© 2015 American Physical Society. The effects of electron-electron correlations on the low-energy electronic structure and their relationship with unconventional superconductivity are central aspects in the research on iron-based pnictide superconductors. Here we use soft x-ray angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to study how electronic correlations evolve in different chemically substituted iron pnictides. We find that correlations are intrinsically related to the effective filling of the correlated orbitals, rather than to the filling obtained by valence counting. Combined density functional theory and dynamical mean-field theory calculations capture these effects, reproducing the experimentally observed trend in the correlation strength. The occupation-driven trend in the electronic correlation reported in our paper supports and extends the recently proposed connection between cuprate and pnictide phase diagrams.