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Who’s Smarter: Doctors or Lawyers?

A recent analysis (via KevinMD) of average IQs of individuals in certain professions revealed that doctors have a mean IQ of almost 10 points higher than lawyers.  Go ahead and snicker, docs – we may be smarter, but are we more successful?

Social and economic success does not have a 1:1 correlation with IQ.  The study authors list several other determinants of success:

Ambition, perseverance, responsibility, personal attractiveness, physical or artistic skills, access to social support and to favorable social and economic networks and resources.

So basically, you can be quite a dim wit – but with perseverance, artistic skills and personal attractiveness, the world is your oyster.  Or better yet, you can have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but be born into a favorable social and economic network and do just fine.

However, in medicine you’re not really going to get by on charm alone.  The grueling nature of the educational process (and the vast amount of information that one must master) requires substantial cognitive reserves.  So I’m not surprised that doctors do well on IQ tests.  However, the sign of a great doctor is not his/her IQ, but a complex interplay of character, compassion, and emotional intelligence.  That being said – if I’m wheeled into an ER after being run over by a truck, I’d be pretty glad to know that the man or woman taking care of me is smart.  And you can be pretty sure that he/she will be.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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2 Responses to “Who’s Smarter: Doctors or Lawyers?”

  1. earthling says:

    Thank goodness the authors provide hope for those of us who aren’t doctor / lawyer brainiacs. I actually do like to think of the world as my oyster 😉

    I’ve always thought that the concept of “emotional intelligence” as popularized by Daniel Goleman was incredibly insightful. Haven’t we all met people who are Mensa-types who are thick-as-a-brick when it comes to real life decision making and interactions? In my mind, the smartest people are those who combine the ability to gather and retain information, make sense of it, and then communicate their insight to others.

  2. ValJonesMD says:

    I definitely agree that the mensa crew doesn’t usually have a good bedside manner.  The art of medicine has little to do with IQ – and arrogance is both unhelpful and potentially harmful.  Just ask Jerome Groopman.  His book, How Doctors Think, touches on the mistakes made by docs who pigeon hole people (and their diagnoses) based on arrogance and presumptive medicine.

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