Smart and not-so-smart college majors

Statistic Brain’s IQ Estimates by College Major put education majors — including elementary, early childhood and special education — at the bottom. Student counseling also comes low on the list.

Physics and astronomy, philosophy and math top the list.

IQ is estimated by looking at SAT scores. So, for example, the average elementary education major has SATs of 968 and an estimated IQ of 108. The average physicist hits 1269 and 133. And I’m a genius. Which I’m not.

Emotional intelligence may be more valuable than “academic intelligence” in some fields, points out The Richest.

Physicists — and painters — score well on Pantheon‘s list of “cultural production.” Politicians are even more influential.

About Joanne


  1. If you look at the current list of top paying jobs for 2013/2014, 6 of them are in STEM fields, and the rest are generally business and accounting.

    This isn’t a surprise at all, just basic confirmation

  2. When I was in school, in the 60s, almost all of the kids I knew who dropped/washed out of STEM fields, med tech, nursing etc. transferred into the ed school. Since the academic requirements for majors/minors in secondary ed were exactly HALF of the credits required in the College of Arts & Sciences, those who transferred as sophomores usually had all the needed credits and could coast, taking easy ed courses, for the next two years. The el ed kids I knew usually said they “liked kids” and “wouldn’t have to take any math”. Deja vue all over again.In four years, why won’t ed schools require that el ed kids actually have the academic knowledge , across the disciplines, that they should have had when they entered? Sigh

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      Can we all agree that

      1) college graduates are, in general, above average in intelligence;

      2) college graduates who majored in education are, in general, near the bottom of college graduates when ramked by SAT scores?

      • The 2 standard deviation gap between P&A majors and social work majors was the eyebrow-raiser for me.

      • palisadesk says:

        Further to that, college graduates who go on to get degrees in education administration rank almost at the bottom of all GRE occupational categories (they beat only early childhood educators, as I recall).

        They score significantly lower than both elementary and secondary teachers.

        Sadly, this data seems accurate, based on my experience of educational administrators. The very smart, effective ones (of which I have had the good fortune to know a few) raise the mean and possibly conceal how low the really ineffective ones are. The average GRE Verbal score for ed admin candidates is in the 400’s.


  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Collaborating evidence? Peer review? And you have the nerve to call teachers below average. You sheeple should look in the mirror.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      Whether you believe it or not, no one’s calling teachers below average here. If you look, education majors are placed slightly ABOVE average.

      They’re just placed at the very bottom of the “above average” pile.

      You can trust or not trust ETS as you wish, and you can decide whether or not you want to accept what seems to be a direct translation from SAT or GRE scores (it’s not clear which) to IQ.

      But you can’t just make up whatever you want about what’s being claimed — at least not without someone calling you on it.

      • Mike in Texas says:

        Beth said:

        That was obvious when I was in college, years ago. The students who decided to major in education where most definitely very average to below average in intelligence –

        I called for evidence of the claims, and peer review of said claims, I don’t see any in your post, Michael.

        • Michael E. Lopez says:

          Two quick thoughts:

          1) It’s obvious that you know not only how to use the quote function, but the reply button as well. So I’m going to assume in light of that demonstrated competence on your part that you were griping about the ETS-founded assertions in your earlier post, and only resorted to quoting what Beth said as an ex-post justification for your griping — at least unless and until you provide COLLABORATING, PEER-REVIEWED EVIDENCE that you intended to respond to Beth. And in any case, it’s not clear that Beth didn’t implicitly mean “below average for the college population” (which I take it was Thinly’s suggestion).

          2) I *explicitly* was not arguing to support the position for which you demanded evidence and peer-review. I do not generally consider myself under an obligation to provide evidence of any kind for a position I’m not even asserting on a prima facie basis, and certainly not solely on the basis of some jackwagon’s ipse dixit.

          (As I take it you will quite reasonably *not* feel bound to do in response to my first point.)

          • Mike in Texas says:

            Michael E. Lopez,

            Let’s start with Joanne’s post. I followed the link. No where could I find any indication of how exactly the conclusion was reached that some majors are “smarter” than others. In addition, there was no further evidence of peer review, or even publishing outside of the friendly anti-teachers websites. Joanne took a propaganda piece and repeated as the truth. Beth and Momof4 but made comments regarding the intelligence of teachers.

            Do you have PROOF that SAT scores are a valid indicator of intelligence? Has there even been ANY research on the topic? I have never seen any so until something valid is produced this whole posting is just a smear on teachers.

          • Deirdre Mundy says:

            Quick Google Scholar search turned up this:

            But surely, if Mike in TX is interested in papers on the topic, he can also search the terms SAT and IQ at

            I’m too busy to do a complete literature search.

