Find a fulfilling career that does good

This free guide is based on five years of research alongside academics at Oxford.

Scroll down to see a summary and start reading.

We stopped updating this guide in 2017. We still agree with most of the advice, and have flagged the places where we don’t. Our more up-to-date key ideas and planning guides mainly differ in style and in being more focused on impact. If you’re new to 80,000 Hours, and want to see our most up-to-date advice, start here.

Introduction: Why read this guide?

Answer: You have 80,000 hours in your career. That’s a long time. Spend one or two of those hours on this guide, to help you work out how to use the rest. We believe you might be able to find a career that is both more satisfying and has a greater positive impact.

You can learn the basics in a summary series of video lectures, or read the guide as a book. Or you can read it all online right here for free.

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Part 1: What makes for a dream job?

Answer: Research shows that to have a fulfilling career, you should do something you’re good at that makes the world a better place. Don’t aim for a highly paid, easy job, or expect to discover your “passion” in a flash of insight.

Find out the six key ingredients of fulfilling work:

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Part 2:How much difference can one person make?

Answer: Many common ways to do good, such as becoming a doctor, have less impact than you might first think. Other, more unconventional options, have allowed certain people to achieve an extraordinary impact (including one particular Lieutenant Colonel in the Soviet military).

Find out why your choice of career really matters for the world:

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Part 3:Can you change the world without changing job?

Answer: With the right approach, you can make a major difference to the lives of others without changing job, or making a major sacrifice. You can do this by giving 10% of your income to the world’s poorest people, promoting important causes, or assisting others in having an impact.

Learn about three ways to make a difference in any job:

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Part 4:Where should you focus to have the most impact?

Answer: To maximise your impact, work on areas (1) that are large in scale, (2) that others neglect, and (3) where it’s possible to make progress. Many people fail to compare the scale of different problems, work on the same problems as everyone else, and support programmes with no evidence of impact.

Learn how to compare global problems:

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Part 5:What’s the biggest and most urgent problem in the world?

Answer: Most people in rich countries who aim to do good work on health, poverty and education in their home country. But health in poor countries is a bigger, more solvable problem, and only receives 4% of charitable donations. Others work on climate change, but pandemics pose a similar threat, and are over ten times more neglected.

Find out what we’ve learned about the world’s most urgent problems:

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You can also use our problem tool to get personalised recommendations. It only takes 5 minutes:

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If you’re already interested in a specific area, see all our problem profiles.

Part 6: Which jobs help people the most?

Answer: When we think of jobs that help people, medicine, teaching and charity work are what first come to mind. But these are not always the highest-impact options. To help the most people: (1) focus on the most pressing problems; (2) choose the best method for working on the problem, considering research, advocacy and donating to charity, as well as direct work; and (3) do something with excellent personal fit and job satisfaction.

Learn about the four main types of high-impact career:

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If you’re already interested in a specific area, see all our career reviews.

Part 7: Which jobs put you in the best position for the future?

Answer: Especially early in your career, take options that will give you flexible career capital – skills, connections and credentials that will be useful in many different jobs. Examples include mathematical graduate studies, consulting, and learning to program. Be careful with humanities PhDs, charity jobs and vocational qualifications.

Get a list of ways to put yourself in a better position:

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Part 8: What’s the right career for you?

Answer: Don’t expect to figure out what you’re best at right away. Instead, go investigate: speak to people to learn more, and try out your best options. Then, to avoid common decision-making mistakes, use a systematic process to make your final decision.

Learn how to narrow down your options:

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Part 9:How can you be more successful in your current job?

Answer: There’s a lot that anyone can do to be more productive, impactful and happy in any career. Some of it is common sense, but people often don’t take simple steps such as prioritising their mental health, learning how to learn, investing in their productivity, figuring out how to think better, and otherwise improving the way they work.

See 15 evidence-based ways to be more successful:

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Part 10: How should you plan your career?

Answer: Rather than try to pinpoint the single best option, accept that your plan is likely to change. Write out a flexible road map, which includes nearby alternative options and a backup if things don’t work out as expected.

Learn how to make a flexible A/B/Z career plan:

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Part 11: What’s the best way to get a job?

Answer: Don’t just send out your CV in response to job listings. Get leads through your connections, and prove that you can do the work by actually doing some. When you get an offer, negotiate.

See our summary of all the best advice on how to get the job you want:

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Part 12:What’s the best way to gain connections?

Answer: Join a community of people working in the same area as you. You’ll get hundreds of connections at once. We’ve seen hundreds of people become far more motivated, altruistic and successful by getting involved in our community of effective altruists.

Learn about how our community can help and why to get involved:

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The end:A cheery final note – imagining your deathbed

We sum up the whole guide in one minute.

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The tool:Work out what to do with your career

This tool helps you apply all the ideas, and make your plan. Once you’ve done this, you’ve mastered the guide:

Use the tool

Update 2021: Or you might prefer to use our more up-to-date and in-depth career planning course.

What’s next:Become an expert on impact

If you’ve read this guide, and are interested in learning more about how to maximise your impact, you might like to check out our more in-depth key ideas guide, our podcast, or apply to get one-on-one advice. We admire your stamina!

Key ideas