Does Your Myers Briggs Type Predict How Far You’ll Climb?
Since the 1960’s, when Isabel Briggs Myers introduced her MBTI®1 personality type
assessment, career advisors have been interested in using personality type to coach their
clients to success. Much research has been done to examine career trends among types;
studies have looked at the prevalence of the 16 types in a wide range of occupations and
found marked differences in the careers that people of different personality types choose for
themselves.2 Career advisors now have a broad body of information to guide clients in
selecting satisfying careers.
However, research into more general career outcomes among the 16 personality types is
somewhat more sparse. Are certain types more likely to earn more, or progress to higher
rungs on the corporate ladder? Are some types more satisfied with their work, regardless of
the occupation they choose? Are some types more likely to choose alternatives to full-time
work, for example self-employment or stay-at-home parenting?
A survey conducted by CPP, Inc., publisher of the MBTI® instrument, yielded some suggestive
data on the topic. In the MBTI Manual, CPP researchers reported that a national survey
revealed a clear income differential between types, with ENTJs earning the highest average
income and ISFPs the lowest. They also reported differences in overall job satisfaction, with
Extraverted and Judging types reporting higher levels of satisfaction.3 While these details are
interesting, the Manual includes only selected findings from the study, and a full report of the
results does not appear to be readily available.
Similarly, an infographic4 illustrating average incomes for each of the personality types
recently received wide attention in online media. Although the information presented
aroused considerable interest, its reliability is questionable. The source of the data was not
made explicit by the publisher of the graphic, and it is not clear how the sample was
collected, how large it was, and how it was analyzed.
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1 MBTI is a registered trademark of the Myers & Briggs Foundation, Inc., which is not affiliated with this study.
2 Schaubhut & Thompson, 2008.
3 Myers, McCauley, Quenk, & Hammer, 2003.
4 See http://www.careerassessmentsite.com/mbti-personality-types-socioeconomic-infographic.
While data on career outcomes among the types is scant, assumptions are rampant.
Descriptions of the 16 personality types typically include many claims about the various
types’ predisposition to particular career paths. Some types are described as being especially
ambitious and inclined to leadership (i.e. ENTJ and ESTJ), others 5 are described as
entrepreneurial (ENTPs especially),6 while still others are described as particularly nurturing
and focused on the task of parenting (i.e. ESFJs).7 These portrayals are rarely, if ever,
supported by specific data; rather, they are proposed and accepted as self-evident. However,
if these descriptions of various types are valid, then they should not be difficult to verify
through an analysis of relevant career trends among the types.
Our goal in this study was to do a comprehensive analysis of various career outcomes amo