          • Deirdre Mundy says:

            And, just for kicks, if you took the SAT before the mid-90s recentering, here’s a chart to help you estimate your IQ. It seems pretty accurate based on what my parents told me about childhood scores and what I scored on the SAT.

          • Uh, Mike? Did you mean “corroborating” evidence?

            I don’t think evidence can collaborate so your use of the word doesn’t make any sense. But then neither does your obsessive clinging to the concept of peer review other then that you have little else to which to cling and are too immature to come to terms with your erroneous beliefs.

            The link to is self-explanatory – IQ Estimates by College Major – and other then your reflexive defense of all things teacherly requires no peer review nor any other “collaborating” evidence. The title, and certainly the boxed explanation, provide all the information anyone needs to determine the validity and value of the information.

            Besides, this is old news.

            Joanne runs a similar story at fairly long intervals and the knowledge that ed schools aren’t exactly as demanding of their applicants as SEALs are of theirs has been widely known for a long time. Certainly longer then Joanne’s mentioned the unwelcome fact.

            So kick back and relax. Calculate the number of seconds till retirement if you don’t already know the number. Maybe you’ll make it there before the public education system implodes.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            “Do you have PROOF that SAT scores are a valid indicator of intelligence?”

            I suppose it depends on what you mean by intelligence. SAT scores are pretty good predictors of how someone does in college. Lots of people think that’s related.

          • Michael E. Lopez says:

            Mike in Texas asketh:

            “Do you have PROOF that SAT scores are a valid indicator of intelligence? Has there even been ANY research on the topic?”

            To which I must reply:

            Wait a second…. do you have PROOF that Mikhail Gorbachev isn’t really Teddy Roosevelt’s Love Child?

            Oh. Wait.

            You ***DIDN’T ARGUE THAT***.

            I apologize. I should have taken my head out of my you-know-what and actually read what you wrote.

          • palisadesk says:

            Mike In Texas said,
            “Beth and momof4 made comments regarding the intelligence of teachers. ”

            No, they didn’t. They commented on undergraduates they knew who changed courses of study from very demanding ones to education majors, perceived as less demanding.

            It’s a documented statistic that many education majors don’t enter teaching after they graduate. Neither momof4 nor Beth commented on graduates who went into teaching.

            Further to the IQ/SAT correlation, one indicator is that MENSA and other high-IQ societies accept SAT or GRE scores as proof of IQ for membership if the tests were taken before a certain date (a couple of decades ago IIRC). However, they do not accept scores from more recent administrations, indicating that the correlation between SAT scores and IQ is not as strong as in the past, due to changes in the test.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    Wayne Camara, Director of Research, College Board

    The SAT measures two areas. It measures developed verbal reasoning, which are the type of skills that would be measured by reading long reading passages. For example, in our new test students have an essay where they would read two contrasting views on a topic. It could be political. It could be in humanities. It could be in science. And they need to piece together similarities and differences of the arguments–contrasting views. So that’s a type of analytic thinking and critical thinking skills that are acquired when you read essays in college. Or the type of scientific or literature work that you’ll encounter in college and in English.

    In mathematics, the SAT measures developed mathematical reasoning. So it shies away from simple computation. As a matter of fact, the SAT of today–unlike the SAT that you and I probably took–allows and even encourages students to bring calculators. So it cannot measure simple addition or division or fractions because those would be incredibly easy with the use of a calculator. It has to measure reasoning problems, the type that you would have, in real world applications.

    And it also has a number of items that are not multiple choice. Students have to read the context, understand the mathematical applications involved, and then generate their own answer.

    Isn’t it an IQ test?

    No, it’s not an IQ test. It’s far from it. Developed reasoning skills measured on a test like the SAT, will link directly to the, the breadth and the depth of the curriculum students have been exposed to in school, but also out of school learning. Students who have read an incredible amount, whether it’s in school assignments or out of school assignments, are more likely to do better on tests like the SAT but also in college.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      Mike- Depends on the version of the SAT– back in my day, it was all multiple choice, for instance. This seems to refer to the newer versions.

      Originally, it was marketed as an Aptitude test, NOT an achievement test (those were given on a different day) and so… yes, it was supposed to correlate with IQ.

      They’ve been trying to reduce the correlation for years – maybe they’ve finally succeeded, but, again, playing around in Google Scholar it seems they haven’t.

      I’m not sure that the President of the College Board is really stating what the test *IS*, as much as what he would like it to be… at any rate, this isn’t the sort of scientific evidence you were demanding from the other side. This is just more opinion.

  5. Thinly veiled Anonymity says:

    … for college students, anyway.

    I think that makes things more scary.