IQ’s and jobs

Bob Borson —  January 28, 2010 — 22 Comments

Albert Einstein

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I find Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, scores incredibly fascinating. When my wife and I learned that my daughter (39 months old at the time) would be required to get hers tested as part of the required application process to Dallas area private schools, I decided to educate myself on the subject.

The concept of measuring the IQ of an individual is credited to either German psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Stern in 1912, or to Lewis Terman in 1916 (sources vary). Prior to these dates, large scale testing was done by psychologist Alfred Binet in 1904 as part of a commission by the French government to create a system to differentiate intellectually normal children from those who were inferior (wow – that’s harsh). Binet created the Binet-Scale and sometime later, Dr. Terman revised this scale to become the Simon-Binet IQ Scale. That scale classified the scores as:

Over 140 – Genius or almost genius
120 – 140 – Very superior intelligence
110 – 119 – Superior intelligence
90 – 109 – Average or normal intelligence
80 – 89 – Dullness
70 – 79 – Borderline deficiency in intelligence
Under 70 – Feeble-mindedness

You can find lists of typical IQ scores by profession on the Internet and I’m not vouching for their credibility but the part that is the most interesting to me is how these scores can be used to measure the relative capabilities of the individual in a real world environment (i.e. what kind of job would you be capable of as the most valid predictor of future performance is general mental ability). To think that the intent of measuring one’s IQ is to determine to capability and capacity of an individual and that no amount of effort or preparation will allow someone with a 110 IQ to work a job that typically requires the capacity of a brain measuring something higher.

Top civil servants, Professors and Scientists – 140
Surgeons, Lawyers and Architects/ Engineers – 130
School teachers, Pharmacists, Accountants, Nurses, and Managers – 120.
Foremen, Clerks, Salesmen, Policemen and Electricians – 110
Machine operators, Welders, and Butchers – 100
Laborers, Gardeners, Miners, Sorters and Factory packers – 90

If you decided to have your IQ measured, the tests are most likely to use the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) or your child (like mine) would be tested with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. I have had my IQ tested twice in my life; once when I was a child in the second grade and again when I was in my early thirties and interestingly enough, the scores of the two tests, almost 25 years apart were virtually identical.

All that having been said, having a high IQ doesn’t mean all that much to the unmotivated individual and success is relative and not a indicator of happiness (unless of course you are only measuring it against failure). Click here for a list of estimated IQ’s of famous people past and present.

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  • frankelee

    It is unfortunate that you can’t get good information about such things on the internet. That IQ-to-profession scale is hopelessly optimistic about how many smart people we have around, the average IQ for top civil servants, professors, and scientists is not likely to be more than 120. And there is a widely held notion in psychology that a score of 125 means you have the brain power to engage in any profession. At 110 you’re certainly smart enough to graduate from college with proper effort and take a fully respectable job.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      can you cite a source?

  • kieran patrick

    If you love architecture more than anything in the world and you couldn’t imagine doing anything else in your life, but you did not going fantastically well in school, would attempted to become an architect be a waste of time? or is there really no way of knowing unless you give it ago?

  • AnyName

    I never took a test, because I am rather nervous of not having a top-ranking result ;-) And as an architect, you have to have the skill to be able to filter and correlate information. And if you can do this quicker and more effective than other people, then I believe, the IQ is at the level where it is supposed to be :-)

  • Cesca

    What – comment on a 2 year old article? Don’t mind if I do! My IQ is 155 as tested by Mensa, and yet, I have always felt that the top two tiers of jobs that you have listed here are above my reach. Not because I’m not clever, rather, because I am study smart; whereas these all appear to be quite practical ‘hands-on’ disciplines. Well, aside from ‘civil servant'; but then, certainly in the UK, civil servants are looked upon as not all that smart – else they would work somewhere in the private sector for better pay.
    I think there is also a negative correlation once you get above a certain ‘level’ to one’s ability to function in society; I certainly could not do a lot of those jobs, as I am unable to relate to people. This is perhaps not suprising if you consider there is a spread of 30 between those who are average, and those who are mentally challenged; this is almost doubled in regards to my score compared with the average mind. What’s more, it does not even mean that I am ‘cleverer’ – merely faster at pattern-spotting. It certainly doesn’t mean that the entire works of Dickens and Shakespeare are near surgically attatched to my brain like they are for my friend – IQ 103.
    I think IQ is a bad approximator of ones position in society, or job suitability, as there are far too many other compounding factors. But then, what do I know, I’m 16.

    • Mayfair Mayframe

      Cool submission. My sentiments, exactly.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Respond to a 2 year old comment? Don’t mind if I do!

      IQ is an aptitude measurement, not a measurement of actual ability – there are so many other moving parts that determine a person’s ability to function properly in a given role. My wife is loads smarter than I am but she is a linear thinker (advanced degrees in Mathematics) and as a result she and I go about tasks in a completely different manner and I would expect that we would have very different results. I wouldn’t hang too much focus on a person’s IQ score – I would rather have a clever hard worker than some brainac who can’t function properly because they have a hard time relating to everyone else.

  • Gaurav

    Really, you club architects with surgeons! One makes $300K on average and the other is lucky to break into six figures. Don’t kid yourself buddy… the higher the ‘average’ compensation the more competitive it gets.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      your comment is nonsensical. Are you trying to say that salary is absolutely equated with intelligence? Salary is determined by perceived value within the marketplace.

