Mid-career people: strongly consider switching to EA work

26 Apr 2022

Or alternatively: “A message for 2018-me: quit your job and start doing ‘EA work’”.

2022/06/29 update since writing this: Claire Boine and I have made a website advertising career advice for mid-career people. Please consider applying for advice through there if this article resonates with you! (The advice will be from either me or Claire.)

Note: I wrote this post a bit quickly (~9 hours) so it’s a little rough, and likely contains minor errors.

See this post on the Effective Altruism Forum here.


In this post I want to provide encouragement and information for mid-career people1 who are sympathetic to EA ideas but haven’t seriously tried doing EA work. Basically, I think there’s tons of amazingly impactful, fun, well-compensated work that skilled mid-career people could do, and that this is maybe much less obvious from the “outside” than it is for a relative EA-insider like me.

Note that I focus on longtermist EA work here because this is what I know about. But I imagine an EA-insider who is in another EA area might share similar sentiments. Similarly, while I focus on mid-career people here, I imagine a lot of what I’ll say will be relevant for people at other career stages.

Also note that, for the purposes of this post, by “EA work” I mostly mean working at EA orgs. But I also think it would be great if mid-career people considered switching to really impactful stuff that isn’t at EA orgs, and if they’re already doing really impactful stuff that isn’t at an EA org maybe they should keep doing that. And a lot of what I say here is still relevant for switching to highly impactful work that isn’t at an EA org.2

Here’s what I’ll say:

If you’re a mid-career person interested in switching to EA work, I’d be interested to chat and maybe help. Please get in touch by emailing me at hello[at]bensnodin dot com.

Doing longtermist EA work right now could be very fun and well-compensated, as well as very valuable

There is an absolute ton of very valuable work that needs to happen right now, such as:

Based on my experience working with EAs, I’d expect that you’d do this work with incredible colleagues: people who are driven, passionate, kind, very capable, and who share your goals.

Similarly, many EA organisations seem to put a large emphasis on employee wellbeing and on creating an excellent working environment, and I’ve personally been very impressed by this at the EA organisations I’ve worked for so far.

Also, in case you haven’t heard, there is now a lot of money available to fund longtermist EA work, which allows longtermist EA organisations to pay more than in the past. My impression is that salaries are often in the $60k-150k range (for a concrete example, see the researcher pay ranges on Rethink Priorities’ website). (Side note: if salary is blocking you from doing longtermist EA work, please talk to someone, e.g. me.)

In addition, I think mid-career people have a huge amount to offer thanks to having pre-existing skills and being able to hit the ground running when starting out — this is especially valuable at the moment given the relative lack of management time available. There seems to be a need for a wide range of skills, and I expect this need to increase as we start seeing more longtermist EA projects that are “doing things in the world” (like Alvea). You don’t have to be a researcher!4

Finally, I think EA community culture benefits significantly from having people of different ages and with different personal and professional backgrounds.

In summary, I think there’s an incredible opportunity right now for mid-career people to do really exciting, rewarding, and high-value work with incredible colleagues in a great working environment.

Misconceptions I had before moving into EA work

I started my first “EA job” in March 2020, when I joined the Research Scholars Programme (RSP) at the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI). Prior to that, I’d completed a PhD and worked for 5 years in finance. I had been a bit of an “EA lurker” for many years, and built up many misconceptions over that time. Here are some misconceptions that seem particularly relevant:

But I’ll admit there are some downsides to switching to longtermist EA work as a mid-career person

I have to admit there are some things that aren’t ideal about switching to EA work as a mid-career person. (I think improving the situation here would be very valuable.)

Finally, I should say I generally tend to see the positive side of things and enjoy the things I do. Maybe others would give a more nuanced view.

Also, just to reiterate that it’s very possible you’re having a really amazing impact doing something that isn’t “EA work” right now (or are gaining skills that will allow you to have a large impact later). If you think that’s you, maybe you should stick with that!

Final words

To reiterate, I think there’s an incredible opportunity right now for mid-career people to do really exciting, rewarding, and high-value work with incredible colleagues in a great working environment.

I haven’t said much about how you might go about switching to EA work, but I’ll just quickly note that this doesn’t have to mean switching to full-time EA work straight away.8 Smaller experiments are possible, like learning about an area of interest, or doing consulting or part-time work.

If you’re a mid-career EA lurker like 2018-me, don’t wait for permission! Get in touch with 80,000 Hours for free career coaching, or with organisations / individuals you might want to work with - please also consider applying to Claire and I for free career advice at EA Pathfinder. Start working on impactful and rewarding projects!9


Thanks to Holly Elmore, Max Räuker, Abi Olvera, Gavin Taylor, Linch Zhang, Claire Boine, and David Reinstein for feedback, and Katy Moore for feedback and copy editing.


  1. See this Google Doc for a list of the factors and their definitions. 

  2. And with “EA org” I roughly have in mind: and organisation with an EA-motivated mission and (probably) mostly staffed by EA-motivated people. (It doesn’t need to be explictly EA-branded.) 

  3. I don’t think Rethink Priorities has live job ads for this right now (as of September 16th), but expressions of interest are very welcome. See this form

  4. See also Holden Karnofsky’s article on “aptitudes” in longtermist EA careers

  5. This misconception is related to Holden Karnofsky’s misconception #3 in Important, actionable research questions for the most important century (see the 3rd bullet in the first bullet point list in the post). 

  6. The recent post My experience with imposter syndrome — and how to (partly) overcome it seems very relevant here, as does Don’t think, just apply! (usually)

  7. The 2019 EA Forum post After one year of applying for EA jobs: It is really, really hard to get hired by an EA organisation seems relevant. While looking for the link to that post, my eye was caught by Is it no longer hard to get a direct work job?, which I haven’t read but which might be relevant. 

  8. But to get an idea of the jobs available, you could check the 80,000 Hours job board

  9. Feel free to email me at hello[at]bensnodin dot com. And, to plug my current employer again, Rethink Priorities has an expression of interest form