advice – go one step too far.
Diversity and inclusion
We strive to be a workplace where people from different backgrounds thrive. This includes people from different races, gender identities, sexual orientations, nationalities, and beyond.
We recognize that because of historical and continuing oppression and inequality, this requires sustained effort. We’re often uncertain about how to make our systems, content, and policies more equitable and inclusive, so we regularly solicit input from not just members of our current team but also our parent organisation, the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA) and external advisors with relevant expertise.
We also endorse CEA’s stance on diversity and inclusion in the effective altruism community and within organizations.
How can you get involved?