Research into important areas is a potentially very high impact career.
Some of the people who have had the highest impact have been researchers. By developing code breaking machines that allowed the Allies to be far more effective against Nazi U-boats in World War II, mathematician Alan Turing may have saved millions of lives. Similarly, Norman Borlaug’s development of short-stem disease-resistant wheat is estimated to have saved tens of millions of lives.
Research has a significant influence on economic growth. Since a very small proportion of the population is involved in research, the value contributed by the average researcher is significant. Furthermore, the best researchers have a much higher impact than average (median) researchers; so a person who is good fit for research might be able to have a very large impact.
Todd, Benjamin (2014) Which jobs help people the most?, 80,000 Hours, October.
An overview of research as a promising career approach.
Copeland, Jack (2012) Alan Turing: The codebreaker who saved “millions of lives”, BBC News, June 19.
MacAskill, Will (2015) Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference, New York: Gotham Books. Chapter 9 discusses research as a potentially very high impact career.