By Dr. A.J. Drenth
ISTJ is among the most common of the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types. In my experience, there are at least as many ISTJ females as there are males. Fortunately, there are plenty of good job and career choices for ISTJs that we will explore throughout this post.
ISTJs’ dominant personality function, Introverted Sensing (Si), is of particular relevance when choosing a career, job, or college major. As discussed in my ISTJ personality profile, Si is concerned with preserving the “tried and true.” Si may influence ISTJ and ISFJ careers in numerous ways.
For example, ISTJs might be more inclined to persist in a family business or continue working in their childhood community than other types. If they opt to attend college, many will focus on the more “traditional” career paths. Teaching, a favorite among ISTJs, is a classic example. Teaching squares well with Si, involving the passing along of knowledge, and to some extent, tradition, from one generation to the next. ISTJs may be drawn to careers in ministry for similar reasons.
As for INTJ career-seekers, ISTJs’ auxiliary function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), also plays an important role in their career decision-making. Te is the function that turns the world into a rational machine, imbuing it with rules, protocols, and procedures. The modern world is appearing increasingly more Te-like, with its ever-growing number of laws, regulations, and bureaucracies. Fortunately, ISTJs are rarely dissuaded from working in such Te environments.
In fact, ISTJs generally prefer structured work environments, where things are neat and clearly defined. Perhaps more than any other type, ISTJs are wired to learn, recall, and enact rules, policies, and procedures. They are detail-oriented and organized, sporting strong memories for details. These characteristics make ISTJs a good fit for clerical, administrative, and office work. They are your quintessential bookkeepers and office managers.
ISTJs’ third personality function, Introverted Feeling (Fi), often lends an interest in children (especially among female ISTJs). This is another factor in ISTJs’ attraction to teaching, especially at the elementary school level.
ISTJs’ inferior function is Extraverted Intuition (Ne). Their Ne inspires them to be creative, which, if potent enough, may even compel them to try their hand at some of creative careers. But as I’ve discussed elsewhere on this site, the results of choosing jobs or careers based on the inferior function is often a recipe for disaster. Therefore, ISTJs are better off selecting work and majors that primarily require use of their Si and Te.
ISTJ Holland Career Interests
The Holland Career Interest Inventory is one of the better career tools available. It proposes six primary interest domains—Realistic (R), Investigative (I), Artistic (A), Social (S), Enterprising (E), Conventional (C)—collectively known as “RIASEC.” After identifying one’s top two or three interest domains, the letters can be combined to form a two or three letter Holland code (e.g., RIS, CRI) which can then be matched with the codes of various college majors or careers. For an introduction and overview of the Holland Inventory, see my post, Holland Code (RIASEC) Career Interests & the Myers-Briggs Types.
Realistic (R) Careers
The Realistic domain involves “hands-on” sorts of work such as construction, auto/computer repair, cooking, and surgery. This Holland domain often correlates with Myers-Briggs Extraverted Sensing (Se) and Perceiving (P). Realistic work commonly entails an ongoing process of Extraverted Sensing and responding, a perpetual dance between the individual and her environment. This is why the best athletes, dancers, surgeons, etc. are generally SP types.
Because ISTJs use Si rather than Se, the Realistic domain is often not their primary interest area. However, there are still a number of Realistic jobs that may a good fit for ISTJs:
- Radiographer / radiographic technician
- Restaurant worker
- Lawn / grounds maintenance
- Janitor / maintenance
- Food service employee
- Truck driver
- Supermarket stock person
- Factory worker
- Medical technician
- Military service person
Investigative (I) Careers
The Investigative domain is preferred by those with a penchant for critical inquiry and discovery. In the modern world, Investigative work has become largely formalized under the auspices of science and technology. Such formalization can be understood as yet another offspring of Te, which, for Te types like ISTJs, is rarely a problem.
ISTJs can find satisfaction in Investigative careers, such as working in a lab or manipulating experimental data. Because of their Si-Te combination, they can better tolerate the “grunt work” of science (or other fields) than would be true of Intuitive types. They can therefore play an important role in the discovery process by executing the experiments needed to test hypotheses.
Highly intelligent ISTJs may even find a comfortable home in the world of academics. As stated earlier, they often enjoy teaching and passing along knowledge. This, combined with their inferior Ne’s interest in discovery and exploring ideas, can make joining a college faculty an attractive option for ISTJs.
The following Investigative careers, jobs, and majors may be a good fit for ISTJs:
- Research / lab worker
- Law, lawyer, attorney
- College professor
- Scientist: chemistry, physics
- Computer science
- Physician: pathology, radiography
Artistic (A) Careers
Some ISTJs may be drawn to creative work because of their inferior function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). To determine whether a given artistic career is healthy for an ISTJ requires that we ask whether it involves more Sensing or Intuition. In this vein, I suggest that writing, especially that which is creative or theoretical, requires a heavier dose of Intuition and is probably better left to N types. Artistic work like painting or sculpting, however, arguably requires more Sensing than Intuition, making these better options for artistically-inclined ISTJs.
Social (S) Careers
The Social Holland domain is typically populated by Myers-Briggs Feelers and Extraverts. Social interests are common among teachers, healthcare workers, clergy, trainers, caretakers, etc. As IS types, Social careers are typically not recommended for ISTJs, although many will pursue work in teaching and ministry.
Enterprising (E) Careers
Their lack of Extraversion, especially Extraverted Feeling, generally makes ISTJs poor salespersons or promoters. Typically, they are aware of this and instinctively avoid Enterprising sorts of work. The one exception may be ISTJs who try their hand at entrepreneurship, which can be understood as one way they may try to satisfy their inferior Ne. ISTJs typically do well with the logistics of running their own business. The question is whether the original business vision or idea (Ne) will be good enough for the business to get off the ground. Therefore, ISTJs are probably wise to consult with others regarding their business ideas before moving forward.
Conventional (C) Careers
Those with Conventional interests enjoy administrative work. They are organized and detail-oriented, while excelling at manipulating data. Examples of Conventional careers include accounting, bookkeeping, clerical, secretarial and administrative work, banking, proofreading, payroll, and technical writing. Individuals with Conventional interests often prefer Myers-Briggs Sensing, Thinking, and / or Judging.
If you haven’t guessed it already, Conventional careers are a perfect fit for many ISTJs:
- Computer programmer
- Technical writer
- Operations officer
- Compliance officer
- Curator: museum, library
In sum, ISTJs are generally best suited for careers that emphasize Investigative, Conventional, and / or Realistic work activities.