Abstract thinking involves the ability to think in terms of concepts. Given the chance to reflect on observations, events and ideas, abstract thinkers can come up with creative solutions to problems that may not be obvious to others. They don’t necessarily need all of the specifics to draw a reasonable conclusion. In contrast, concrete thinkers depend on the “here and now” to solve problems. They’re more comfortable using the details or particulars on a topic to arrive at a solution.
Abstract thinkers often enjoy coming up with hypotheses, then developing ways to test them. Their natural ability to think analytically can help them succeed in a career as a chemist, for example. It takes a great deal of planning and analysis to conduct complex research on a molecular level. Employers typically seek candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry for entry-level positions, notes the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With their analytical minds, abstract thinkers may also excel in the field of physics. Like chemists, physicists conduct research, but they focus on the properties that affect space, time and energy. In general, you must have a Ph.D. in physics to work in the field.
The analytical skills of abstract thinkers can help them excel in the field of information technology. Computer programmers, for example, need to interpret complex instructions and computer languages to code programs. Systems analysts, on the other hand, must understand the business needs of employers to design computer systems to help organizations succeed. Traditionally, computer programmers and systems analysts both need at least a bachelor’s degree in the field to find employment.
Because abstract thinkers can make connections between seemingly disparate events, they may be well-suited for investigative jobs. Criminal investigators and detectives must use their powers of observation and ability to make sense of evidence to put criminals away. Lawyers, on the other hand, must analyze the evidence to develop a defense -- or prosecution -- to resolve their clients’ legal problems. Criminal investigators and detectives typically start off as police officers who must graduate from a training academy. Lawyers must complete an undergraduate degree and graduate from law school to practice law.
Abstract thinkers are also creative thinkers. They’re able to conceptualize ideas and bring these ideas into physical existence. For instance, writers create entire stories out of nothingness. The same can be said for painters, illustrators, sculptors and other types of artists. A college education can provide the necessary skills to succeed in a creative career, but many launch their careers with no formal education.