Over the years, I’ve worked with a bunch of electricians with all sorts of personality traits. One of which includes their individual levels of cognitive ability (IQ). Just for fun, I once convinced a colleague of mine to do an IQ test. I had for a long time, as an electrician apprentice, been sort of surprised at his overall knowledge and ability to manage quick mathematical thinking. So I decided to put him on the spot during a coffee break at work. Not surprisingly, after the 30 questions or so, his score showed an IQ of 125. Later on, I found him doing IQ tests for fun on his phone while doing electrical work, which I obviously thought was quite entertaining. That got me further interested to explore the topic of general cognitive ability requirements of electricians.
Electricians have an average IQ of 102, according to a comparative study of the cognitive abilities (IQ) of workers in the electrical trade. The same study and research paper from 2002 by sociologist Robert M. Hauser revealed a total range in cognitive abilities from 76 to 128 in IQ scores for electricians.
As these results show, my colleague is placed at the pinnacle in terms of cognitive abilities when compared to the rest of the electrician field. Again, I’m not surprised. Although this particular IQ test we did was probably not the official source for testing one’s cognitive abilities. But what is IQ, and how is it relevant when working as an electrician? These are some of the questions I want to explore in this article.
Study Reveals: What Is the Average IQ of Electricians?
Upon researching this topic, I’ve found different answers to this question. Some sources say, the average IQ of an electrician is somewhere around 110 with a standard deviation of 16. However, I wasn’t able to find any reliable research or studies backing up this claim. It might not be the true average IQ. Although, I suspect that an IQ of 110 is great in terms of thriving while doing relatively demanding cognitive tasks.
IQ Definition: IQ is short for “intelligence quotient” and is a measurement of an individual’s cognitive ability (also known as reasoning ability). The term IQ was developed and first used in 1912 by the German psychologist William Stern.
While researching this topic extensively, I was only able to find one credible source, that explores this question. Some of the data from this research paper on the topic of cognitive abilities in professions date way back to 1942, where American soldiers were being recruited (whitelisted) for World War II. The data in the study is comparing multiple groups of professions, ranging from farmworkers (low average IQ) to teachers (highest average IQ). One of those groups belongs to electricians exclusively. The measured cognitive abilities of electricians are being placed slightly above average compared to the entire spectrum, as seen below.
The IQ results are measured as a collection of at least 50 cases or more working as electricians at the time. And as a consequence, the range of the IQ for electricians is also quite large. However, by calculating the average of the total range, the cognitive ability of electricians is measured at an average of 102, with a total deviation of 52 points (range: 76-128). Upon looking at these results, we can also make a comparison of some other professions and their general intelligence.
What is the IQ of Electricians Compared to Other Trades?
I thought it would be interesting to compare the cognitive abilities of an electrician to similar jobs in the skilled trades. The table shown below is prioritizing the IQ of the different trades from highest to lowest test scores. I have compiled data from the study by Hauser, where 50 or more cases have been available to get an approximate result of the IQ of the different trades.
Electricians have a higher score of IQ (intelligence quotient), compared to other skilled trades like welder, carpenter, plumber, and painter. The largest difference in cognitive abilities exists among electricians and painters with a deviation in IQ of 7.5 points.
|Profession||Average IQ||Total Range|
|Electrician||102||76 – 128|
|Welder||99.5||71 – 128|
|Carpenter||97.5||76 – 119|
|Plumber||95||74 – 116|
|Painter||94.5||63 – 126|
As seen in the table, electricians are actually placed as the top scorer in terms of IQ, according to the available data from the study. Electricians have an average of 102, while painters, (94.5) by a close margin to plumbers (95), have the lowest scorer in terms of cognitive abilities.
Although, as also shown, these are the averages measured in relation to some rather large total ranges of test scores. However, by compiling the results of all the trades, they each have several individuals who are scoring results of a much higher IQ than the average. The total range in IQ of all skilled trades has workers in the bottom at IQ scores of 63 all the way to some genius-type-level at 128.
Also Read: What skilled trade is easier to learn?
There are several factors that can determine how high one’s IQ will be measured. As Hauser also argues, provided with studies from a high school class of 1957, there is a rather large correlation between socioeconomic status and measured cognitive abilities. With only 1.8 percent of low socioeconomic status individuals graduating college, 47.2 percent of the highly able men graduated from university.
The top-scoring persons from the IQ tests belong primarily to the specialized knowledge workers (bookkeepers, sales clerks, and teachers), who in today’s society will most likely have a college degree. This observation does not conclude that all persons with lower cognitive abilities come from challenging backgrounds, although it could be a factor.
Disclaimer: There are some obvious validity problems, that have to be taken into account, as the study (from 2002) is basing its arguments on data from 1942. Hauser also argues, that the range in the scores, could be too high to make a final statement. As IQ tests and the general opinion on cognitive ability is, by some people, being viewed as a somewhat controversial topic, these precautions should obviously be taken into account.
How Smart Are Electricians, Really?
Yes, electricians have to learn some fundamental math and physics theory. However, I would argue, that most people going into the electrical trade, will be able to learn these general principles over time. I would on the other hand argue, that the IQ requirement (or reasoning ability), will be mostly applied in complex problem-solving. This is also a reason why the electrical trade is mostly categorized as being a safe career choice in terms of automation, as I explain further in this article.
An electrician should have the ability to do advanced problem-solving while also navigating in complex environments. Working as an electrician myself, I’ve never experienced two days that were similar to each other. Every day brings something new along with it. And you need to be able to apply the best solutions for different tasks. My careful guess (provided by the research) would be that, in order for you to really thrive in the electrical trade, a minimum range of 95-110 in IQ scores would be reasonable.
Although I do not think that a low IQ score will exclude an individual to become an electrician indefinitely, if you are interested in getting an estimate, I recommend taking an IQ test on this website.
IQ, as a term of measuring intelligence, is complex in and of itself. And researchers have tried to get a better understanding of measuring general intelligence or cognitive ability in people. The first academic publication of measuring intelligence came from Charles Spearman in 1904 called General Intelligence Objectively Determined and Measured. His approach of providing a single factor, that can measure intelligence, still applies in today’s methods.
I’d generally say that on a daily basis, you don’t need to be a super genius to do electrical work. Many of an electrician’s work tasks will over time be easier to manage, as experience takes over. However, in the beginning, stages, these more complex work tasks will have to be learned through years of experience. As the saying goes among workers in the trades: “the best workers are those who can get the job done quickly, effectively, and with minimal errors”. In relation to this, I would also argue that no matter an individual’s result of a given IQ score, experience, hard work, and determination are equally if not more so important factors to become a great electrician.