A lot of people have reservations about learning to code because they are worried about the average IQ of a software developer. The intelligence quotient (IQ) test is a standardized test to assess how smart people are. It was first adopted in 1912 and is often used for educational placement and assessment.
Software engineers have an average IQ of 110 with those in the 90th percentile scoring just shy of 130. Software engineers at the lower end of the average have an average IQ of 93. There is a misconception that all programmers have exceptionally high IQs which isn’t backed up by any research
The 2002 Hauser report breaks down various occupations by IQ and software engineers sit alongside electrical and design engineers in terms of average IQ. But are beaten out by those in the legal profession as well as college professors.
If you are wondering what your own IQ is, I’d recommend taking the Worldwide IQ test, they are reliable and well reviewed online!
Let’s take a closer look at the average IQ of a software engineer and whether you need to have a high IQ to become a programmer.
What is the average IQ of a software developer?
The average software developer has an IQ of 110 but ranges from 93 on the low end to just shy of 130 for the cleverest developers. Software engineers in the top 50th percentile will have an IQ ranging from 110 to 129. They sit in a similar position on the intelligence scale as other engineers and teachers.
Outside of software development, the average IQ is 100 but the normal range spans from 85 to 115 – any score inside this is considered typical. Mensa is an organization that accepts the smartest 2% of the population – the people with an IQ of 130. It means that 98% of people score less than 130 on an IQ test.
With an average IQ of 110 software engineers fall at the top end of the curve for average intelligence. You’d have to be in the top 50th percentile for intelligence among developers to score higher than the general population’s average.
There is a stereotype in the media that all software developers are geniuses. However, as the data shows, most of them score at the top end of average with only the very smartest developers being smarter than average.
When compared to other office-based roles software engineers also don’t have IQs that are out of the ordinary. If you want to become a software developer don’t be put off by online forums and social media that try to push the myth of hyper-intelligence. The key to success in development isn’t just intelligence. You’ll need to be a great problem solver, work well in a team, and have a passion for learning.
If you want to find out what your own IQ is I recommend taking an online IQ test like the one provided by Worldwide IQ test, the offer a comprehensive report at the end which breaks down your score.
Does programming require a high IQ?
Programming doesn’t require an especially high IQ. Software developers typically have IQs that range from 93 at the low end to 129 at the high end. The average person will have an IQ ranging from 85 to 115. You need to be slightly smarter than average to work as a developer but nothing out of the ordinary.
There is a stereotype perpetuated by movies and TVs that all developers are single and alone but super intelligent. The story goes that they are so intelligent they struggle to work with others and work alone. The reality couldn’t be more different. Most software engineers are just normal people all of whom have different drives and interests.
So next time someone tries to tell you that software engineers need an incredibly high IQ, let them know the research just doesn’t back it up. The Hauser research I included in the section above is worth diving into if you are interested in IQ.
What makes a good software engineer isn’t just raw intelligence either. To be successful in the role you need to be good at a range of skills that include:
- Teamwork – Working well in a team is a crucial part of delivering high-quality software. It’s impossible to do it all alone.
- Communication – You will constantly be speaking to different stakeholders in various parts of the business. Having good communication skills will set you apart as a developer.
- Resilience – Often the solution to big problems doesn’t come easy so you will need to have the resilience to stick at it when things aren’t going well.
- Hard work – You won’t get far if you are lazy in software engineering. It requires a lot of hard work to stay sharp and learn new things. All the intelligence in the world can’t buy you hard work.
So don’t be put off by people online who love pretending programming is an elite club full of the super smart. It’s not. Work hard, stick at it, and you’ll do great as a programmer.
Can you be a software engineer with an IQ of 100?
Someone with an IQ of 100 could easily work as a software engineer as developers typically have IQs that range from 93 to 129. The average IQ ranges from 85 to 115 so software engineers have slightly above average intelligence. But nothing that is out of reach for someone with an IQ of 100.
Despite what people may say online raw intelligence is not the most important factor in becoming a successful software engineer. I know programmers from all walks of life with varying levels of intelligence. How well they do at work is rarely correlated to their score on an IQ test. Being successful at work goes far beyond the scores you achieve on tests. It is about delivering value and being able to work well with others. Those with good emotional intelligence can navigate team dynamics exceptionally well and may do better than someone with a higher IQ.
You’ll need a passion for learning as a developer because things constantly change and require upskilling. Enjoying that challenge and working to improve your skills is far more important than your score on an IQ test.
Are programmers smarter than average?
Programmers are not smarter than average, they typically have an IQ of 110 which means they are at the top-end of the normal range for intelligence. Normally someone will have an IQ of between 85 and 115, so a score of 110 means that programmers may be smarter than many people but not higher than the prescribed normal range.
That being said there are some programmers with exceptionally high IQs. Although, like in any walk of like people with an IQ of 130+ makeup 2% of the population. There is no evidence to suggest that programmers account for a disproportionate number of people with a high IQ. Mensa, the organization that only accepts the smartest people in the population, has people from all walks of life in their ranks.
If you do have an IQ of 110 you would put yourself in the top 50th percentile among developers in terms of intelligence. However, that is still within the “normal” range.
Software developers tend to have an average IQ of 110 which is above the global average of 100 but still well within the normal range. You will meet some developers with IQs just below 130 but these are rare. More than two-thirds of programmers sit well within the normal IQ range so don’t be put off becoming one because of an IQ score.
If you want to know your own IQ, I’d recommend taking the Worldwide IQ test, they are well-reviewed and accurate!
Generally speaking, software development doesn’t require a particularly high IQ. Working hard, delivering good quality code, and being a great teammate are far more important traits than intelligence.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.