Some effective altruists focus on their donations, or just follow EA as a matter of intellectual pursuit. But for those who want to do direct work in an organisation, finding a job is not usually easy. This is also a big reason why a lot of people simply do not even consider looking for a job in an EA organisation in the first place.
We think that a considerable number of effective altruists who couldn’t or didn’t even try to get a job in EA organisations (due to high competition, lack of expertise, or distant location) may be overlooking extremely impactful career opportunities in animal advocacy. In this post, we’ll show how these career opportunities might be a good fit for many effective altruists that experience similar difficulties and bottlenecks in their career.
We are not claiming that effective altruists should necessarily pursue a job in EA organisations, or stop looking for jobs in other EA cause areas, or prioritise animal advocacy over other causes or vice versa. Nor do we suggest that animal advocacy is inherently easier or that people should invariably pick more convenient options. Our goal is to simply point out additional possibilities for those who may be a good (or even better) fit for them.
Challenges in securing EA jobs
It is not easy to get a job in the EA space, especially if you don’t have the right qualifications or live in high income countries.
While 80,000 Hours constantly updates EAs with hundreds of new roles in its job board, there are hundreds of thousands of people who apply for these roles too. As a result of this high demand, most hiring rounds are extremely competitive, which lowers the probability of getting hired.
In addition, regardless of the competitive nature of these jobs, required or desired qualifications are sometimes quite high and specific. For example, many AI safety positions typically require qualifications related to computer science and programming, while pandemic preparedness positions may require qualifications related to medicine or governance, and so forth.
While this doesn’t imply that these fields exclude job opportunities for other skill sets, the available positions are limited and extremely competitive due to the sheer number of applicants.
On top of these challenges, geographical constraints can complicate matters. While some job opportunities are remote, most are not. Unless you are willing to relocate and have working permits, these job postings do not really count as opportunities.
This can be especially true for people who do not live in high income countries.
For those in countries like Australia or Germany, obtaining work permits for the US or the UK may be relatively easier. However, it’s not as simple for individuals residing in places like Peru, Thailand or Türkiye (previously Turkey). Moreover, demonstrating your credentials can be comparatively tougher if you were born and raised in developing countries, as educational institutions or domestic firms may lack international recognition.
This is not to say that it is impossible to get a job in EA organisations, or that you should simply give up. Regardless of the challenges, you may very well overcome them and it may be worth it, especially considering the potential for meaningful impact. We are just describing how difficult it can be. And our guess is that this is how at least some people in the community experience their pursuit of jobs in the EA space (or the lack of it due to these high challenges).
There are high impact opportunities available in the animal advocacy space
In the animal advocacy field, there are numerous high-impact opportunities available. These organisations work towards ending the worst forms of factory farming via welfare reforms, developing alternatives to animal products, researching new and better ways to help animals, and building a stronger and larger movement for animals.
Some of these organisations are large, some of them are small. Overall, we estimate that about 400 new job openings emerge annually. Moreover, the potential for substantial impact extends beyond traditional roles within existing organisations. As we'll explain further below, you also have the chance to make a significant impact by founding your own organisation.
Impact opportunities within these organisations, as well as potential new organisations, hold substantial promise. Animal suffering is a very pressing problem: it involves the suffering of billions of animals and is highly neglected.
Highly tractable interventions (such as corporate animal welfare campaigns), as well as relatively less tractable but potentially more transformative and long term interventions, (such as developing competitive alternative proteins or movement building programs) are available for advocates who want to make a difference for animals.
By having a role in these efforts, you can contribute to helping millions of suffering animals.
Animal advocacy organisations need more talent
While animal advocacy organisations have many bottlenecks and face various challenges, such as lack of funding or low public awareness, a lot of them report that they are also constrained by lack of competent and passionate advocates.
This shortage is crucial because advocates are the ones who drive change. Without a strong team working on tough problems and carrying out complex tasks for long periods of time, the organisation (and the movement) can struggle to achieve their objectives, regardless of funding or favourable social conditions.
