Despite the claims that men and women are equal in today's society, our paychecks still show a difference. Nationwide, women are making 77 cents to the dollar compared to men in the same job for workers over 16 (though it does drop to 71 cents for women and men over 25 and college-educated). That's rather discouraging to those of us still in college or just beginning our careers. Still, many jobs out there still provide a very healthy salary for women as well as men. Choose your major wisely, and you can prepare yourself for one of the best-paying jobs for women.
Chemistry and biology your thing? Then you're in luck. Pharmacy is the best-paying job for women, paying on average $1,647 per week, according to a CareerBuilder.com survey. Yes, pharmacy school will put you back a few years and many tens of thousands of dollars, but your paycheck after you're employed will quickly compensate you.
If you'd rather work with the human body instead of medicine, you'll still be taking home a nice check. Female physicians, surgeons, physician's assistants, physical therapists, and registered nurses all earn on average over $1,000 per week.
Have a keen business sense and want to run your own company? An undergrad business degree is fine, but an MBA or a doctorate will help you earn about $10,000 to $20,000 more per year. Business is the ideal field to work your way up the ladder to a bigger paycheck even if you don't have a college degree, but you may be in trouble if you lose your job during your ascent.
Experts argue whether experience or education is more important when seeking a job. This article on CareerRookie.com tells of people who worked their way up from entry-level positions without a degree that couldn't find a job after being laid off. Their experience made them overqualified for entry level positions, but their education left them under qualified for anything but entry level.
Others didn't have trouble. It's a gamble. Play it safe, though, and get the degree. Companies won't refuse you an interview just because you are a college graduate, but they could turn you down without that diploma.
Angela Braly, CEO and President of WellPoint, Inc., is a prime example of a woman who has made the most of her business education. She has a bachelor's degree in finance from Texas Tech and earned her juris doctor from Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law.
She told Money College that her original plan in undergrad was to pursue banking, but "every business course seemed somewhat incomplete, because behind many of the business issues was a legal requirement." So she immediately went to law school to further her education. Now, as CEO, she is one of the most powerful women in the world, according to Forbes. She credits her teachers as well as her family for shaping her as a business person.
Computer science and engineering are also majors that can leave women rolling in the dough. Computer software engineers, computer and information systems managers, computer scientists, and systems analysts are all high-paying careers. Systems engineers can have a starting salary near $50,000 with promise for growth and promotion. But you'll be the minority in your engineering classes.
While women make up approximately 56% of the nation's college students, they haven't yet fully embraced the majors with most promising futures. Consider schools like MIT, Georgia Tech, and Purdue University, all known for producing professionals in science, mathematics, and engineering. But the student bodies at these schools are overwhelmingly male.
Women make up 42% of the student body at Purdue University's main campus in West Lafayette, Ind., and account for 37% of science students, 18.5% of engineering students, and only 13% of technology students. These numbers have held relatively stable for the past decade, too. Georgia Tech only offers majors in architecture, computing, and engineering, and its student body is 23% female.
It can be rather intimidating to be one of only a few female students in a lecture hall full of men, but it doesn't have to be a bad thing. A few women who chose male-dominated majors at Louisiana State University said that being the minority pushed them to perform better in the classroom to prove they could compete with the men. One woman also mentioned that the professors were more likely to know her name because being a woman made her stand out.
Braly said about half of her classmates in law school were female and doesn't believe she missed any opportunities because she is a woman. "I have not had to face what is often thought of as a 'glass ceiling,' but I do believe there are invisible hurdles that are often unseen by men; they are real and they force women to make choices throughout their careers," Braly told Money College.
You'll also have the upper hand when searching for a job in these traditionally male-dominated fields. Female engineers, doctors, computer scientists, and other science- or technology-driven careers are highly desired by employers because of the diversity they offer the company. You may have less competition if you're one of few women qualified for the job, which will help when negotiating a salary.
Don't let your sex determine what you can and cannot do. Choose a major based on your strengths, not what society says women should do. Your college offers many resources to you from career services to professors' own advice. "Talk to your professors about the things you are interested in doing and how that might lead you to the right career," Braly said. "Your career is not going to be a single straight line – you have to be open to new possibilities."
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