Did you know that the average IQ varies significantly by profession? Here are the smartest professionals, as demonstrated by the scientific literature.
Most of you will find this interesting, but a small portion will be deeply offended by the data. After all, the year is 2021 and being offended is one of the most widely practiced sports across hyperwoke social justice warriors eager to virtue signal how truly woke they are.
What is IQ?
First, what is IQ? IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient, a standardized test with numeric scoring designed to assess human intelligence. The concept of measuring one’s IQ arose in the 1910’s, by either Wilhelm Stern or Lewis Terman, depending on which source you believe.
The population’s average is 100 with a standard deviation of 15. This means approximately two-thirds of the population scores between 85 and 115, and 2.5% are above 130, and 2.5% are below 70.
It’s important to note that while IQ tests have a high degree of reliability, meaning you’ll score similarly by repeating the test, the validity of the test is limited to the types of intelligence that are necessary to do well in academic work. It does not account for creativity or social intelligence, among other valid and important forms of intelligence.
The Simon-Binet IQ Scale classifies scores as the following:
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
How Important is IQ?
So how important are IQ scores? When asked his IQ, Stephen Hawking replied, “I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers.” Well said, Dr. Hawking. Well said.
Here are the professions with the highest average IQ, taken from a variety of sources, including Robert Hauser’s “Meritocracy, Cognitive Ability, and the Sources of Occupational Success”.
At the top of the list, in the low 130’s, are either physicians and surgeons or professors and researchers, depending on the study you look at. The range amongst physicians and surgeons is tightly clustered, whereas the range for professors and researchers is broader. Below that, in the high 120’s are lawyers, followed by accountants in the low 120’s. Pharmacists average around 120 and nurses in the high 110’s. You can find a link to the full list with more professions in the description.
So what does this mean? Not much, actually. It appears that, on average, those with higher IQ’s gravitate to more intellectually stimulating work. Cue the keyboard warriors enraged in protest that their work isn’t as intellectually stimulating as that of a professor or researcher. Curious to know more, I dug further into intelligence, wealth, and happiness. Can you take a guess of what I found?
IQ and Money
Jay Zagorsky from Ohio State University analyzed a sample of 7,500 adults between the ages of 33 and 41. The analysis initially confirmed findings similar to other studies linking higher intelligence with higher income. More specifically, every point increase in IQ was associated with approximately $200-$600 more income per year. For example, someone with an IQ of 130 would earn approximately $12,000 more than someone with an IQ of around 100. Not surprisingly, those with higher intelligence scores also had greater wealth, meaning a higher average net worth.
But when performing multivariate regression models and controlling for various factors, such as divorce, years spent in school, type of work, and inheritance, there was no link between IQ and net worth.
Other studies have found a correlation between IQ and income, meaning those with higher IQs tend to make more money each year. These studies find little correlation between IQ and wealth, however, meaning those in the yacht club aren’t on average smarter than those who aren’t.
I find that data questionable. When you look at some of the wealthiest people in the world, including Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, and other highly successful entrepreneurs, it’s hard to argue they aren’t all incredibly intelligent. Their immense wealth and high degree of intelligence would surely skew the data, resulting in something statistically significant. But of course, the data sets we’re looking at don’t take these individuals into account.
IQ and Happiness
What about happiness? Do those with higher IQ tend to be happier than those with lower IQ?
In a 2012 review by Veenhoven and Choi, it was concluded that on the micro-level of individuals, there was no correlation between IQ and happiness. But at the macro-level, meaning the average IQ amongst nations, there was a strong positive correlation. The researchers concluded, “together these findings mean that smartness of all pays more than being smarter than others.”
You would think that smarter people should be happier. There is good evidence that IQ predicts more than just performance in school, but also success at work, health, and longevity. But these positive effects could be offset by negative effects, namely in expectations. As the authors write, “school-smart people could expect more of life and therefore end up equally happy as the less smart, who expect less.” They raise other theories too, such as the development of school intelligence involving opportunity costs, namely less time spent on sports or socializing, which are also important to leading a satisfying life.
And why would smarter nations be happier? One possible explanation is that both IQ and happiness depend on shared factors, such as adequate nutrition and health care.
If this video sparked curiosity, I’m glad, and I hope you join me here again, so please be sure to hit the like and subscribe buttons. It’s unfortunate that as we grow into adulthood, our childlike curiosity is beaten out of us. I find that one of the most rewarding experiences is to get reconnected with that childlike wonder and explore where your curiosity leads you. If this video offended you, examine what meaning you’re assigning to the data. And as Mae West famously said, “those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.”
If you enjoyed this piece, check out my article on the competitiveness of medical school versus law school versus nursing school and other professions, or my article exploring the research on whether money can buy happiness.