The highest-impact career paths our research has identified so far
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 list some broad categories of impactful careers, followed by about 30 more specific and unusual career paths we think are especially impactful, such as long-term AI policy research. The lists are based on 10 years of research and experience advising people, and represent the careers it seems to us will be most impactful over the long run if you get started on them now — though of course we can’t be sure what the future holds.
You can use the lists on this page to get new ideas for impactful careers and make sure you haven’t missed a great option. Then select between them primarily based on your fit — see our guide on how to make a career plan for details on how to choose. Click on the profiles to learn more about why we chose each one, how to assess your fit, and see open high-impact job opportunities.
Table of Contents
- 1 Key categories of impactful careers
- 2 List of top-recommended career paths
- 3 Sometimes recommended: other high-impact career paths we’re excited about
- 4 Steps to build career capital and increase your future impact
- 5 Other career reviews
- 6 How to choose which career path you should pursue
Key categories of impactful careers
Before thinking about specific career paths, we think it’s valuable to consider what kinds of careers tend to be highest impact. The career categories below can enable you to make a big contribution to whichever global problems you think are most pressing.
Work out how government policy can help solve the world’s most pressing problems, and help make those policies happen.
Help build great organisations doing important work via entrepreneurship, operations, people management, project management, fundraising, or administration.
Aim to make intellectual advances about how to tackle the world’s most pressing problems.
We mostly focus on more common skills, but a huge variety is needed. If you already have expertise in a narrow area, there might be a way to apply it to a pressing global problem.
Convey important ideas and information in a compelling way, and you can help others focus on the right things and work more effectively.
Take a job that fits you well and lets you contribute financially to funding-constrained, highly effective organisations.
List of top-recommended career paths
If you want to help tackle the global problems we think are most pressing, these are the career paths we most recommend — our priority paths. Most of them are difficult to enter — you may need to start by investing in building skills for several years, and there may be relatively few positions available. However, if you have the potential to excel in any of these paths, we encourage you to seriously consider it.
We’ve ranked these paths roughly in terms of impact, assuming your personal fit for each is constant. But there is a lot of variation within each path — so the best opportunities in one lower on the list will often be better than most of the opportunities in a higher-ranked one. Note we may periodically adjust this list based on changes in the opportunities for impact or updates to our views.
The development of AI could transform society. Help increase the chance it’s positive by tackling the technical problems of AI alignment, such as ‘corrigibility,’ ‘interpretability,’ and reliability.
State regulation and industry governance may determine whether the deployment of AI goes well or badly. This path is currently underdeveloped, but building policy experience and expertise now may allow you to have an exceptionally high impact in the future.
Help reduce the risk of a global biological catastrophe, like an engineered pandemic much worse than COVID-19.
Most people can only do great work within a great organisation. Make it possible to deploy more talent and resources toward progress on pressing global problems.
If you could cause two other, equally talented people to use their skills to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, that’d be double the impact you’d have if you did it yourself
Help Chinese companies and stakeholders involved in building AI make the technology safe and good for society.
Allocate philanthropic funding as effectively as possible by identifying and vetting new organisations and projects.
One of the biggest bottlenecks for organisations working on pressing global problems is excellent operations staff to design, scale, and implement great systems.
Help identify the most pressing global problems and the most effective ways to solve them to enable others to have a greater impact.
Help powerful institutions make good predictions and decisions, particularly around catastrophic risks.
Sometimes recommended: other high-impact career paths we’re excited about
Below we list some other career paths that we don’t recommend as often or as highly as those above, but which can still often be top options for people we advise. Take a look and consider any that might be a good fit for you. These aren’t ranked in terms of impact.
High-impact but especially competitive
Help anticipate future changes to society and technology by examining the past.
Build a platform and spread important ideas about pressing global problems and how we can best solve them.
Potentially high-impact but still under-researched
Shape the course and pace of AI deployment though AI hardware — e.g. by restricting or allowing access to compute by different actors.
Help prevent emerging technologies like AI and biotech from being misused, stolen, or tampered with.
Research, promote, or implement policies that address global issues beyond biosecurity and AI safety.
Help emerging global powers coordinate with the rest of the world in addressing pressing global problems.
Help philanthropists invest resources now in order to deploy the returns in the medium- to long-term future, or whenever the time is right.
See if we can make progress on an under-researched problem that could be even more pressing than those we currently prioritise.
Act like a social scientist to design and build pipelines that collect data from humans which could be useful for AI alignment.
Other impactful options if you’re an especially good fit
Spread important ideas and help shape public discourse for the better.
You don’t have to be a technical or policy researcher to help AI labs work toward greater safety.
Use coding skills to help shape the development of AI, prevent pandemics, and support the most impactful nonprofits.
Multiply the impact of research by guiding, coordinating, and promoting the best work.
Grow the effective altruism community by running events, mentoring, and connecting people to one another.
Improve government policies through targeted research and advocacy.
Get great career capital by working at a tech startup — and if it works out, have a positive impact by donating part of your earnings.
Do research in academia, which is home to some of the most far-reaching and cutting-edge research we can do.
Identify and implement the most effective solutions to climate change by focusing on the most extreme risks and neglected technologies.
Get an extremely high-paying job, then donate some of your salary to the most effective charities you can find.
Know of someone doing very valuable work? Multiply their impact by taking time-consuming tasks off their plate.
The broader version of our top-recommended path on shaping China’s involvement in AI: help coordinate China and the West on a variety of global issues.
Develop and deploy potential technological solutions to important problems.
Steps to build career capital and increase your future impact
These aren’t career paths per se, but they can be great phases in your career that can set you up to have an even greater impact later. This list is especially incomplete compared to the others.
Learn about policy making and government while having a direct social impact by helping improve government policies.
Get a valuable credential in a field relevant to most of our priority paths (especially global priorities research), plus set yourself up for good earning-to-give options.
Understand the cutting edge of machine learning in order to contribute to the safe deployment of AI.
Learn about founding a startup while gaining connections and a broad skillset.
Earn a valuable credential while developing your legal knowledge, analytical skills, and professional network.
Other career reviews
Below are all the other career reviews we have written so far, listed alphabetically. Some of this content is a little out of date, so take the advice with a pinch of salt.
- Actuarial science
- Allied health professional
- Biomedical research
- Computer Science PhD
- Data science (for skill-building & earning to give)
- Executive search
- Founding effective nonprofits (international development)
- Front office finance (for skill-building & earning to give)
- Management consulting (for skill-building & earning to give)
- Marketing (for skill-building & earning to give)
- Medical careers
- Party politics in the UK
- Philosophy academia
- Product manager in tech
- Programme manager in international organisations
- Pursuing fame in art and entertainment
- UK commercial law (for earning to give)
- Web designer
- Working at effective nonprofits (international development)
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 key ideas series, the overall impact of your career depends on both:
- How impactful the path is in general
- Your degree of personal fit with it
So once you have some good ideas, we recommend you narrow down based on fit — including whether the path is likely to be sustainable and personally satisfying.
To help you work out which career path is best for you, we’ve created an eight-week planning course to help you systematically think through important factors in choosing a career, generate more ideas, and identify your best option. (After that, check out our job board for opportunities in the career path that fits you best.)
Read next: Personal fit: why being good at your job is even more important than people think
People’s productivity varies greatly, so personal fit is one of the most important factors in determining the expected impact of your career.
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