IQ’s and jobs

January 28, 2010 — 52 Comments

Albert Einstein


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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  • Mark Marky

    I score very high on I.Q tests (yes even in school) I am a mechanic, welder, body repairman but, I do that as a hobby now from my home .. I also own a cleaning service ( janitorial ) That I even to this day ,fill in when my employee’s cant come never had a prestige job,and I know when snobs see me working they must think I am stupid, but joke is on them..

    • IQ and accomplishment are not related to one another. There are loads of people with high IQ’s that haven’t done anything – and the opposite is also true.

      IQ’s are really a measure of aptitude, not ability.

  • Michael Cook

    This little chart you’ve come up with basically just assigns higher IQs to professions with more prestige. The level of prestige associated with a profession is not an indicator of the average IQ of individuals working in that profession. I encourage everyone reading this to disregard this website.

    • I didn’t make this chart but your comment makes me think that you don’t understand the point of the chart. It is not an indication of intelligence, it’s an indication of capacity. You could have an IQ of 160 and still be a ditch digger but you can have an IQ of 80 and be a Physicist.

      • Mark Marky

        I agree with you, but the masses will look at this chart and think everyone working a labour job has a IQ of 90 or less .. We all know a smart person can have a job that’s considered brainless.. I clean offices but have a higher I.Q (don’t let my wife know)..But then again, I own the cleaning company ..

      • Benjamin Winer

        You could not have an IQ of 80 and be a physicist. A full scale IQ of 80 is below average, which means your comprehension, processing, and overall learning ability is behind that of your peers. People with IQ’s of less than 90 really do not have the capability to handle the tasks prescribed to them in order to get into college. The average high school graduate has an IQ of 115, the average Ph.D, M.D. ~ 125.


    I don’t think pharmacy is that valuable of a profession, but pharmacy is a decent job, and it really depends on the individual. If you are a top civil servant, pharmacy does not look all that great as a profession.

    For a pharmacist, it would kind of be like a pharmacist comparing themselves to a machine operator. The difference between a top civil servant and pharmacist is roughly 20 IQ points, likewise for a pharmacist, there is roughly a 20 IQ point difference between a pharmacist and a machine worker.

    Pharmacy to a civil servant, is like a machine operator to a pharmacist, however pharmacy is still a decent profession.

  • medidude

    LOl, are you perhaps crazy? These average IQ scores are a bit off my dear… average Nurse IQ is’nt 120, I’m in medecine and I would perhaps say that this is the average IQ of a doctor(more like 125) not a nurse. Nurse have average IQ 90-110; doctors have above average IQ( 120-140) and actually have the highest IQ of any professional group( why would surgeons be smarter? they use their hands not their brains my friend) as demonstrated by previous studies ; and doctors have an even higher IQ than engeneers and scientists. The only sub-group that is higher are professors( science or medecine professors), mathematicians and physicists. To put things in perspective, all the jobs can be done with an IQ of 120(+ hard work) which is the “perfect score”; beyond that IQ doesn’t confer any success and some people even argue that too much of IQ comes with handicaps( social handicaps, difficulty making friends, insanity, anxiety,…Etc) . Another thing is that IQ alone doesn’t mean anything, there is verbal IQ and performance IQ,..Etc Thus sub-tests; depending on these you go here or there professionally.

    • britta123

      I agree.

    • perhaps I am – but I didn’t set this scale or sign the values to the various professions. I pulled it out of a medical journal (but I suppose that doesn’t make it correct either)

      • Greg Lehman

        it also is very very similar to the military IQ tests that were given to every soldier going into WW2 and factoring in the Flynn effect – numbers are numbers and a bell curve applies to each and every profession- using the median and SD away from the norm- is it possible your neuro surgeon has an IQ of 100- statistically yes but do not bet the house- you are right one here

    • Benjamin Winer

      Doctors average at 125. There may be doctors who have IQs of less than 110, but 110 is probably the bottom end. Nurses are just “people too”, there may be nurses with IQs above 125. However, the average probably lies in the 110-119 range (above average). Note: There will always be outliers, I met a doctor who claimed to have an IQ of 165 (which means it was extrinsically calculated by the psychologist, because most tests don’t go past 160. I met a girl with an IQ of 120. She was studying geology then switched to chemistry. She is still studying chemistry, she could probably do anything she wants. However, she won’t be a nobel laureate. She could do research, but she probably won’t be the next Albert Einstein. In saying this, I think if you have an IQ of at least 115-120 you have the capability to do any career and go onto postgraduate school or even do work as a researcher, granted – you might not be “the best” or “top”, but if you love what you’re doing, it won’t matter. I also read a comment from a neuropsychologist who suggested that “by and large, persons with an IQ of 110 are capable of one profession to another. Having an high IQ isn’t a prerequisite to having anxiety, it may in fact be that the higher your IQ the more aware and therefore self-aware you are prone to a more intense self experience. Oh, and doctors aren’t necessarily higher than engineers or scientists. More likely than not scientists are higher than doctors and doctors are higher than engineers. This is my guess, it is based on what I am assuming the average would be for each occupation. Regardless, you will find a broad range of IQ’s in each profession. There may be waiters who have IQs of 120+ or your doctor may have an IQ of less than 120. Some engineers may make more than $100,000 and yet, have an IQ of less really, IMO, more important than your FSIQ as there may be discrepancies. Additionally, if you love something to the point where you live it and breathe it – sure you might gather and process and understand the information in a different and possibly slower way if your FSIQ is lower, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be successful (however you define success). There is more to IQ than people think and there is more to how people think than their IQ and people are more than their IQ. If you are normal, e.g. 95% of the population, your IQ will be no higher than 130 and no lower than 70. 68% fall between 85 and 115. 115 is already considered high. 115 is one standard deviation above the mean (100).


