The highest-impact career for you is the one that allows you to make the biggest contribution to solving one of the world’s most pressing problems. On this page, we describe skills to build early in your career that can help you make a bigger contribution. Plus, we have reviews of 20 or so more specific career paths we think are especially impactful given the problems we think are most pressing.

These recommendations are based on 10 years of research and experience advising people — use them to get ideas for next steps and new career paths you might have missed.

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Top skill sets for tackling global problems

Early career, we recommend you focus on building useful skills. So which skills are most useful for solving important global problems? Here’s our list.

We suggest you choose between these primarily based on personal fit. Click through to the profiles to see why we recommend them, concrete advice for how to build each one, and how you can work out which is the best fit for you.

  • Learn to get things done in the world’s largest and most important institutions (in particular national governments), which often play a crucial role in tackling global problems.

  • Help build and boost great organisations doing important work through skills like management, operations, legal and financial oversight, entrepreneurship, and fundraising.

  • Learn how to do research, with the aim of eventually making intellectual advances on important questions about tackling global problems.

  • Convey important ideas and information in a compelling way in order to help others focus on the right things and work more effectively.

  • Learn programming and then apply your skills to build useful software or conduct analyses relevant to pressing problems.

  • Learn about China and use that experience to help improve global coordination in crucial areas.

  • Gain relevant — but sometimes niche — knowledge in important areas, like vaccinology, AI hardware, or development economics.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. Plus, almost any skill can be worth pursuing if you’re sufficiently good at it. You should look for the skills that have the best balance of being useful and being something you could get great at.

The highest-impact career paths our research has identified so far

These are guides to some more specific career paths that seem especially high impact. Most of these are difficult to enter, and it’s common to start by investing years in building the skills above before pursuing them. But if any might be a good fit for you, we encourage you to seriously consider it.

We’ve ranked these paths roughly in terms of our take on their expected impact, holding personal fit for each fixed and given our view of the world’s most pressing problems. But your personal fit matters a lot for your impact, and there is a lot of variation within each path too — so the best opportunities in one lower on the list will often be better than most of the opportunities in a higher-ranked one.

Other high-impact career paths we’re excited about

Our top-ranked paths won’t be right for everybody, and there are lots of ways to have an impactful career. Here we list some additional paths we think can be high impact for the right person. These aren’t ranked in terms of impact, and there are surely many promising paths we haven’t written about at all.

Some ways to build career capital

Most high-impact career paths, like those above, require years building up skills and experience — what we call career capital. See general advice on career capital, or check out the guides below on some specific ideas. The list is far from comprehensive.

How to choose which career path you should pursue

The purpose of these lists is to give you more ideas about high-impact career paths. There are likely many other options worth considering for your personal list that we don’t cover.

As we cover in our career guide, the overall impact of your career depends on both:

  • How impactful the path is in general
  • Your degree of personal fit with it

Typically, once you have some good ideas for impact, we recommend narrowing down mainly based on fit — including whether the path is likely to be sustainable and personally satisfying.

If you want to do a more detailed comparison of a list of options, use our career decision process.

This is also just one step in making a full career plan – see the rest of our advice on career planning, including a career plan worksheet.

New to 80,000 Hours? Take a look at our career guide.

Our career guide is based on 10+ years of research alongside academics at Oxford. It aims to teach you how to find a fulfilling career that does good.

It’s full of practical tips and exercises. At the end, you’ll have a draft of your new career plan.

Read now

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