Thursday, February 03, 2011

Income relative to IQ, by occupation

++Addition++Steve Sailer adds some flavor, pulling from his personal experience in a marketing research firm.


With occupational average IQ estimates constructed from median income and, separately, from wordsum scores, the question of which occupations garner earnings higher than the IQ of their practitioners would predict, and which occupations bring in less than IQ would predict, naturally arises. The following table ranks occupations by the income premium they enjoy relative to the average IQ (via wordsum scores) of their practitioners. That is, it is a crude measure of how overpaid (positive) or underpaid (negative) they are relative to their converted IQ averages. The value displayed is simply the difference between the median income-derived IQ estimates and the wordsum-derived IQ estimates used in the preceding two posts. Occupations included have a minimal sample size of ten:

1. Physician
2. Dentist
3. Commercial airline pilot
4. Pharmacist
5. Attorney
6. Farmer
7. Economist
8. Bricklayer
9. Telephone installer and repairer
10. Sheet metal worker
11. Civil engineer
12. Butcher
13. Electrical engineer
14. Forklift operator
15. Electrician
16. Aircraft mechanic
17. Mechanical engineer
18. Computer programmer
19. Truck driver
20. Roofer
21. Tool-and-die maker
22. Firefighter
23. Architect
24. Physical therapist
25. Automobile mechanic
26. Mail carrier
27. Dental hygienist
28. Janitor
29. Construction worker
30. Plumber
31. Registered nurse
32. Welder
33. Accountant
34. Computer systems analyst
35. Engineering technician
36. Stockbroker
37. Sales representative
38. Carpet and tile installer
39. Bus driver
40. Licensed practical nurse
41. Furniture upholsterer
42. Painter
43. Chemist
44. Police officer
45. Psychologist
46. Stenographer
47. Taxi driver
48. Insurance agent
49. Security guard
50. Telephone operator
51. Barber
52. Cashier
53. Teacher
54. Dressmaker
55. Child care worker
56. Bank teller
57. Photographer
58. Social worker
59. Real estate agent
60. Artist (fine art)
61. Waiter
62. Maid
63. Actor
64. Receptionist
65. Secretary
66. Retail salesman
67. Clergyman
68. Librarian
69. Author

Advanced medical fields populate the top of the list, an outcome that is not surprising given the amount of time and effort that must be expended by those entering these fields before they are able to begin practicing professionally. The situation is similar for pilots and attorneys. Other occupations near the top of the list, such as butcher, roofer, and sheet metal worker get there due to the physical demands and generally undesirable working conditions they entail.

At the other end are those who make their livings by way of what they write, something bloggers are certainly able to appreciate!

Some occupations in which compensation might initially appear to be low relative to the cognitive abilities of those working in them are influenced by other factors. In the case of teachers, this includes working around 60 fewer days than people in jobs with conventional schedules do. Additionally, teachers enjoy extremely high job security.

If any true average IQ is going to be inflated by measuring it using a vocabulary test like the wordsum, it is going to be for librarians. Still, I suspect librarians tend to be introverted types for which gregariousness is not usually a personality trait that describes them, and their earnings suffer for it.

Finally, who knew economists were overpaid?!


Jehu said...

Physicians and dentists have a huge negative aspect to their job:
They frequently have to deal with people who are of less than average intelligence and general functionality. Most other high-iq professions never have to deal with people of average or lower intelligence. In a lot of specialties, they also need strong physical attributes (mostly manual dexterity) to be good at their craft besides raw brainpower.

bgc said...

The take home message for readers of this blog is: be a part-time pharmacist and use your leisure to write.

Marty Nemko, who picked out pharmacy as winner, is a good source of hard-nosed career advice:

But due to recently lengthened training Pharmacy drops off his top-rated list:

Steve Sailer said...

Librarians are next to last. When I worked in marketing research, I used to try to recruit librarians on the grounds that the marketing research business wasn't all that different from being a librarian (assuming you have decent quant skills to go with your verbal skills), but it paid better.

Then, I became an author (last on list). Hmmhmmmhmmm ...

Syncretism said...

I love this thought-provoking post.

I’m working as an English teacher in South Korea, and I think I am in the positive: My salary matches the average teacher’s salary in Korea, but I work almost 10 hours less than the average and have my apartment and airfare paid for.

I’ve only got a B.A. and it’s not in English or teaching of any kind.

As a side note, becoming a full-time teacher in Korea is insanely difficult for native-born Koreans. Korean teachers, I believe, are underpaid as they must be extremely sharp to get a full-time job. As for the foreign English teachers, they’re IQs probably match those of average college grads, give or take, but the perks they get are pretty positive.

Simon in London said...

No listing for Academic?

Audacious Epigone said...


Professor/academic is not included among the 200 occupations in the Career Cast data. I'm not sure why that is--it's not for lack of the occupation's size, as far less common jobs like roustabout show up.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating. As a lawyer, I find it especially interesting that attorneys are relatively low in the "overpaid" segment. It perhaps suggests that the attorney cartel may not be as distorting as is often thought.

Anonymous said...

Income figure MUST be adjusted for the costs (both direct expenses and opportunity cost) of obtaining necessary education and/or license. Otherwise results is pretty inaccurate.
For example, time and cost of medical school and residence training etc will move physician number downward very significantly. Similar for pharmacists (and authors - while not required by law in this case ...)

Anonymous said...

On my father's side, we have some cousins who are infrequently spoken of, and a bit of an embarrassment to the family. But a lot of them are linemen and do make good coin despite not being even big state school material. I'm guessing that falls under telephone installer and repairer?

twistedwillow said...

Librarians introverted? I suggest you get yourself some librarian friends and get drunk under the table by them. But maybe we are just used to drowning our sorrows over low pay and negative stereotypes ;-)

Ian Anstice said...

Being a public librarian should be one of the most extrovert things going. You are in the public eye all the time, talking to people all the time (lots of questions) and promoting your service with it.

I'm the branch manager in my town - everyone knows who I am. I get stopped in supermarkets. Kids shout "Hello Ian" in the street. It' great and I love it.

And I never say shhhhh.

Shame over one in nine libraries in the UK are under threat of closure at the moment. Perhaps that a reason why we're not high on the list...
For reasons to defend libraries, please see