All the best resources on high-impact careers

Below is a list of books, essays and resources which we have found helpful in drawing up our career guide, and which we hope will help if you’d like to go into more detail.

Enjoying your job and altruism

Stumbling Upon Happiness, by Prof. Dan Gilbert, outlines the science of measuring happiness, and explains why we’re so bad at judging what will make us happy.

Flourish, by Prof. Martin Seligman, is a survey of the findings of positive psychology from the last couple of decades, by the founder of the field. A bit rambly (compared to his excellent earlier work), but full of fascinating ideas and examples.

The How of Happiness, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, about the best ways to implement the findings of positive psychology to become a little happier each day.

Give and Take, by Prof. Adam Grant, outlines the evidence that having an altruistic mindset can make you more successful, so long as you avoid burnout. It then goes on to explain how you can avoid burnout.

Altruism, by Matthieu Ricard, makes a detailed argument that it’s best both for yourself and the world if you focus on helping others.

Giving Without Sacrifice, by Andreas Mogensen, which explores whether giving 10% of your income to charity will make you happier.

How Rich Am I?, an online calculator comparing you to the rest of the world.

Excited Altruism, an essay by Holden Karnofsky at GiveWell, which argues there isn’t always conflict between doing the most good and doing what you’re passionate about. (And also see this short post by Julia Wise.)

Decision making

Decisive, by Chip and Dan Heath, is a great, readable introduction to evidence-based ways to make better decisions.

Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, a look at the many biases and logical failings present in much human thought.

Superforecasting, by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, a fascinating book about the best ways to improve the accuracy of predictions, such as your chances of success in a career.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky, is a surprisingly good and interesting introduction to rationality, through the medium of Harry Potter fan fiction.

Choosing which problem to focus on

Other resources about comparing global problems

Doing Good Better, by Will MacAskill (co-founder of 80,000 Hours), an introduction to effective altruism.

How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, by Bjorn Lomborg, based on the research of the Copenhagen Consensus, which asks leading economists to prioritize among different ways to help the global poor, and presents some (very rough) cost-benefit analyses. You can also find more up-to-date reports on specific areas on their website.

A list of lessons, by the Open Philanthropy Project, which is full of fascinating insights about how to choose between problems and do good as a philanthropist.

Resources that make the case for a specific problem

Famine, Affluence, and Morality, by Peter Singer, a classic essay which makes the case we should devote a large fraction of our resources to helping the global poor.

Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas, a piece by GiveWell explaining the argument for focusing on international development rather than developed country poverty.

The Moral Imperative toward Cost-effectiveness in Global Health, by Dr. Toby Ord, explores the huge differences in the cost-effectiveness of different aid interventions, and argues that cost-effectiveness often trumps other concerns.

Animal Liberation and Speciesism and Moral Status, both by Peter Singer, which argue for the moral value of animals and explore what we should do about it.

The Number of Animals compared to where Donations Go, a piece of research by Animal Charity Evaluators, arguing that those who are concerned by animal welfare should focus on factory farming rather than shelters, labs or clothing.

Superintelligence, by Nick Bostrom, the key book about the risks of artificial intelligence (or see this TED talk summary).

A list of cause area reviews, by the Open Philanthropy Project, contains profiles of over 30 different problem areas, based on years of research.

Also see our suggested further reading at the end of each on our problem profiles.

Resources about big picture questions that influence your choice of problem

Astronomical Waste, by Prof. Nick Bostrom, argues that your effects on the long-run future should be the key consideration when choosing between problems. In particular, Bostrom argues our focus should be on reducing existential risks, which he explains in Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority.

These arguments are developed in On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future, by Dr. Nick Beckstead. In particular, see Chapters 1 and 3.

The Timing of Labour Aimed at Reducing Existential Risk, an article by Dr. Toby Ord, which explores how priorities change as you get closer to key transition points.

Why Charities Don’t Differ Astronomically in Cost-effectiveness, an essay by Brian Tomasik.

The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker, which argues that we’ve made moral progress over time, which suggests the future will be better than today.

Sapiens, by Yuval Harari, a look at both the past and future of humanity, covering many issues vital to choosing a problem, such as whether life has improved over time, which ideologies dominate our thinking, and which trends might be most important in the next century.

