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 to do that.

For that reason, 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. (And it takes a lot less than 800 hours.)

What do we do?

80,000 Hours provides research and support to help students and recent graduates switch into careers that effectively tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

We’re a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit funded by philanthropic donations, and everything we provide is free.

What we offer:

  1. Our online guides – which cover our key ideas (including how to compare careers in terms of impact), which global problems are most pressing, ideas for new high-impact career paths, and how to make a career plan

  2. Our podcast – in-depth interviews about the world’s most pressing problems, and how you can help solve them

  3. Our job board – with current opportunities to work on big and neglected problems and build skills

  4. One-on-one advice – to help our most engaged readers enter the paths that are best for them (we provide advice, introductions, and pointers toward specific jobs)

How did we get started?

80,000 Hours started in 2011. Our founders Ben and Will were about to graduate from Oxford, and were wondering what to do with their careers. Like many, they wanted a career that was satisfying, paid the bills, and made a worthwhile contribution to society — but they were really unsure what would fit these criteria.

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 was even trying 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 path. Some recommended that Ben and Will 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.

Since 2012, when we first supported a full-time team, 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 hope that by sharing what we’ve learned, we help others in their journeys toward high-impact careers.

Read more about our progress each year in our annual reviews. You can also hear Ben tell our founding story in this podcast.

What impact has 80,000 Hours had so far?

As of July 2021, so far we’ve had over 3 million readers and given one-on-one advice to over 1,000 people. More than 3,000 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’ve also been one of the largest drivers of the growth of the effective altruism community.

Some of our readers whose stories we’re especially proud of include:

People we’ve worked with have helped to:

  • Build the effective altruism movement
  • Develop the fields of research around AI alignment, catastrophic pandemics, and global priorities
  • 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 the future?

So many people want to make a difference,1 but they don’t have great advice and support in doing so, and so don’t 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 fulfill their potential to contribute to the world.

By doing this, we hope to get more talented people tackling the world’s biggest and most neglected problems, such as AI alignment, global priorities research, preventing catastrophic pandemics, and the others we list here.

In the coming years, our aim is to reach all of the students and recent graduates who we expect to find our current advice most useful, and to double our team to 30 full-time employees. We hope that this will 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 catalysts for talent working on the crucial, neglected issues listed above.

From there, we’d like to expand our focus to include older and younger 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 this path.

We want the new default to be that everyone who’s fortunate enough to have options for their career asks themselves which global problems are most pressing, and how they can best use their career to tackle them.

You can see much more detail about our progress and our plans for the coming years in our annual reviews.

How are we funded?

We’re a nonprofit funded by individual donors and philanthropic foundations. Our donors give to us so that we can help people like you have a greater positive impact. We haven’t accepted any advertising or corporate sponsorship, so our advice is independent.

Who is our advice aimed at?

Our aim is to do the most we can to help solve big neglected problems. Given limited capacity, we need to prioritise which audiences we work with — and which career paths and issues we cover — in order to make the biggest positive difference we can.

Our advice is focused on people who have the good fortune to have options for how to spend their career, and who want to make helping the world one of their main goals.

We especially focus on college students and graduates living in rich countries like the U.S. or U.K. who want to take an analytical approach to doing good.

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.

However, the core principles we cover, such as in our advice on career planning, apply to anyone who wants to make impact a priority. We also hope to broaden our core audience over time.

If you’re not able to change your career right now, see our advice on how to have a big impact without changing your job.

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.

Learn more in advice on how to read our advice.

Who is on the team?

Ben still runs 80,000 Hours, more than eight years later. Will is now a professor at Oxford, working at the Global Priorities Institute, and acts as the chair of our board.

We also have a full-time team of more than 15 people. You can read about them and some of our research advisors on our team page.

Which partners do we work with?

Our cultural values

We aim to uphold the following values in carrying out our work:

  1. Ambitious long-term impact – will a given action or approach make us into the world’s best source of career advice for people who want to maximise their positive impact?
  2. A modest, scientific mindset – why might our views be wrong?
  3. Openness and honesty – default to transparency and take the ‘red face test’.
  4. Focus – say no to everything that’s not the top priority, then obsess.
  5. Fun and friendliness – say what’s true, kind, and necessary (and funny).
  6. Self-care and personal growth – don’t forget about the long term.
  7. Exceptionally well-researched advice – go one step too far.

Read more

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 organisations.

How can you get involved?

Notes and references

  1. 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 survey Millennials in 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.