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Which Myers-Briggs® types become dental hygiene students and why?

Many of you have seen statistics about the 16 types and which careers they choose. Some of you have taken the Myers-Briggs Career report to see which professions your type chooses most often. Here we're going to do the opposite: talk about one profession, dental hygienist, and who chooses it and why. This will help us understand the dynamics at work.

A number of researchers have given the Myers-Briggs to dental hygiene students for career studies. As might be expected, the results follow a pattern. What can we imagine the results will show?

First, let's consider the nature of the work. The field requires mastery of technical skills and scientific knowledge. The person has to be comfortable with routine, have good attention to detail, precision, thoroughness, organizational ability, a desire to help people, and comfort with standards and schedules.

Now let's consider which types might find such work appealing. Just from reading the above description, it's clear the field is more likely to attract Sensors than Intuitives. Many Sensors enjoy work that requires skillfully applying well-learned knowledge. Likewise, dealing with immediate situations, using sound, conventional approaches is more interesting to Sensors than creating new, breakthrough methods.

Sensor-Feeler types are often attracted to health care fields with direct physical care, while Sensor-Thinker types often like health care fields that require highly technical skills. As you might imagine, Judgers were highly overrepresented in this group. In particular, Sensor-Judgers are attracted to the field. The need for high standards of cleanliness, conformity, schedules, and concrete action all appeal to SJs. It's also interesting to note that Thinker-Judgers were overrepresented. The most likely explanation is the scientific and technical demands of the job.

We would probably expect Extraverts to be drawn to this field. This happens to be the case. Likely reasons are the job requirements for sociability, interpersonal communication, and the ability to put patients at ease. Extravert-Judgers seem to like the career because they are surrounded by people and they are helping others using standard procedures, in a structured, scheduled environment.

So what does the research show? In the latest study, the most common type was ISFJ (18%), followed by ESFJ (17%), ESTJ (14%), and ISTJ (13%). The least likely types were INFJ (1.2%), INFP (1.2%), INTJ (1.8%) and INTP (1.8%). Extraverts made up 57% of the sample, Sensors 75%, Feelers 57%, and Judgers 73%. These results are in line with previous studies that showed ESTJ, ESFJ, ENTJ, and ISTJ types as the most common among dental hygiene students. One study showed that 39% of the participants were either ESFJ or ISFJ.

Of course, if you want to be a dental hygienist and are not one of the more common types, go ahead and do it. All types become dental hygienists. Some just choose the occupation with greater frequency than others. Do what you want to do. Remember: statistics tell us a great deal about groups, but nothing about how individuals will act. Never use statistics as a reason NOT to do something you want to do.


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