Therefore, the animal advocacy movement needs many talented advocates that commit their career to make a sizable contribution to its progress.
Unfortunately, animal advocacy work is often seen and expected as “volunteering” rather than a viable “career”. Due to these misconceptions (which we’ll clarify below), many people don’t consider careers in animal advocacy organisations seriously. This naturally leads to a smaller candidate pool and a talent shortage for these organisations.
Moreover, you can even have a higher comparative impact potential if you have skills that are relatively rare in the movement. Our previous survey shows that fundraising and leadership roles are especially harder to hire. Many organisations struggle to hire for these positions, which often go unfilled and tend to be less competitive than roles where there is a surplus of qualified candidates.
For these reasons, bringing additional talent into animal advocacy is crucial, and can have a high marginal utility and (counterfactually adjusted) value. This is why Animal Advocacy Careers focuses on channelling more talented and passionate people into the movement, who can impact animals and have a fulfilling career.
Some upsides related to animal advocacy careers
You don’t necessarily need to have a certain degree
Many successful animal advocates don’t have degrees directly aligned with their roles in the organisations they work for. The majority of skills required in those roles can be learned and developed. A lot of organisations typically look for generalist skills and credentials rather than special expertise in a certain field.
So, if your degree seems unrelated to animal advocacy roles (such as engineering, law, business, philosophy, economics, etc.), don’t assume these roles aren’t suitable for you. There is no “animal advocacy studies” degree that perfectly fits these roles. (Besides that, there might be some roles in animal advocacy organisations that match with your education). What truly matters is using the skills you developed and will develop over time to help animals, regardless of your educational background.
You don’t necessarily need to be a seasoned activist or vegan
While most organisations seek mission aligned candidates, what they primarily look for are individuals who can excel in their job with passion, and impact animals as a result. So, while having a history of activism and being vegan can be beneficial, these factors are not always the primary indicators of selection. Most organisations would prefer candidates that are not necessarily activists or vegan, but are competent and reliable colleagues.
Finally, the level of activism and veganism differ between organisations, so you can also choose which organisations would be a better fit for you.
So, don’t just shy away from considering animal advocacy roles, if you didn’t participate in a protest before or you still consume animal products.
Not being born and raised in very high income countries is not a disadvantage, in most cases it’s a plus
Contrary to some fields like AI safety or international governance, being born and raised in countries outside of high-income regions can be advantageous in animal advocacy. Factory farming is a global problem and animals are raised and slaughtered in almost every region of the world. Most farmed animals in the world are not raised and consumed in North America and Western Europe. Due to economic and population growth, industrial animal agriculture also grew exponentially in other countries.
Some countries and regions of the world host a notably high concentration of farmed animals, driven by their large populations and preference for smaller-bodied animals in the market, such as fish and shrimp. Developing countries hold significant potential for improving animal welfare, due to the immense amount of animal production that already exists and expected growth in this sector due to further population and economic growth.
Despite this need, most animal advocacy efforts are concentrated in the US and Western Europe, while the majority of animals are raised and slaughtered in other regions of the world. Farmed animal advocacy organisations are far fewer in number and size in the West than in other regions.
As a result, there is a high need for more talented animal advocates and a great potential to impact animals in these regions if more competent and passionate people are involved (You can check Rethink Priorities survey that analyse the views of many key decision makers in the movement).
So, if you are living in a country that has an animal agriculture industry (you most probably are), and you don’t want to or can’t relocate to another country, you most probably still have the opportunity to create a lot of impact in your own country.
Financial compensation is good, especially relative to Low and Middle Income Countries’ median wages
An animal advocacy career might not sound like the most financially rewarding type of career. And that is true, there are obviously other career paths that can provide better wages. But a lot of people are mistaken about the current rate of pay in EA-aligned animal advocacy organisations. Some might believe that most advocates are practically “volunteers” (i.e. doing it without pay) or receive a very minimal salary. This perception is not groundless, since most charity sectors are extremely funding constrained and commit to high levels of austerity.
