All this data is potentially out of date, and should be taken with a truckload of salt
The ultimate goal in EVE is power: controlling the market, military dominance, financial superiority, or even political prowess. These are all achievable in EVE and the path to gaining that power is the career your pilot takes up. From the hard core combat commander, to the patient miner, to the pirate holding life and technology for ransom, there is a career that fits your style and will enable you to wield the power you desire.
In New Eden there are no true career paths. What we call careers are actually styles of play. You don't have to be set in one career or another, but instead may bounce between them as you desire. Your personal spin on a particular career is what makes you unique, notorious, or gets a bounty put on your head, possibly even all three. Following are highlights of each career path for inspiration. You might try one and stick with it, such as being the best archaeologist in the universe. You might switch careers several times, starting out as a pirate and retiring with your riches to a quiet corner of the universe to mine for a while.
Military pilots live for war; wielding unimaginable destructive forces that daily reforge the landscape of New Eden. Take up this career if you enjoy guns, missiles, and generally making sure that someone else has a really bad day.
A pirate makes a career out of robbing from other pilots through the use of scams, bending the law, or by brute force in the space lanes. Although not as specific as a career path as Miner, Industrialist, or Mission Runner, the play style of the pirate is a popular one and has been consistently present in New Eden from the beginning. Unlike many other MMOs, the criminal nature of the pirate is fully supported by the in-game PvP mechanics.
Just like the other careers, the goal of the pirate is to make money in order to support his lifestyle. Pirates consistently engage in risky activities and generally lose many more ships than their industrialist counter-parts. However the rewards can be very lucrative, and many pirates attest that their lifestyle is the only way to fly.
The mission runner is all about PvE. Although this pilot needs to be wary of pirates, here the main focus is traveling the universe as a gun for hire by NPC Corporations to maintain order in the universe as it benefits that particular corporation.
Missions are an important source of ISK, minerals, and salvage materials. In addition, you get a corporate standing and sometimes a faction standing boost as well for each mission completed. Missions also pay loyalty points which you can spend for faction items such as special ammo or ships.
Defense Specialists are not just skilled in the art of war, they are masters of survival. In a fleet situation, this pilot tanks the brunt of the attack, making it possible for his mates to take the field and win the day. Tanking requires an intimate knowledge of your ship as well as an intimate knowledge of the ships you are fighting. This knoweldge is key to keeping you alive and in flight as long as possible.
Pilots enlisted in a faction militia take on the mission of cleansing space of your enemies and laying claim to new systems for your faction. This is a achieved through a mixture of PvP and PvE through your choice of solo or fleet action. Whatever you feel up to at a given moment, faction wars has it available.
To capture a system, your militia must control strategic points. The more points you capture, the more influence you gain until a control bunker in a system becomes vulnerable, at which point you conquer it. Any ship that displays with a red star in your overview is a member of an opposing militia and must be cleansed from the Universe for the greater glory of your chosen faction.
Industrial pilots are the rugged individuals who tear asunder asteroids and wrecks to remake them into materials and items to sate the galaxy's ravenous appetite for engines of war. Go down this career path if you wish to transmute what appears to others to be space junk into the mightiest machines mankind has ever known.
Mining is perhaps the easiest career for the new pilot to get into. Within minutes of being released into space the new pilot, referred to as a 'Newb' by those with more experience, can be in an asteroid belt mining ore to take to market. Yet mining is something that can get into your blood and grow with you as your skills grow. To avoid the most nefarious NPC pirates (or "rats" in the lingo of space farers) and the most-wanted of pirates and score with a huge haul of precious ores from 0.0 space, or to run a dangerous mining op in wormhole space, and live to enjoy the profits of your market sales brings an excitement all its own.
Between the miner and the seller stands the builder, without whom no physical item could be manufactured. Builders who can keep up with market trends, and who can bring ships and other items to market faster for less expense will generate impressive profits.
After a fashion the salvager is is a miner of wrecks. Anywhere a pilot is running a mission, anywhere a miner is liberating ore from NPC rats, anywhere fleets duke it out among the stars there are the twisted hulls of a wrecked ship, so much space junk to most. Salvagers have a keen eye for removing the valuable bits and pieces from these wrecks for manufacturers to turn into rigs.
The researcher complements the builder well. The focus of this career is to find a better way to make things - decreasing costs and manufacture time of all items by increasing the efficiency of the blueprints themselves. The serious researcher may have any number of POS's with laboratories dedicated to improving blueprints. Copies of blueprints and the invention of unique Tech II blueprints provide a profit center unique among the stars.
The reprocessor is typically a jack-of-all trades with a quick eye for bargains that can be broken down into their material components, which can then be either sold or rebuilt into something else for a profit.
Masters of the market, these pilots excel in arbitrage, profiteering, and generally making ISK off the sweat of anothers' brows.
A seller lives and dies by his market sales. To be successful one must know about the materials that are in demand, and know what ships and items pilots want to buy. They must know where to get these materials, how to transport them efficiently, and where to get the best price for them.
Typically a seller starts out fulfilling orders with their own blood and sweat, and eventually they grow their business and market contacts to interface with logistical and manufacturing corporations.
There are sellers and then there are sellers, or rather resellers. These advanced market moguls know the ins and outs of private contracting, know the going prices and what is in-demand. They have contacts with alliances and may have private agreements with manufacturing corporations to buy their supplies direct. One could say that Resellers don't just use the market tool, they make the market outside of the tool, and can sometimes even affect supply, demand, and prices within the global market.
Much of the vastness of space remains uncharted. Explorers are dedicated to discovering cosmic anomalies and deadspace signatures often traveling through the most fickle fabric of the universe, wormholes, to make their discoveries. Who can say what great treasures lie beyond the pale of known space.
Hackers traverse the universe probing for hacking sites or complexes. Once cleared of rats, the hacker uses his trusty codebreaker module to "hack" open locked NPC cans and structures to get the treasure within.
Archaeologists sift through the myriad of stars looking for archaeological sites or complexes. Again, once cleared of the rats infesting the site, the archaeologist utilizes an analyzer to unlock structures and liberate the treasures within.