Average IQ per College Major

This is a follow-up post on Herrnstein & Murray’s (1994) finding that the average IQ of college students in 1990 is 113. What I would like to do in this post is to break down the average college student IQ into their majors as of 2014. Doing so, one will find that the average IQ of students among majors can differ substantially. I will refer to the Educational Testing Services (ETS) in order to find the average IQ per college major. The ETS is an educational testing and assessment organization which develops and administers such standardized tests as the SAT, GRE, and TOEFL. They have calculated the average IQ per major based on their SAT data set.

Why would it be valid to infer IQ scores from the SAT scores? According to Frey & Detterman (2004), there is a strong correlation between SAT scores and the general intelligence factor (g) which IQ tests attempt to measure. The correlation they found was 0.82. This led to their conclusion that “the SAT is mainly a test of g” (Frey & Detterman, 2004, p. 1). You can find the correlation illustrated in the following graph (click on it to enlarge the graph):

SAT to IQ Correlation

So what are the results that the ETS came up with? The majors that have the five highest average IQ scores are (ranked from high to low):

  • Physics & Astronomy (133)
  • Mathematical Sciences (130)
  • Philosophy (129)
    Materials Engineering (129)
  • Economics (128)
    Chemical Engineering (128)
    Other Engineering (128)
  • Mechanical Engineering (126)

The majors with the five lowest average IQ scores are (again ranked from high to low):

  • Administration (107)
  • Home Economics (106)
    Special (106)
  • Student Counseling (105)
  • Early Childhood (104)
  • Social Work (103)

I honestly have no idea what falls under ‘Other Engineering’ or what ‘Special’ is.

What I find truly astonishing in the ETS data set is that it would make the average college student within one of the 5 highest IQ scoring majors (nearly) acceptable for Mensa – a high IQ organization that only accepts people within the highest 2 percentiles (IQ of around 132). What may strike some people as surprising is the high score for Economics. However, anyone who has studied Economics would know how math-laden the major is and that it in that sense quite resembles such majors as Physics, Mathematics, Engineering etc. We can find this back in the relatively high Quantitative SAT score for Economics (706) compared to Physics & Astronomy (736), Mathematical Sciences (733), Materials Engineering (727), Philosophy (638), and Business Administration & Management (561).

As someone who holds a BBA in International Management, I find it quite interesting to see that Business Administration & Management scores relatively low in the spectrum of majors (IQ = 111). However, if I could speak from my own experience (and I understand that I have to be careful here for not hurting anyone’s feelings) of having been around Philosophy and Economics majors, it actually reflects very well how I feel about the overall intelligence of Management students compared to those from Philosophy and Economics.

Click here to see the full list of average IQ per college major.


Educational Testing Services (2014, January 7). IQ Estimates by College Major. Retrieved from www.statisticbrain.com/iq-estimates-by-intended-college-major/

Frey, M.C., & Detterman, D.K. (2004). Scholastic Assessment or g? The Relationship Between the Scholastic Assessment Test and General Cognitive Ability. Retrieved from www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/ps/Frey.pdf?origin=publication_detail


4 thoughts on “Average IQ per College Major

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Richard J. Herrnstein & Charles Murray – The Bell Curve (1994) | chhay lin lim

  2. Pingback: Two Sunday Links: IQ And Leo Strauss | Chris Navin

  3. I’m curious about the alleged 113 IQ of college students in 1990. Are there any more recent statistics about that?

    I remember reading that the Bell Curve authors found that average college student iq had increased from the 60s to the 90s. But this seems odd, seeing as how a higher and higher percentage of the country has attended and graduated college since then. Also, if they didn’t account for the flynn effect, it may have rose even more.

  4. Pingback: Er gaan te veel mensen naar het Hoger Onderwijs | Pulchrum Est Paucorum Hominum

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