Farmed animal advocacy organisations have historically faced similar challenges due to limited resources, which has contributed to slower progress. However, the landscape has evolved significantly. Thanks to increased philanthropic funding and effective giving of individual donors, the financial health of animal advocacy organisations has improved considerably and they can provide much better financial compensation for their employees. This, of course, varies between organisations, depending on their track record of success (thus funder interest), size, region and the type of work they are doing.
In most cases, current rates of pay are “at least” in the range of national median wages. You can check some of the job postings in our job board for further details. In low and middle income countries, salaries might exceed local median wages, due to differences in currency rates and purchasing power. Philanthropic support for these regions is very strong due to their cost-effectiveness potential, and grants can typically cover budgets that can pay for very competitive wages by LMIC standards.
You can start working part-time or begin a side project
While career opportunities in animal advocacy may come with many positive aspects, changing your job and existing career path might feel daunting (and just wait to hear what your parents have to say!). But you don’t need to start a full time position if that doesn’t fit your preferences at the moment.
You can start your journey without quitting your current job or career path. Many organisations have part-time roles or may accept part-time applications. You can also try volunteering for a period of time too.
This can also allow you to test your fitness for various options, and to safely navigate certain risks without damaging your existing career progress.
You can also found your own organisation
You might be thinking now that there isn’t any farmed animal advocacy organisation in your country, or the ones that exist are either not very EA-aligned or can’t provide many employment opportunities.
Well, you can also create your own role by founding a new organisation. While this may sound surreal or well above your skills (which may also be true), most founders also felt similar uncertainties and anxieties too, and yet they succeeded at the end.
There are many supporting and mentoring organisations like Charity Entrepreneurship, Open Wing Alliance, or The Good Food Institute, that can provide you information and direction for your project. Since initial funding needs are typically modest, due to minimal staff numbers at the start, funding is also not the greatest bottleneck, especially if you want to pursue a tractable intervention in a region where there are lots of farmed animals and farmed animal advocacy is neglected. Open Wing Alliance, Animal Charity Evaluators Movement Grants and EA Animal Welfare Funds provide grants to NGOs as well as informal groups or individuals.
Finally, as mentioned above, you can also start your own organisation as a side project, without necessarily leaving your “daytime job”.
Some options that seem especially tractable for potential founders
Through our conversations with certain stakeholders, we think founders that focus on corporate animal welfare reforms in Cyprus, Georgia, Hungary, Malta, Mauritius, Philippines, Slovenia may be especially promising due to the relative favourable socioeconomic conditions which increase the odds of success, or relative neglectedness of farmed animal advocacy compared to the scale of the problem.
(This is not to say that other interventions in other regions are less impactful - they are probably many that hold much more potential. We are just under the impression that these options may be low hanging fruits.)
Ending note: getting a job in animal advocacy is also not easy and involves many uncertainties in terms of delivering impact for animals.
This post should not be read as if getting a job in animal advocacy is easy, and one can immediately impact animals by just joining an organisation or starting a new one. Hiring rounds in many animal advocacy organisations are also very competitive. The process of getting a job might be very stressful, take a long time and require developing certain skills and credentials. Founding an organisation and receiving funding is definitely not easy as well.
And by no means, “just” getting a job does not guarantee a positive outcome for animals. Animal advocacy is complex and challenging. Progress is never easy and straightforward. Advocates need to succeed as a team to make a change for animals and this process involves many inevitable uncertainties.
So, while we are suggesting not to overlook career opportunities in the animal advocacy space, we are also not suggesting that you should overlook the difficulties and uncertainties related to animal advocacy careers.
Interested? You can apply for a career advising session
If you’ve read this and think you can benefit from more information and guidance about your career options, we are offering a small number of 1:1 career advising calls.
You can fill in this form to apply for career advising. Please note we have limited capacity and might not be able to offer you a call.