      • thatguy

        If everyone is going for the highest salary (which I’m not say they are), then it would make sense that those higher iqs would be more concentrated in higher salary brackets.

        • elda

          I consistently tested at 135 but my mother, being the jealous being she was, constantly told me I was an idiot. I ended up a laborer and was seriously injured. As I got older and realized I was above average it came to me while interacting with others. I also realized how little I had done with the gift God had granted me. So as a disabled person I have applied that gift to doing things to make life easier and more productive for those that are physically and/or mentally challenged. I have adopted children that are special needs and worked to get them to reach their full potential. But I love the company of people that stimulate my own mind to new heights.

    • NSeagriff

      Have you heard some professional athletes try to put a sentence together? And they earn millions!

  • Anonymous

    I see artists are not included in the IQ by profession list. Left out again. ;_)

    • elda

      Maybe it is not a factor. My daughter is of a low average IQ and unbelievably gifted at music. She is composing music that rivals what I hear in major motion pictures at 14.

  • http://twitter.com/archihosk jay

    I still have never taken one of those. Unless you count the highly accurate online IQ tests, which not surprisingly always result in ‘Einstein had nothing on you, Super Genius’.

    Someday I’d be curious to take a real one, in the hopes that if its high, I can have the old IQ card to pull at any time. Like “Why didn’t I do the dishes? In case you forgot, my IQ is substantially higher than yours. I’m very busy thinking of important and complex things.”

    • http://www.qubemodern.com Mayfair Mayframe

      Jay, you just made my ribs cracking. Can’t just stop, right now. “Why didn’t I do the dishes? In case you forgot, my IQ is substantially higher than yours.”

      You sure pass funny test, better than Bill Cosby.

  • Anonymous

    No – based on her IQ scores they all wanted her but there is a nasty trend of people holding their kids back a year for development reasons – something we didn’t want to do. As a result, we moved to an area with exceptional private schools and signed her up for kindergarten! Take that System!!

    • elda

      My mother told my school to hold me back a year in 3rd grade because I was small and immature and the school philologist told her it was a big mistake but she said I was also stupid. I learned years later he told her my IQ was very high and my development would catch up. Well, it was such an insult to me back then I never cared for another day of school, got horrible grades, but did go to college and got good grades. I do believe parents can have as much impact on a person as IQ.

      • Valchrist

        The topic may be four years old, but to be fair I am responding to a post less than a month old.

        I really have to agree with you elda. I grew up on welfare, with a crack head step-father. A resulting string of evictions sent me to at least a dozen elementary schools. I was highly suicidal by age 9. In reflection, it’s incredible to think of how thoroughly I understood the matter even at that age. It was at age 9 that I discovered I was more intelligent than my parents, which may have been my sole life-raft.

        I saw a very good psychiatrist for several years where I was diagnosed with OCD. Finally everything made sense. This was also the first time an adult had treated me with intellectual respect. He explained to me what the pros and cons of medication were, and asked if I would like to take them. He then presented my answer to my mother, with his own professional opinion. They decided to accept my decision to not take medication, and soon after I recovered.

        During high school my parents presented me with the option to either see an orthodontist for my absolutely terrible teeth, or if I would prefer money for university. I said university: help I never got.

        Immediately after high school I was instructed to begin going to college full time, or paying rent. I worked full time for nearly a year, and saved some $11,000. I bought myself a car and some driving lessons, as neither of my parents once accepted my requests. I came home from work one day to find my parents had sold my car while I was at work. They had twice before sold vehicles they’d given to me for Christmas, but I hadn’t expected this.

        I still cannot drive, ten year later. It’s cost me dearly, especially in career/wages.

        I attended University for two years full time, usually while working semi full-time, until it was demanded that I pay rent for the small, non-heated, mushroom filled rotting trailer I was given. Professors complained about the dampness of my work.

        I can’t even begin to express the negative reinforcement I received my whole life, in addition to mental and physical abuse, such as being struck unconscious on a couple occasions.

        I generally function fairly well in society, even if I’m not apt to make friends. However it seems to me that my general awkwardness is only made worse by the inherit disparity between our intelligence levels. I often have a boss who cannot spell simple words. He may leave me a list telling me to install a ‘dore’ meaning door. I can’t drive though, so who’s going to get paid more?

        Worse- trying to find a girlfriend when you cannot drive, can’t abide stupidity, and suffer from (or indulge in) extreme apathy.

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          I am speechless … I do hope that at some time you are able to put yourself in a position of your own creation. I advocate on this site that money does not equate to happiness (although a little money is better than no money). Seems like you are carrying a lot of history – I appreciate you sharing it with me.

          • Valchrist

            Yeah. I suppose a life story should be longer than that, and with a damn good ending too. Thanks for reading.

  • http://funandfit.org Alexandrafunfit

    Guess what? I was tested on a regular basis in school and also always similar. And having a high IQ turned out to mean I am really good at taking tests! But in grad school that made me a good student, not necessarily a good counselor. That part comes from other areas, not the IQ. So it’s an interesting study, and one with which I am also very familiar (they cram it down you in grad school – psych), yet is just one part. I hope Katie wasn’t judged solely on that – or boo on that school.