Can an MRI Determine Career Choice?

Have you heard that researchers are attempting to make a connection between grey matter and vocational choice? They’re actually beginning tests to determine if MRI brain scans can be helpful when choosing a career. After analyzing the results Richard Haier, University of California, said, “A person’s pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is related to their brain structure, so there is a possibility that brain scans could provide unique information that would be helpful for vocational choice.” READ THE ARTICLE HERE.

What do you think about this? Can intelligence really determine career vocation?

As career counselors we’ve always advocated for understanding your interests and values when deciding on a career option. So what could happen if we start relying on science to determine our career future? It could turn a shades-of-grey decision into a black and white decision and at the same time increase the probability of career confusion and dissatisfaction.

Rather than attempting to impart any wisdom on this topic, I want to open it up to you.

What do you think? Is it smart for people to consider this as another resource when determining the best career choice? Could it hinder the process by reducing the needed personal introspection on careers? Let’s hear it…. What’s your opinion?


Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Recreation and Tourism and a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Bowling Green State University (GO Falcons!). Her 10+ years professional-experience ranges from working at camps, schools, a church, college campuses, and other non-profits. Although these may seem unrelated she attests that she still uses both her degrees and life experiences from all jobs in her current career. When she isn’t working or volunteering at one of four local non-profits, she enjoys singing in two choruses and spending time with her family and black lab, Othello. You can connect with Karen through TwitterLinkedIn, or IPFW’s Blog.

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4 Responses to “Can an MRI Determine Career Choice?”

  1. avatar Vince says:

    Karen – interesting question. My opinion is that MRI may be able to tell major differences in the brain and thus help someone to steer into the correct career choice. However, the “choice” would be a very broad one, say “artist” vs. “mathematician.” In most cases, the person (and everyone that knows that person) would already know the best answer to that question.

  2. avatar Mark B says:

    I don’t think a brain scan is a good idea for trying to find a career.

    From my perspective, there are two big things it doesn’t appear to account for: your personality, and your ability to learn/get better at something.

  3. There are many tthings on which brain scans can provie guidance. However, I think that in this area it may only potentially confirm what is already known or explain why. May this only send people toward careers and track people into particular majors. I think it is possible that while brain structure and career tests may suggests a potential route for students and career seekers it should not bar them from thinking outside the box created by all this testing and imaging.

    If this were to be used to track people into certain careers, career training, or areas of study in college then we may deprive all areas of the creative thinking that comes from those whom one would not expect to enter that field entering that field and taking that path because they wanted to rather than because some test or image of their brain said they should enter that field.

    For example, I recently decided to enter the finance and accounting field. This would not have been what most of my professors or anyone that knew me could have predicted. I found that politics was not fulfilling. The career tests pointed me in that direction in high school. However, when I retook the tests in college they confirmed my career choice. I beleive these tools are useful for research and confirmation, but should never be used as an end in career decision making Students should conduct informational interviews and job shadow visits to make their decision.

  4. Thank you for the responses. I agree with you as well. I think if I were to rely on a brain scan to tell me my career it would have been accountant, because I was always good at math. I agree with you all, that this is merely one piece of information that can be taken into consideration when determining a career path just like those career assessments (which always told me I would be a farmer… funny because my family is full of farmers). Also a good thing to note is that career paths can always change if you choose to veer and take another open road. You determine your career, not an MRI or an assessment…. You are the expert of you!

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