INTP Careers, Jobs, & Majors

By Dr. A.J. Drenth

As is often true for ENTP career-seekers, the road to a satisfying career can be a rough and rocky one for INTPs.

INTPs feel they must understand themselves and their place in the world before settling into a career. This includes discerning their signature skills, as well as their personal interests and values. Nailing down exactly what they want to do can be a frustrating affair for INTPs, requiring a great deal of time and experimentation. It can take years, even decades, for their niche to emerge with full clarity. For this reason, selecting the “ideal” college major fresh out of high school is probably unrealistic for many INTPs.

Because of their rugged individualism, INTPs may struggle to find satisfaction with traditional careers choices. It can also make them reluctant to function as employees. They loathe the idea of answering to someone else and can have difficulty embracing an organization’s vision as their own. Like INFPs, they are sensitive to what they see as the trivial or meaningless aspects of a given job. This is exacerbated by their innate skepticism, which impels them to question everything.

Consequently, many INTPs discover that they want to work independently. Because of their desire for complete autonomy and control over their work, they can be hellbent on “escaping the system” or becoming financially independent so they can freely pursue their own interests.

INTP Holland Career Code/ Interests

To orient our discussion of INTP career interests,we will now draw on six interest themes described by John Holland and the Strong Interest Inventory. The Holland career interest themes include the Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), and Conventional (C) domains, which are sometimes called “RIASEC.” After identifying one’s preferred interest domains, these letters can be combined in a way similar to the personality types to form a multi-letter “Holland Career Code” (e.g., IAS, RAI). This can help individuals identify their best career choice.

Those with Realistic interests enjoy physical, hands-on work, often involving machines (e.g., repairing vehicles, tinkering with computers, construction). They may take up careers such as computer science, engineering, or architecture. Such individuals are often visual or kinesthetic learners, commonly excelling in what is known as spatial visualization. Those with strong spatial-visualization skills often do well with schematic charts and diagrams, as well as envisioning and mentally rotating three-dimensional objects. Einstein undoubtedly excelled in this regard. Realistics often enjoy working with “things” more than people. It is therefore unsurprising that this interest domain is correlated with a preference for Thinking over Feeling. Research suggests that S, T, and P types are somewhat more drawn to Realistic work than are N, F, and J types. While INTPs tend to be less Realistic than their ISTP counterparts, there are several Realistic careers that may be well-suited for INTPs, many of which I will list below.

Like INTJ career-seekers the Investigative domain is typically the foremost Holland domain for INTPs, involving analytic, scientific, and academic interests. Investigative types enjoy working with ideas, theories, facts, or data. They generally perform well on the mathematics portion of aptitude tests. Those with interests in the physical sciences or mathematics will often pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, computer science, etc. Those interested in investigating “things” will generally have a Holland code of IR (Investigative-Realistic).

INTPs’ Investigative interests may range from the hard sciences (e.g., physics) to the social sciences (history, economics, psychology, sociology, geography, anthropology, archaeology, political science, etc.). For many INTPs, the hard sciences, may seem to demand too much in the way of precision, patience, and attention to detail. Or, they may seem too Realistic or too far removed from the world of people (more on this later). INTPs with IA interests are often concerned with psychological or sociocultural issues and may study the social sciences, philosophy, critical theory, investigative journalism, or take up non-fiction writing.

Like Investigatives, individuals with Artistic interests often have an intellectual or cultural orientation. They do especially well on the verbal portion of aptitude tests. This interest domain is associated with Intuition, as well as, to a lesser extent, Feeling and Perceiving.

Artistic types are highly represented among students studying the arts and humanities. Like those with IA interests, those with AI interests may gravitate toward philosophy, the social sciences, or interdisciplinary studies, all of which allow them to utilize both the creative and rational aspects of their personality.

Because of their auxiliary Ne function, the Artistic domain is typically one of INTPs’ top three interest areas. But when combined with their Investigative preference, it usually manifests as a desire to innovate or synthesize ideas. This is why writing, be it non-fiction or computer code, can be of particular appeal to INTPs, allowing them to regularly employ both their logic (Ti) and creativity (Ne).

Individuals in the Social interest domain enjoy working with people. This domain is often conceived as the conceptual opposite of the Realistic domain, although some individuals enjoy working with both people and things. The Social domain relates to preferences for Extraversion and Feeling. As we will discuss later in this post, INTPs may take up Social careers because of the influence of their inferior function (Fe). They may, for instance, be drawn to jobs, occupations, or majors in counseling or healthcare.

The Enterprising domain entails the promotion of products, ideas, or services. Such individuals tend to be persuasive, assertive, and enjoy competitive environments. Typical Enterprising careers include sales and marketing, business and management, law, politics, journalism, insurance, and stock trading. Enterprising individuals often prefer Extraversion. Unless their Enterprising work is done less directly, such as online or through writing, INTPs are generally less gifted and less interested in this domain.

