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How to Find a Career Path Using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

One of favorite quotations is, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

People still maintain the incomplete sentiment that “success” is coupled with a standardized score or a high IQ career.

This can really limit someone’s perspective for career possibilities if they don’t relate to this standard definition of success.

If we broaden our horizon to encompass a wider range of diverse aptitudes, we can find a career where our natural strengths and talents shine.

One way to expand on career possibilities is to use the theory of multiple intelligences.

The term “multiple intelligences” was coined by developmental psychologist, Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983, as a way to describe peoples’ natural inclination for learning and engaging in the world.

You may be more intelligent than you think. Read on to find a career that fits your essential intelligence.

1. Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)

This is the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations).

Possible jobs include:

  • Astronomer
  • Botanist
  • Conservationist
  • Gardener
  • Farmer
  • Animal Trainer
  • Zookeeper
  • Geologist
  • Marine Biologist
  • Ecologist
  • Veterinarian
  • Forest ranger
  • Landscaper
  • Meteorologist
  • Nature photographer

2. Musical Intelligence (“Music Smart”)

Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone.  This intelligence enables us to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners. Let’s rock and roll!

Possible jobs include:

  • Audiologist
  • Choir director
  • Music conductor
  • Music critic
  • Music publisher
  • Music promoter
  • Music retailer
  • Music teacher
  • Music therapist
  • Piano tuner
  • Recording engineer
  • Songwriter
  • Sound editor
  • Speech pathologist

3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“Number/Reasoning Smart”)

Have you always been drawn to arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments? Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations.  This fits the traditional view of intelligence and encompasses the stereotypical prestigious career.

Possible jobs include:

  • Accountant
  • Computer analyst
  • Computer technician
  • Computer programmer
  • Database designer
  • Economist
  • Engineer
  • Lawyer
  • Mathematician
  • Network analyst
  • Pharmacist
  • Physician
  • Physicist
  • Researcher
  • Statistician

4. Existential Intelligence (“Spirit Smart”)

A spiritual intelligence was not included in Gardner’s original work but is now viewed as a viable aptitude that can be quantified and studied. This intelligence can be recognized by a sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.

Possible jobs include:

  • Pastor
  • Meditation instructor
  • Yoga instructor
  • Psychic
  • Pastoral counselor
  • Chaplain
  • Public speaker
  • Philosopher

5. Interpersonal Intelligence (“People Smart”)

Daniel Goleman’s work on social intelligence has made a huge impact on helping people grow their ability to understand and interact effectively with others. Social intelligence involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, and sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others.

Possible jobs include:

  • Diplomat
  • Leader
  • Manager
  • Politician
  • Clergy
  • Social Worker
  • Receptionist
  • Sales Representative
  • Counselor
  • Child Care
  • Coach

6. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills.  When a football player makes a diving catch or a dancer effortlessly performs a pirouette there’s definitely intelligence at work. They may not be able to quantify the physics of what they’re doing but there is a body-mind coordination that supersedes articulating verbal or mathematical reasoning.

Possible jobs include:

  • Athlete
  • Dancer
  • Mechanic
  • Actor / Actress
  • Performer
  • Physical Education Instructor
  • Craftsman
  • Physical Therapist
  • Farmer
  • Carpenter
  • Builder
  • Park Ranger
  • Firefighter
  • Paramedic

7. Linguistic Intelligence (“Word Smart”)

Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. We see linguistic intelligence at work when the orator makes a moving speech or the wordsmith inspires us through their verbal prowess.

Possible jobs include:

  • Editor
  • Public Speaker
  • Politician
  • Preacher
  • Historian
  • Journalist
  • Teacher
  • Journalist
  • Poet
  • Broadcaster
  • English / Writing Tutor
  • Actor / Actress

8. Intrapersonal Intelligence (“Self-Smart”)

Intrapersonal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directing one’s life. Self-awareness is important for everyone but some people have a natural connection to emotions and the inner-experience.

Possible jobs include:

  • Psychologist
  • Philosopher
  • Writer
  • Theologian
  • Career counselor
  • Consultant
  • Criminologist
  • Energy healer
  • Personal counselor
  • Philosopher
  • Program planner

9. Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)

Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions.  Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination. I have a friend who’s an architect and enjoys the hobby of urban sketching. You can tell he has a precise eye for visual dimension and structure.

Possible jobs include:

  • Artist
  • Architect
  • Graphic Designer
  • Engineer
  • Fashion Designer
  • Interior Decorator
  • Photographer
  • Pilot
  • Sculptor
  • Strategic planner
  • Surveyor
  • Truck driver
  • Urban planner

You’ll probably find proficiency in several of these categories, so a helpful exercise is to select your top three areas of aptitude and create a Venn-diagram. From here you can explore careers that overlap between your different capacities.

Have fun and good luck!

Photo credit: Boris SV

How to Find a Career Path Using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2017). How to Find a Career Path Using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2017
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