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Career advice for Australian science undergrad interested in welfare biology

by ripbennyharvey2 min read21st Jul 20214 comments

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Animal sentienceAnimal Advocacy CareersWelfare biologyFarmed animal welfareCareer choiceWild animal welfare
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Hi there everyone!
I've also posted this to a couple of relevant subreddits but this forum seems much more active. You can find the Reddit post here.

I'm a science undergrad in Australia and I am trying to narrow down my major options. I've been interested in Effective Altruism and animal welfare for a while, specifically wild-animal welfare. I've done my best to digest as much research as possible from sources like 80,000 Hours, Brian Tomasik, organisations like Wild Animal Intiative, and online communities like this and the EA forums. I've also recently contacted Animal Ethics for specific career advice (I'll update you when I hear back).

I was hoping for a perspective from this sub and if anyone is open to sharing their thoughts and specific career advice, that would be fantastic! I'm currently considering bioengineering, bioinformatics (makes it a bit easier to transition into AI at a later stage too if I decide to work there instead), ecology, and genetics as my main options. I'm also giving consideration to other fields like neuroscience and biotechnology, but the need for people in the former seems relatively lower, and I'm unsure about both my impact and interest in the latter. Overall I'm still not terribly well-informed about my options and I'm struggling to tease out specific directions for my career.

There's a lot of inevitable uncertainty in this field, it seems, and it's hard to predict how I can be of the most use in the future, but it would be great to have some contribution to the area and the field of welfare biology in general. Apart from work in obviously cause-aligned organisations like WAI, I've also considered work in artificial meat, but I'm still uncertain about whether this is a negelcted or promising area. I've also considered AI and climate change work but again, not sure how much these fields need new people compared to WAS, and if I'd be a good fit.

Would also like to add another consideration that is very important for me: whether or not I'll be able to find high-impact work in these fields if I can't find a job working directly with WAS-oriented organisations (which is unfortunately quite likely).

I would really appreciate any feedback whatsoever on the careers I've listed, and the field I'm thinking of overall, as I'm a bit lost at the moment. If you think I'm heading down a dead-end path, please don't refrain from telling me. As I tried to make clear in the Reddit post, I'm also not interested solely in wild-animal welfare, so I'm open to considering other paths and would ideally like to graduate with a degree that makes it possible to also do effective work in other high-impact areas.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post :)

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https://www.animaladvocacycareers.org/ seems like a good option to check out if you're set on Animal welfare work. Given that you're thinking about keeping AI on the table, you should probably at least consider keeping pandemic prevention similarly on the table, it seems like a smaller step sideways from your current interests. Have you considered applying to speak to someone at 80,000 hours*?

*I'll be working on the 1-1 team from September, but this is, as far as I can tell, the advice I'd have given anyway, and shouldn't be treated as advice from the team.

Thanks for the link, I have had a bit of a look at that website but I should have another look. I think I did consider the option of 1-on-1 advice at one point but I'm not sure why I didn't follow it up, so I really appreciate the suggestion and reminder :)

That's a good point about pandemic preparedness, it is definitely less of a move from the biology fields I'm considering. Unfortunately I'm not very knowledgeable about the kind of work required and the need for people there, so I'll definitely follow that up. Again, perhaps a 1-1 session with 80K Hours ... (read more)

Not a bio guy, but in general: talk to more people! List people you think are doing good work and ask em directly.

Also generically: try to do some real work in as many of them as you can. I don't know how common undergrad research assistants are in your fields, or in Australian unis, but it should be doable (if you're handling your courseload ok).

PS: Love the username.

Thanks so much for replying! Really appreciate the advice.

I definitely should try to contact some more experts, thanks for that push. Getting some more experience is a good idea too, it's a bit tricky at the moment due to uncertainties with COVID but as soon as things start to open back up, I'll do my best to get in contact. I'm sure it'll be useful regardless of the field I go into.

Means a lot that you took the time to reply, I'll do my best to follow your advice and I'll hopefully leave an update here at some point to say how I'm going with it.

and P.S. thanks so much, I see we both have refined tastes :P