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 to do that.
That 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 up to 800 hours working out how.
We aim to help you work out how you can best use your 80,000 hours to help others, and to take action on that basis.
We believe you can increase your impact by much more than 1%, and it’ll take a lot less than 800 hours.
Our podcast — in-depth interviews about the world’s most pressing problems, and how you can help solve them
Our job board — with current opportunities to work on big and neglected problems and build skills
Our one-on-one service — providing individualised career advice for our more engaged readers, helping them make individual plans and important career connections, and matching some users to key high-impact roles
Right now, we focus most on helping people tackle issues that threaten the future of civilisation, such as pandemics, nuclear war, or AI, because we think tackling these issues is how our readers can most increase their impact.
How did we get started?
80,000 Hours started in 2011 when our founders, Ben and Will, were about to graduate from Oxford, and were wondering what to do with their own careers.
Like many, they wanted careers that were satisfying, paid the bills, and made a worthwhile contribution to society — but they were really unsure which paths would be best.
The standard advice seemed like it was to become a teacher, doctor, or charity worker, but these didn’t seem like a great fit for them. Should they instead go into research? Join a political campaign? Or something else?
It didn’t seem like existing career advice even tried to answer this question, so Ben and Will started doing their own research.
They presented their early ideas in a lecture in February 2011, and to their surprise, several people in the audience decided to totally change their career plans. And several asked them to start an organisation.
Inspired by this feedback, a team was formed and 80,000 Hours was started as a part-time project in 2011.
Our aim from the start has been to provide the advice we wish we’d had: in-depth, based on the best research available, and taking seriously the question of how to do the most good.
Our thinking was that if we could enable just a couple of people to find high-impact careers, that would be like a multiplier on what we could achieve ourselves.
We hired a full-time team in 2012, and since then, we’ve spoken to hundreds of experts, read what relevant literature we could find, and conducted our own analyses of many career paths. Over 1,000 people have told us they’ve changed to higher-impact paths due to our advice.
We still have a lot to learn, and we’ve made some mistakes, but we hope that by sharing what we’ve learned, we can help speed up our readers’ journeys toward high-impact careers, and by doing that, help tackle the world’s most pressing problems.
Some of our readers whose stories we’re especially proud of include:
People we’ve worked with have helped to:
Develop the fields of research around AI alignment, catastrophic pandemics, and global priorities
Build the effective altruism movement
Pledge tens of millions of dollars to life-saving interventions in the developing world
They include people working in the White House, up-and-coming academics, founders of new nonprofits, and philanthropists.
Over 500 readers have pledged 10% of their income to charity through our sister organisation, Giving What We Can.
More formally, we evaluate our impact by tracking the number of significant career plan changes we cause. You can read much more about how we evaluate our impact in our annual reviews.
What’s our vision and plan for growth?
So many people want to make a difference,1 but most career advice doesn’t even discuss the question of which career paths are highest impact, so they fail to have as much impact as they could.
Our aim is to become the best source of advice and support for students and recent graduates who prioritise impact, helping them find satisfying careers that fulfil their potential to contribute to the world.
Right now, we’re especially focused on issues that could pose an existential threat, both to the present generation as well all future generations, such as catastrophic pandemics, nuclear war, and AI alignment.
In the coming years, our aim is to reach all of the young people who we expect to find our current advice most useful, and to grow our team to 30 full-time employees.
By doing this, we aim to at least double the number of people we help to make high-impact career changes from around 250 to 500 per year. This would likely make us the largest source of talent working on the crucial, neglected issues listed above.
From there, we hope to expand our focus to include older people, people in non-English-speaking countries, and people who are not yet as focused on impact as our current audience.
Ultimately, we’d like to spark a global conversation about how people can best use their careers to help the world, and to inspire more people to take a high-impact path.
We want the new default to be that everyone with the privilege to have options in their career asks themselves: “Which global problems are most pressing? And how can I best use my career to tackle them?”
You can see much more detail about our progress and our plans for the coming years in our annual reviews.
We don’t accept advertising or corporate sponsorship, so we can focus on helping our readers have a greater positive impact.
Who is our advice aimed at?
Our aim is to do the most we can to help solve big neglected problems. Given our limited capacity, we need to prioritise which audiences we work with, as well as which career paths and issues we cover, in order to make the biggest positive difference we can.
Our advice is focused on people with the privilege to have options for how to spend their careers, and the security and ability to make helping the world one of their main goals.
We especially focus on college students and graduates living in rich countries like the US or UK who want to take an analytical approach to doing good, in part because this is the audience we know best.
Some of our resources, such as our list of priority paths and one-on-one advice — where we have especially limited capacity — are aimed at people who are unusually ambitious and high-performing, because this allows us to achieve a lot even if we only work with a small number of people.
Many people are not in a position to spend time on social impact, let alone make it a large focus, and that’s fine — we also have many priorities in life besides impact. But if you are, we hope we can help.
We consider ourselves a part of the effective altruism community and often draw on the work of others committed to using evidence and reason to find the best ways to help others. For instance, we draw on the work of Open Philanthropy, a philanthropic and research foundation that is 80,000 Hours’ biggest funder.
We often work with researchers at the University of Oxford, including several of our board members.
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 recognise 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 the Effective Ventures Foundation (our parent organisation), the Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA), and external advisors with relevant expertise.
It’s hard to find data on the exact proportion of people who want to make a difference, but it’s clear that it’s a significant priority for a lot of people. For instance, in a Net Impact survey, 31% of respondents reported that making a difference was ‘essential’ in their choice of career, and 45% reported that they would take a 15% pay cut to make more of a difference. In a Guardian survey, over 70% of respondents reported that ethical considerations were ‘crucial’ in choosing an employer. In a Bentley University surveyMultigenerational Impacts on the Workplace, 84% reported that “knowing I am helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important to me than professional recognition.” A survey of millennials by Global Tolerance found that “42% of individuals…want to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world.” Meaningful work that benefited others was more important than a high salary for 44% of the respondents. At the same time, people are often dissatisfied with existing advice. For instance, in a 2009 British Youth Council survey, 80% of 12–26 year olds reported that formal careers advice was ‘a little bit’ or ‘not at all’ helpful.↩
As a nonprofit, we also occasionally receive discounted or free services from our vendors.↩
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