personality type can predict income and career achievement

A recent infographic from Career Assessment Site showed that the size of your salary might have a lot to do with your personality type. In terms of household income, ENTJs came out on top, while INFPs came in dead last. The graphic sparked our interest, but we wanted to know more. And so we decided to do our own study, using the TypeFinder® personality test, which is based on the theory developed by Isabel Briggs Myers.

In all, about 12,000 people participated, sharing salient details like their income, their age, and how many people they supervise at work. We took this data and correlated it with our volunteers’ personality test results to see what trends, if any, we could uncover.

Do you have a guess about what we found? Can your personality type really predict how much you earn? How far up the career ladder you’ll climb? Or even how satisfied you’ll be with your job?

Read the full text of the Personality Type and Career Achievement study.

In a word, yes. When we analyzed the data for all 16 personality types, we found drastic differences in everything from income to job satisfaction to number of employees a person manages on the job.

Let’s start with earnings, since we know that’s foremost in everyone’s minds. The results are striking. When we looked at average income by type, we found that the highest-earning types had an average income of over twice that of the lowest-earning types. While the average ESTJ was earning upwards of $75,000 a year, the average ISFP was earning just under $30,000.

The types with the highest income, by a fair margin, were ESTJ and ENTJ. Bringing up the rear were the ISFPs, ISTPs, INTPs, and INFPs. It’s not easy being Introverted, especially if you’re also a Perceiver.

personality type and average income

Note: Our sample included very few SP types. This is to be expected; SP types generally don’t spend much time online exploring their personalities. To create a more representative graph we grouped together ISFPs/ISTPs, and ESFPs/ESTPs.

To look at this another way, let’s compare the income brackets of the ESTJs who responded to our survey, versus the INTPs. For this analysis, we excluded respondents who were under the age of 21 to increase the odds that we were including only people who were fully participating in the workforce.

average income of ESTJ vs. INTP

As you can see, large chunks of the INTP sample earned either no income at all, or under $15,000 a year. These low-earning categories are mere slivers in the ESTJ sample. In fact, over half the INTPs made $30,000 a year or less. The ESTJ graph, on the other hand, looks quite a bit more prosperous.

We wondered if this data might be affected by the different types’ tendency to pursue further education. We often think of the INTP as an absentminded professor type—so what if all the INTPs in our sample weren’t earning much because they were busy getting PhDs? To check in on this, we eliminated respondents who said they were students, and ran the numbers again. They hardly changed. So it seems that INTPs aren’t under-earning simply because they’re staying in school.

There are a few other interesting trends to take note of here. First, the top three types in earnings are Thinking types. This isn’t a huge surprise, given that Thinking types tend to be more competitive, and also more motivated by money in making choices in their careers. Feeling types are more likely to choose a career that’s consistent with their personal values, whether or not it has a lot of income potential.

But it’s not just Thinkers that have an income advantage. We found that all four of the dimensions of personality showed an income differential. Extraverts earn more than Introverts; Sensors earn more than Intuitives; Thinkers earn more than Feelers; and Judgers earn more than Perceivers.

personality type preferences and average income

So why do Extraverts earn more than Introverts? We wondered if perhaps this is because Extraverts might be more interested in managing people, and thus more likely to take on positions of leadership—which are, coincidentally, higher paying. Luckily, we’d also asked our respondents about their management responsibility at work, so we could easily run the numbers and see if this might account for the difference.

personality type and employees managed

And in fact, it did. Extraverts were significantly more likely to be in a supervisory or managerial role, and they were also much more likely to say they were in charge of overseeing large teams of 20+ employees. So it’s not necessarily that Introverts aren’t in career paths that have earning potential, but that perhaps they don’t seek out the higher-profile jobs that really rake in the cash.

Less surprising is the income differential between Judgers and Perceivers. Judgers are organized, structured, and responsible. They are persistent and resist impulses and distractions. They are thus more likely to put in the hard, sustained work required for career success. Perceivers, on the other hand, tend to be more loose, spontaneous and freewheeling.

However, we shouldn’t assume that Perceivers simply can’t make it happen when it comes to their careers. Perceivers tend to value flexibility and fun, and are often more protective of their leisure time than are Judgers. It’s entirely possible that Perceivers have no less innate earning power, but have made tradeoffs in their careers that allow them to spend less time grinding away at the office and more time enjoying life.

But that’s not quite right, when you take a closer look. Because although Judgers may be putting in more work, they also seem like maybe they’re actually enjoying it. When asked how satisfied they are with their jobs, Judgers give their jobs higher ratings than Perceivers.

What about the other three dimensions? Do they correlate with job satisfaction as well? In fact, they do.

personality type and average income

For almost all of the dimensions, the preference with the higher average income is also the more satisfied. However, interestingly, this isn’t the case for the Thinking/Feeling dimension. Although Thinkers earn more on average, Feelers are more satisfied with their jobs. We suspect this speaks again to the Feeling tendency to choose a job based on values and purpose. It may not be the path to riches, but it appears to be a more likely path to fulfillment.

Curious which personality types are most satisfied with their jobs? Here are the average satisfaction ratings by personality type. Again, the differences are striking: ESFJs are nearly twice as satisfied with their jobs as are ISFPs.

personality type and average income

It’s interesting to note that while the income powerhouse ESTJs and ENTJs are also pretty high in job satisfaction, they’re outranked by several Feeling types when it comes to being satisfied with what they do. So there you have it: yet another morsel of proof that money doesn’t buy happiness.

In our next post, we’ll dive deeper into the job satisfaction of each of the types, and explore why it is that ESFJs are so gosh-darn happy at work. Stay tuned!

Molly Owens
Molly Owens is the founder and CEO of Truity. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and holds a master's degree in counseling psychology. She began working with personality assessments in 2006, and in 2012 founded Truity with the goal of making robust, scientifically validated assessments more accessible and user-friendly. Molly is an ENTP and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys elaborate cooking projects, murder mysteries, and exploring with her husband and son.