Thoughts on my experience working at GiveWell


In this post, I offer some thoughts on my experience working at GiveWell. I’ve had a number of different people ask me about this, and I think many people interested in effective altruism are curious about working there. So I thought I would explain my views in detail so that others who are thinking about working there have more information.


In summary:

  1. I worked at GiveWell for two months in 2012, during which time I mainly did literature reviews and constructed cost-effectiveness models for a few different interventions (breast-feeding promotion, vaccination for neonatal tetanus, vaccination for meningitis, and vaccination for measles).

  2. While there, I primarily learned about how to do a literature search, how to evaluate research (especially causal attribution in economics), and how to construct cost-effectiveness models. I also learned a lot about how to run an effective organization in general, which may have been the most valuable part of the experience.

  3. For people who may be a good fit and have the opportunity to work at GiveWell, I recommend trying it without hesitation. I believe that working at GiveWell is an outstanding opportunity for personal development and having an impact. I also found it a very enjoyable place to work.

  4. I didn’t end up working at GiveWell because the work they wanted me to do didn’t line up well with the work that I wanted to do, working there offered me less autonomy than my best alternative (working at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford), and I believed that working at the Future of Humanity Institute would offer me more job security and options in the future.

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The value of economics PhDs: A conversation with Robin Hanson



Purpose of the call: We organized this call to learn more about the value of getting a PhD in economics to help advise people considering that path.

Why this person: We sought Robin’s thoughts because he is a like-minded economics professor with whom we already had a relationship.

We discussed what career options are available to people who get PhDs in economics, who is a good fit for a PhD in economics, and how to maximize one’s impact in economics. We did not discuss highly data-oriented questions, such as PhD acceptance rates, tenure rates, and portions of economics PhDs working in different areas.

An economics PhD is

  1. generally necessary for becoming an economics professor

  2. can be a promising route (among some other potentially promising routes) to finding work in think tanks, government agencies, international organizations such as the World Bank,

  3. can be helpful for getting a job in consulting.

Good indicators of fit for an economics PhD include aptitude for math, interest in economics, being open-minded about research topics, being able to work on challenging tasks with little direction from others, and being willing to put in a lot of hours. A firm grasp of basic economics concepts and theory, developed through years of practice, is very valuable for understanding how the social world works, which is helpful for evaluating causes and interventions.

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