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Choosing a career with effective altruism as a dominant consideration
This page discusses how to choose a career with effective altruism as a dominant consideration. If you want to consider the general question of the social value of different lines of work, read social value of work: factors to consider and social value of work: income as a proxy. For background on effective altruism, see effective altruism learning resources.
- 1 The relation between effective altruism and career
- 2 Careers typically considered high-potential for effective altruism
- 3 Resources
- 4 See also
The relation between effective altruism and career
- The work you do can directly generate social value.
- The money you earn by working can be channeled to philanthropic causes (see earning to give).
- You can leverage your work experience, credentials, and position of authority to engage in effective altruist actions either on the side or after a few years of working.
Careers typically considered high-potential for effective altruism
Top causes that effective altruists have narrowed down to
- Poverty alleviation
- Technological progress
- Existential risk and global catastrophic risk (this includes unfriendly artificial intelligence, climate catastrophe, asteroid collision, epidemic, world war, out-of-control nanotechnology, etc.)
- Animal welfare
- Cause prioritization
- Other preparations for the far future, such as space colonization
Careers that are generally accessible to people with high intelligence and high conscientiousness
The list here excludes careers that have superstar economies, with very few people at the top (such as politics, sports, and acting) or ones that require special talent that generally needs to be nurtured from childhood (such as music).
|Career name||Reason for selection as a candidate||Discussion of social value|
|Finance||High earnings make it attractive for earning to give; also, finance involves moving large amounts of money and this can have considerable social impact||Social value of finance|
|Biomedical research||Many of the hardest problems related to human health, productivity, and longevity depend on breakthroughs in biomedical research||Social value of biomedical research|
|Entrepreneurship|| Entrepreneurs can create new businesses and ideas that are transformative (huge upside) and they are less replacable.
Individuals are risk-averse, so there is less entrepreneurship than is socially optimal.
Entrepreneurs could potentially make a lot of money and then engage in earning to give.
|Social value of entrepreneurship|
|Medicine|| Doctors are in charge of performing life-saving diagnoses and procedures.
Doctors earn a lot of money (though much of it goes into paying medical school debt). They could in principle engage in earning to give.
A position as a doctor gives one a position of authority via which to advocate improvements in healthcare systems. This could have very high leverage.
|Social value of medicine|
|Software engineering|| Software, including the underlying code for websites, has a very high ratio of consumers to producers (for instance, Facebook has less than 7,000 employees and serves over a billion people).
Salaries in software engineering are high, facilitating earning to give.
|Social value of software engineering|
The 80,000 hours website and blog are devoted largely to the question of how to choose a career if effective altruism is a dominant consideration.
The following articles provide general discussion of how to think about the career choice:
- Conference call with Holden Karnofsky of GiveWell about altruistic career choice
- Interview with Holden Karnofsky, co-founder of GiveWell by Bejamin Todd, 80,000 Hours blog, April 29, 2013
- Discussions and conversations by Peter Hurford about choosing a career in effective altruism: categorization into five categories, comparison across the five categories, conversation with Satvik Beri, conversation with Holden Karnofsky