Women Are Designing Their Education with Salary in Mind

October 7, 2019
Author: Stephanie Ludwigsen

Because women have the benefit of hindsight and historical precedent, they are savvier about the careers that will place them in the best financial position. By identifying jobs that equate to higher wages, women can reverse engineer their career paths to pinpoint the right course of college study.

Women are Designing Their Education With Salary as Top Criteria

Job Variables

As of 2019, more women are attending college than ever before. For women born between 1980 and 1984, 78.3 percent have attended college, compared to just 67.3 percent of men. Still, even with higher education and the fact that they make up 46.6 percent of the overall labor force, women earn less than men.

While a woman’s average annual earnings hover at about 81 percent of what a man earns, the gap contracts or expands depending on the profession. For example, female chief executives earn about 70 percent of what male chief executives make, but that percentage rises to 75.7 for human resource professions, 80 percent for lawyers, 84.6 percent for architects, and 86.8 percent for software developers.

Major Matters

Researchers from the Becker Friedman Institute found that college educated women born in the 1950s selected majors that earned wages that were 12.5 percent lower than their male peers. For women born in 1990, that number shrinks to 9.5 percent.

In other words, more women today are setting up their education to pursue careers with greater earnings potential.

In their report, “A Cross-Cohort Analysis of Human Capital Specialization and the College Gender Wage Gap,” published in October 2019, the researchers write: “College major choice has strong predictive power in explaining gender wage gaps independent of occupation choice. These trends arise in an era where both labor force participation of women and the fraction of women that have graduated from universities has increased dramatically, fundamentally changing the composition of the educated workforce.”

Higher-paying Jobs

For women, jobs in healthcare, public relations, education, research, financial services, psychology and law offer some of the highest wages across all industries. While a college degree correlates to higher earnings, this doesn’t mean those earnings are the same among men and women. (other data shows that there is a strong income gap between men and women over the course of a lifetime.)

The wage gap, while shrinking, still tilts towards favoring men. However, there is a small group of careers that typically pay women more than men. These include conservation scientist, phlebotomist, computer network architects and dieticians/nutritionists.

For women, the choice of college major will continue to have an impact that reverberates throughout their professional careers. Not everyone focuses on wages as an end goal, but for those who do, guiding women to consider the college majors in industries paying the most is a good place to start.