Individuals with Conventional interests enjoy administrative work. They do well with manipulating data and are organized and detail-oriented. Those in this domain often prefer Sensing, Thinking, and/or Judging. As stated earlier, INTPs, while not typically enjoying Conventional work, can nonetheless perform it competently when necessary.

While by no means a comprehensive career list, INTPs may find the following careers, jobs, or majors worth exploring:

Realistic:

• Computer science, systems analyst, programmer, informatics
• Computer/technology repair
• Software design
• Engineering (all types)
• Mechanic
• Home repair/improvements
• Physics, mathematics
• Forestry, park ranger
• Horticulture
• Architect
• Environmental science

Investigative:

• Biology, neuroscience
• Health sciences
• Researcher or research assistant
• Social sciences (psychology, geography, history, sociology, political science)
• Environmental studies
• Philosophy, critical theory, theology
• Population ethics, neuroethics, moral science
• Comparative religion
• Peace studies
• Information/library sciences
• Actuary
• Financial planning/planner, stock trader
• Investigative journalist, reporter, writer
• Non-fiction writer
• Search engine optimization (SEO) expert/consultant
• Environmental law, lawyer, attorney

Artistic:

• Graphic/website/software designer
• Writer, blogger, Indy/self-publishing

Social:

• College professor

Enterprising:

• Entrepreneur/small business owner
• Online/strategic marketing
• Computer/information systems consultant
• Business/financial consulting

The Inferior Function in INTP Careers

As I discuss in my book, The INTP, the role of the inferior function is often overlooked in INTPs’ career pursuits. While one might expect INTPs to pursue characteristically Thinking (T)-oriented work, such as STEM (science, technology, engineeering, mathematics) careers, because of their inferior function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), a surprising number of INTPs are drawn to feeling (F)-oriented careers. Their Fe may compel them to take up roles similar to those of ENFJs (for whom Fe is dominant), such as working in teaching, counseling, ministry, etc. While INTPs may dream of a career where they can seek wisdom and share it with others, those who find themselves performing people-oriented work often encounter a couple of difficulties.

First, people-oriented careers or positions can place heavy demands on INTPs’ inferior function. While such demands may be welcomed in small amounts, too many demands may prove overly stressful and ultimately exhausting for INTPs. For instance, INTPs may grow tired of having to placate people, especially in cases where it is inconvenient or emotionally taxing to do so. INTPs may also struggle with people-oriented work if it fails to challenge or utilize their Ti and Ne functions. They may, for instance, find themselves longing for work where they can have more time alone to think, investigate, or create.

Final Remarks

To allow themselves the time necessary to pursue their interests or discover their niche, INTPs must think carefully about their lifestyle. They should carefully consider whether they want others to be financially dependent on them or making demands on their time. In some regard, those who opt for a family early in life (especially with children) may hamstring their ability to function optimally as INTPs. It can be very difficult for them to find their niche while simultaneously supporting a family. Of course, forgoing relationships is never easy for INTPs either, largely because of issues related to their inferior Fe function. Regardless, INTPs who want both career and relational satisfaction may be wise to wait until later in life to crystallize their commitments.

INTPs love to discover and investigate truth. They enjoy reading and gathering information, as well as conducting their own personal experiments, for the sake of discovery. They differ from TJs in that they generally do not enjoy more formal varieties of research. Instead of participating in formal research, INTPs typically prefer to rely on their own logic and use/develop their own methodologies.

Since INTPs love working as independent investigators, one of their key questions is how they can make money doing so. This may inspire them to start toying with ideas like writing, blogging, self-publishing, or entrepreneurship. Writing is among the most effective ways for INTPs to explore ideas, and a blog is one of the more convenient and powerful ways of doing so. Blogging also affords INTPs the creative control and freedom they desperately desire. With time and practice, INTP bloggers can develop greater expertise in their chosen subject area, while also becoming more proficient as writers and web entrepreneurs.

To learn more about INTPs—their personality, careers, relationships, philosophical propensities, and much more—I encourage you to explore my eBook, which is now the #1 INTP book on Amazon with over 50 five-star reviews:

The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships, & the Quest for Truth and Meaning

Related Posts:

INTP Personality Profile

Keys to Starting a Blog or Web Business

More Career Posts

*INTP careers may significantly overlap with those of Enneagram Fives (5w4, 5w6), perhaps even some Fours (4w5).