    Engineering requires a higher aptitude than Pharmacy, which seems to be expressed in the IQ score, yet engineers seem to get paid on average less than pharmacists. It seems that it should be the other way around, due to the greater difficulty involved in engineering compared to pharmacy, engineers should be getting paid on average more than pharmacists.

    • medidude

      You fool; how can an engineer think this way? Pharmacists make more money(I’m not even sure of this since it’s location dependent..etc) because they’re somehow business people, engineers are no business poeple( although they can, see Elon Musk). Another thing is that there is no strict correlation between IQ, school harshcness and pay. To be frank I’ve got plenty of engineers friends and yeah they were somehow good in math but overall weren’t that smart( I’ll estimate at 120 IQ)…. Besides that there are plenty( an estimate of 70 %) of high IQ people who fail to accomplish anything of significance or who struggle with life or making money. I’ll go as far as saying that truely smart people shouldn’t think in terms of money but in terms of holistic achievement.

      • SVPAM

        IQ is definitely not everything, however, when I specify that engineering requires a higher aptitude, I’m not only considering IQ, I am considering other things such as sociability and business skills and am including those skills as well as other skills under the umbrella that is higher aptitude.

        Perhaps pharmacists get paid more than engineers, as pharmacy is often government funded which results in higher salaries, but I have always felt that engineering is a more reputable profession than pharmacy, and feel that engineering is on a tier that is on par with doctors, dentists, or lawyers, while pharmacy is not.

  • MrCrowie10

    Funny, i have an IQ of 120 and I’m an accountant. I don’t believe it will restrict me in becoming something more as I’m only 21. I hope people who read this do not mentally limit them selves due to silly test and someones opinion as to what type of job their IQ will restrict them to.

    • You for sure are endowed with all the self-delusion skills that a comfortable mentale existence requires; congratulations πŸ™‚

  • Stacy Hirsh

    I took an IQ test when i was in elementary school and my IQ was somewhere between 104-109 which is normal/average and attended college for 2 years,

  • 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.

    • can you cite a source?

      • Life experience. Teachers IQ is lower than 120. And *****s graduate, even get PhDs :))..

    • medidude

      Agree with this, people don’t realize how rare 140 IQ is; and that 140 IQ is like 1/1000, This means that you only get to have ONE true genius IQ(which doesn’t mean he’ll do somemthing about it) per high school. It’s really exceptional and we will all agree that there are more than 1/1000 professors or scientists out there. Most academically bright people are in the 120-130 IQ departement…. and the crazy thing is that beyond this score what happens is that there is a gap between high school teachers IQ( 110 to 125) and the kid IQ which leads to a certain alienation. Also in the higher echelons of IQ there’s like a complete distortion of reality (see HIgh IQ people see the world differently)with as a a consequence lead to social misadjustement. ANd yeah, with 120 IQ everything is possible as long as you blindly subscribe to the mainstream narrative of society.

      • Greg Lehman

        as SPED teacher – really high IQs are at risk almost as high as loer than 95 are

  • 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 πŸ˜‰ 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 πŸ™‚

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • Greg Lehman

        absolutely true but i also would like my doctor to not have an IQ of 88 no matter how hard he tries- there are all sorts of correlation – eg. I can teach a SPED student to do their multiplication tables with 100 % accuracy but it takes them 14 minutes +/- , i can do it as a math teacher in 2:15- Who do you hire generally?

  • 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.

    • 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.

        • medidude

          The problem is that highest IQ people don’t think in terms of $$… They are just too smart to enslave themselves to money. Slightly Higher than average IQs tend to be the leaders of societies…120-130IQ because they are smart enough to stand out but still they believe in the society as it is presented to them because it works for them. They are not completely alienated like those in their upper echellons for whom society doesn’t do anything.

    • NSeagriff

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

      • Greg Lehman

        the odds of being a professional athlete are about the same as having an !Q of 160

  • 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.

      • That’s still intelligence: musical intelligence, not accounted for by IQ

    • medidude

      lol, how could it be done? There is no intellectual abilities necessary to practice any art per definition because art is about self-expression not about an intellectual exercice. There are as various IQs as there are artists. The wisest thing to do though is to look in sub-groups of artist. I would guess that people who have good drawing skills have higher IQ. Also, drummers are said to have higher IQ than other musicians.

  • 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.”

    • 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.

        • 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.

        • And I thought my case was unique. It wasn’t, I see.

      • Parents are the first obstacle testing our ability to survive, unfortunately.

        • Joe

          I absloutely Agree

    • Stacy Hirsh

      I was held back in 2nd grade because I was immature for my age but most kids are emotionally immature at 7 years old. i was born in late August so they thought it was the “cut off date” whatever that means.

  • 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.