How Your Myers-Briggs Type Can Help You Decide Your Major

So what is MBTI?

MBTI is an acronym for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a self-report test developed by Isabelle Briggs Meyers and her mother, Katherine Cook Briggs, to identify the differing psychological preferences of people when they make decisions and interact with other people and the world around them, thus evoking a greater understanding and appreciation of others’ unique characteristics and values.

 MBTI assesses four different components of personality: how one energizes, how one gathers information, how one makes decisions, and how one structures their lifestyle. There are two options for each component, and each is represented by a letter.

“E” is for extroversion and “I” is for introversion. Being extroverted means that one gains energy from social interaction and feels the need to "recharge" after being alone for too long; being introverted is just the opposite.

“S” is for sensing and “N” is for intuition. A “sensing” individual tends to focus on immediate issues and provides more realistic and practical perspectives, whereas an “intuitive” individual follows their inspirations and provides more abstract connections and meanings.

“T” is for thinking and “F” is for feeling. While “thinking” people focus on tasks and are resolute and analytical, “feeling” people focus on people’s interactions and are empathetic and compromising. While “thinking” people use logic and principles to understand and make decisions, “feeling” people use their own values and emotions.

Lastly, “J” is for judging and “P” is for perceiving. “Judging” individuals prefer to follow plans, feeling supported by structure and schedules, and focus on completion; in contrast, “perceiving” individuals value flexibility and feel restricted by structure and schedules. They focus on the process.

Of course, everyone expresses different levels of each trait (from slight to very clear)—for example, one extroverted individual might be more extroverted than another; however, most people display at least a slight preference for either trait (e.g. either E or I) in each MBTI component. There is no “better” MBTI personality type or trait, as each is distinct and well-respected in the working society.

How can MBTI help me decide my major?

There are sixteen possible MBTI personality types: ISTJ, ISFJ, INFJ, INTJ, ISTP, ISFP, INFP, INTP, ESTP, ESFP, ENFP, ENTP, ESTJ, ESFJ, ENFJ, and ENTJ. One’s MBTI type provides insight into their psychological preferences and priorities; this insight proves invaluable when deciding a major and future career path, as one should consider not only interest and skill, but also compatibility.

For example, an “INFP” score indicates that the individual is introverted, flexible, and tends to base their decisions on their own personal values rather than set principles. They are intuitive and thus creative and deeply introspective. Consequently, INFPs may feel stifled in the high-stress, rigid work environments that one studying business or law might experience. English, psychology, art, or social work might be preferable for INFPs, as careers in these fields might offer more opportunity for creative expression and personal growth.

That is not to say that INFPs cannot succeed in such high-stress environments— think of it this way: most people have a dominant hand. Although the dominant hand is generally more coordinated and efficient than the non-dominant, the non-dominant can still perform all of the same tasks to the same standard that the dominant can, just with more time and effort. Similarly, with MBTI, one who scores a certain personality type can still go into and be successful in fields that may not perfectly align with their type’s characteristics and values, it may just require more time and effort. For example, if one scores an “I” on MBTI, introversion is their “dominant hand”; introverts can obviously still work jobs that require “extroverted characteristics”—or rather, the skills of the “non-dominant hand”—such as a sales role that requires frequent social interaction, but they may find this line of work more emotionally draining than other, more “introvert-suitable” careers. An INFP can still be a successful lawyer, and an ESTJ can still find enjoyment in the arts.

MBTI is not the end-all, be-all factor in deciding a major and career path, but rather a useful tool that promotes self-awareness and can help one to understand one’s own values and preferences in both the academic world and the workplace. If you're interested in finding out your own MBTI type, try out this free online test!