Comments

  1. Jonathan says

    This is a very interesting. I tested myself as an INTJ for years until a leadership studies course had me rethink the subject. Now, I see myself as a P although normally trying to function as a J at my work. All the experiments listed I have tried and am still investigating! The slash job tiles are also correct. I have been a Communications Tower climber, a Navy nuclear mechanic on submarines, a restaurant owner in training (butcher, baker, cook, manager and dishwasher), a Commissioning engineer for Data Centers, a Controls engineer/Construntion manager/technical operations, and currently back to Commissioning engineer/ controls designer. I have felt desmaied at starting college as a junior in engineering only to move to be a sophmore in bisness management. To become a junior only to quit to be a sophomore in leadership studies. I hope to go back in the spring to my first college to finish my engineering degree as a PE stamp will be needed in the near future to advance my career. I was spared poverty by obligations to a young family and the military. Now I am 35 years old with six children in school ages 4 to 14.

    Great infomation, thanks for the efforts to understand the complexity of human personalties.

      • Jacob Lyman says

        Ditto. My personality tests suggests I have strong INTJ and INTP aspects, but after studying up descriptions of INTP’s it started to seem closer to my self.

  2. Christopher says

    Can’t get over how much this speaks to me, as a 35 yo newly identified INTP searching for the right professional path.

  3. Hans says

    This is frighteningly predictive. I want to show it to the people who know me and say, “See? This explains everything that is wrong with me!”

    • says

      … and they won’t appreciate your fine research. non-INTP’s dont celebrate thought discoveries! best you chuckle to yourself and tell the girls you like their hair:-)

    • says

      One time I showed my grandmother a description of her type (ISTJ) and mine (INTP). Rather than coming to the conclusion I’d hoped for—namely, that different people do actually have differing priorities—hers was “Well, yeah, you’ve got a lot of stuff you need to work on” (!). So I guess she evidently saw my profile as an enumeration of flaws.

  4. Dee says

    I’ve tried talking about INTP traits to validate my worth. It doesn’t work, at least with those I’ve shared with. Those who see your worth already don’t need it, those who don’t never will. It is only for us… Just a tool to acclimate to the world. No one else needs to know. No one else cares…. Mostly because they have their own stuff to deal with and can’t comprehend our complexities. No one realizes how far we have come to overcome. I thought I was in depression in early life, not suicidal but hermit like. Now I realize it is my norm but I have compensated enough to live and be happier.

  5. says

    I theorize that we INTP’s are all stuffed! We seek insight in a world that seeks a quick buck. I propose we declare ourselves dual citizens who are also citizens of the thought-republic of INTP. (or citizens of the republic of Imagineers)

    Who’s with me?

    Thanks for the great and accurate post. Im 37 years old and you have it spot on. I wish my folks had this info when i was 16, as i was still destracted by the steep learning curve of the female. I gave up on that and studied easier challenges, such as world economics and the beer! A life wasted in other words:-)

    • says

      My idea has always been something like a ‘philosophical monastery’. A place like Plato’s Academy, where everyone is free to devote themselves to their own intellectual pursuits and follow their own nose. See, e.g., Raphael’s “School of Athens”; it more or less visually epitomizes what I mean. This USED to be what universities were; but now they’re just bureaucratized factories of mass-produced education (or what passes for ‘education’ in our time).

  6. Catherine says

    Thank you for this, i have been “lapping up” every word of it and my ego can’t quite comprehend that “our type” has been neatly observed and defined :) … We are supposed to be so adaptable and enigmatic that we are intangible…or not so, it seems! But I for one am grateful to be able to read into this…i will soon be 35 yrs and have been at a lost as to HOW to get the “right” job where I won’t be constantly bored whitless within a month of starting; this is 13 years and counting and already 2 “pilgrim-like” career breaks searching for that Holy Grail. The first career break was “be more spontaneous; go for it” and the 2nd one was driven by my “inferior function” (“think LESS and go with your “heart”, i.e. Towards people to help “) – both breaks were extremely therapeutic in addressing why both approaches were wrong…although I didnt know this was because of my INTP “type”, though.

    I feel like I could burst from this revelation…like “coming home” and “FINALLY” being understood (which never really is the case). I need to capitalise on this in 2016, and finally “take the plunge” and move myself into a conceptual, creative, imaginative, free from regulations, type of work…IF I can find one that will pay me for that (whatever it may be).

    But just HOW is it that I can love ideas and can’t stand small talk, but … feel a deep longing and pain for being so far from people and so bad at maintaining contact with friends,etc…?

    I’ve also toyed with non-fictional writing and blogging for decades now, but the sum conclusion was always: what’s the point; there are so many out there? Who is really going to read it? Will it help anyone or is it just my ego wanting to “be out there”?

  7. Daryl says

    I literally, literally am now an SEO Strategist because of this one post. Like many who have read this article, I felt that it understood me when little others have. I am currently doing quite well in SEO, so I can only thank Dr. Drenth!