Radical Empathy, an essay by Holden Karnofsky from the Open Philanthropy Project, about how expanding the scope of who we care about is a crucial issue in choosing a problem. (For more on this topic, also see The Expanding Circle by Peter Singer.)

On Caring, an essay by Nate Soares, argues we’re bad at intuitively conceiving of large numbers, which means our intuitions lead us astray when trying to do good.

Moral Trade, by Toby Ord, which shows how trades can be moral as well as economic, and how this means we should compromise with people who have different values.

Moral Uncertainty, by Andrew Sepielli, outlines how we ought to behave when we’re uncertain not only about empirical questions, but also about what’s morally right.

Resources about specific career paths

See the further reading we suggest at the end of each career review.

Career planning and success

So Good They Can’t Ignore You, by Cal Newport, which argues you should focus on building career capital rather than following your passion if you want to have a good career.

The Startup of You, by Reid Hoffman the founder of LinkedIn, which presents a new approach to career planning based on exploration and flexibility. It also contains great tips on networking.

Deep Work, by Cal Newport, about the increasing importance of focused work for success. Also see this interview with Newport on our blog, and Newport’s course about how to perform better in your job.

Originals, by Adam Grant, about how to make original contributions to a field.

50 ways to get a job, a website with lots of tips on getting a social impact job.

And don’t forget the full list of resources on how to be successful. There are lots more books there.

Getting a job

What Color is Your Parachute, by Dick Bolles, the bestselling career advice book of all time. You can get an overview of the basics of job hunting here.

Getting Past No, by William Ury of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, is a classic guide to how to negotiate.

How to Network, our post on some of the best tips and tricks to make networking easier.

Don’t forget the articles and resources we link to in our main article on job hunting.

Donating and investing for altruists

Should you donate now or later?

What’s the best charity?

Should altruists be financially risk-averse?, an essay by Brian Tomasik.

Advanced tips on personal finance, a guide by Brian Tomasik.

Investing for effective altruists

Resources for researching your career

Occupational Outlook Handbook from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, contains basic information on hundreds of careers. ONET is a similar resource also provided by the US Department of Labour, which contains more detailed data on each career.1

Prospects is the UK equivalent to ONET, and focuses on graduate careers.

The career profiles listed above contain salary information, however there often problems with government salary data, such as not including bonuses. For this reason we also find it useful to use the following:

Salary.com, collates data on the salaries of jobs in the US that is more fine-grained than government data e.g. breaking salary down by seniority and bonuses vs. base pay. It’s one of the highest-quality non-government sources of data.2

Glassdoor takes salary data is taken from self-reports and company reviews by people who register on the site. It’s less reliable than the other sources, and tends to be biased towards entry-level positions, but can still be useful.

UK Office of National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings is less detailed than the US BLS data but it covers earnings for different job categories. You can get the 2012 report here and the data here.

Quora is useful for getting an insider perspective on many jobs and is especially strong for tech jobs and non-technical jobs associated with the software industry (e.g. sales and online marketing).

Don’t forget to approach your university careers service. They may have a specialist who can advise on the area you’d like to enter, as well as provide general career advice. They can also often introduce you to alumni.

Want more reading? See all our research.

Notes and references

  1. See this site for an overview of how they collect their data. In addition, we contacted ONET for clarification. From an email with ONET in 2013:
    The primary method for collecting this information is the establishment method, a survey of workers employed in a national probability sample of establishments. This method essentially uses a stratified two-stage design in which businesses (the primary stage) are selected with probability proportional to the expected number of employed workers in the specific occupations being surveyed, and a sample of workers (the secondary stage) is selected in the occupations within the sampled businesses. In addition to this primary method, alternative or supplementary methods include sampling from professional and trade association membership lists and sampling from lists of identified occupation experts. It should be noted that ONET occupational information is composite information from many jobs and therefore is not intended to describe a particular job. With all methods, the ONET survey instruments Questionnaires are used.
  2. When we looked into it in 2013, Salary.com appeared to be the best-quality non-government source of salary data. They take use employer-reported salaries and more than 90% of the job salaries listed take data from 100 or more people in that job. They also have data on salaries by location, but since they calculate it by adjusting national averages using a weighting factor rather than by presenting actual salary data by location it might be better to use the BLS occupational employment statistics handbook for location-based salary information.