IQ and success

The link between IQ and success is clear. Professionals win.
The link between IQ and success is clear.

How do you define success? The Oxford English Dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment on an aim or purpose”. Although I adhere to capitalistic principles, I also recognize that monetary success may not be what everyone aspires to. Artists such as Rodriguez (Searching for Sugarman) was clearly not interested in financial pursuits or a life of luxury. His success and happiness lied in performing and making audiences happy with his music. Shifting gears, Grigori Perelman, a Russian mathematician of Jewish descent solved amongst others, the Poincaré conjecture, which was renowned as being the most difficult problem in mathematical topology. Perelman probably has an IQ well in excess of 170, which would evidently place him in the category of “extraordinary genius”. Despite his high IQ and mathematical discoveries, Perelman turned down the Fields Medal in mathematics as well as the Millennium Prize, where he declined an award of USD 1 million.

For the vast majority of us however, it is probably fair to say that most people will define success in financial and professional terms. Establishing a link between IQ and success is probably best done by looking at IQ scores for different categories of workers.

But you don’t need a scientific study to see the link between IQ and success. It would be difficult to argue that a security guard is more successful than a medical doctor for instance. And clearly, becoming a medical doctor is much more difficult than becoming a security guard.  In other words, becoming a doctor requires a higher IQ and certainly much more effort.

Turning to the academic literature for confirmation, the link between IQ and success is clear. Adult professionals in the United States earn Weschler scale IQ scores that are on average 25 points higher than those earned by unskilled laborers. Interestingly, the children of professionals also have average IQs that are 21 points higher than those of unskilled laborers. So not only is there a link between IQ and success, but this type of link appears to be hereditary, or at least perpetuated by the environment created by individuals with more highly skilled professionals and therefore living standards.

IQ and success 

Labour group




Professionals and technical



Managers / administration



Clerical, crafts



Semi-skilled workers



Unskilled workers



*source: IQ testing 101 by Alan S. Kaufmann

As discussed previously, one way to improve your IQ is to remain in school for longer and to pursue higher education. Undertaking more education will not only assist in increasing your crystallized IQ, but makes it possible to access a better career. This in turn allows the individuals concerned to create a better quality of life for themselves and their children.

Higher fluid intelligence is known to assist in one’s investment in their crystallized intelligence. Discover your potential by taking our Fluid Intelligence Test here.