  8. Scarlett says

    Reading the comments here is oddly soothing. I too have tested as INTJ multiple times and of more recent, an INTP. The latter type I identify with to the core of my meaning-being ;). Naturally, as Dr. Drenth describes, I studied biology & psychology in school (with an emphasis on research & experimental design) and loved them both equally. Though during my studies and career, I always “felt” the scientific method was somehow lacking and incomplete, particularly when investigating human nature but I couldn’t properly express my misgivings or suspicion in any way that made sense to coherts or collegues. I tried to ignore this and after school, I entered the field of medical research. Though I was successful and it was rewarding for a short time, it ultimately did not satisfy me in the end. I learned a lot, so I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but rather a stepping stone. I started a business shortly after in an industry which I had no experience what so ever – clothing design. It was much more difficult than I ever imagined, but I had fun learning. I’ve dabbled in so many different things since and I’ve come to realize what I’ve been enjoying is the exploration /experimentation/experience of my pursuits, not the actual work itself. I believe all these efforts are related to an unconscious attempt to reconcile the difference between theory & practice. This of course, is relevant to only me and has had an unfortunate effect on my finances. I’m 37 and still don’t know where to go from here..but suppose I’m on my way. The road is a long one and I am becoming more and more ok with that fact, especially from reading your comments, so thanks to all! We are in this world, just no of it! 😉

    Scarlett

    • says

      I agree; it is soothing, however oddly. From yours as well, my being 32, I feel somewhat vindicated. Ten years ago I was briefly in the mortgage business. I learned a LOT about money and financial strategy, but I sold barely anything. I developed a business Model which was going to be how I did things. And just as I was putting the finishing touches on this approach to the work, which in someone else’s hands could have made them a fortune, I curiously felt that “my work was finished”, and I went back to school. Which is all very ironic: the reason I got in to business in the first place was so that I could escape school! In any case I’ve had a phobia of “work” ever since.

  9. MM says

    To echo what others have said…
    Some of the things written in the article + comments were stunningly close to the mark. 28yo, former INTJ but more recently testing as INTP (seems common phenomenon).
    Look forward to digesting the rest of this site ASAP. Remarkable stuff.

  10. says

    how were y’all tested? through a professional? the MBTI online? a test modeled after MBTI?
    This young gun (23) has more self-identified with INTP than professionally tested as INTP. Im curious to know what compelled everyone to seek an explanation for their INTP traits. I stumbled upon an MBTI(ish) test online and google lead me here. Reading this didn’t necessarily spawn the ‘ah ha’ moment fellow commenters express..more a ‘yup, yup, that’s me alright’
    thoughts?

  11. Ryan says

    This is spot on.

    I’m 25 now and I have less than a year left for my bachelors in accounting. I loath my chosen field. I think I chose the worst possible career for me. It’s monotonous and at most times I find, meaningless. Thinking about Running numbers and sitting in a cubicle working for the man my whole life makes me want to jump off a building.

    Luckily I served in the military after high school so my bachelors is paid for. Ironically I worked with my hands as an airplane mechanic and enjoyed that aspect (not so much the military part) of it. So I think I have more realistic interests…. But at the same time I dont. Haha I think being an INTP is a curse.

    Now I’m just worried. What the hell do I do now? I’m stuck with this idea of what modern day success equates to. Plus all the pressures to conform to it from family/society.

    I wish I could be happy just being a monotonous drone.

    • Johannes says

      You could use your business knowledge from accounting as a consultant, blogger, business analyst instead of only doing monotonous Excelsheets.
      Being INTP is being interesting, but it’s not always easy

    • Bella says

      Here’s another INTP who used to be in accounting. I studied it at uni and worked in an accounting firm in my last year which turned out to be a nightmare.. one day my boss came to me and said he thought I was too creative to do accounting work. Now I’m in financial advice where I like the strategy part but not the constant interaction with people..

  12. Rosanna says

    I am in an enigmatic dilemma right now and this article has pointed it out royally, but I rather hate to admit that. I recently tested as an INTP and I thought, well that can’t be possible because I have tested as INTJ since like 2010, yet I am so good at computers and I hate people, like don’t touch me, especially extroverts who want to hugs you and borrow money or sit two inches away from you while you are eating! I could pull my hair out. Well that’s what is happening to me now at this college I am going to because I am in medical assisting and I can’t stand the labs. Theory is great, people can’t even remember the names of glands, and that has me frustrated because these are going to be future employees and you have to be on point about these types of things. I’m here listening to people talking themselves in circles like they are psychopaths and forming cliques and I’m like guys, really, like you’re about to be thirty, what the he’ll is wrong with you. That being said, I have fallen into the social trap my entire life practically, working at jobs that drained me, and this medical crap that I now say with great sadness that is killing me inside, and now I must change to something else. I am not that great at math either, but given rules I can defend myself. I am a bit more creative, I have an artistic hobby where I recycle things and make jewelry out of them. I love building things with my hands, albeit small things. I identify well with this article. Well written.

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