25 best-paying jobs for women

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In the past 30 years, the wage gap between men and women has narrowed considerably. In 1979, the year the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking salary information by gender, women earned just 62 percent of what men did. Earlier this year, the BLS reported that, in the fourth quarter of 2011, that figure had risen nearly 20 percent. Women now earn an average of 81.6 cents for every dollar men do.

But in a time when women make up close to half of the workforce and are graduating from college at a higher rate than men, why is there still a nearly 20 percent difference in earnings?

There are a number of reasons the pay gap persists. Women are more likely to work part time and less likely to negotiate their salaries, for example.

Perhaps the biggest factor? Women make up a smaller percentage of the workforce in high-paying careers such as engineering, computer science and finance than men. According to the BLS, for example, “In 2008, only 9 percent of female professionals were employed in the high-paying computer and engineering fields, compared with 45 percent of male professionals.” Additional research from Bloomberg BusinessWeek found that, among business school graduates, men were more likely to pursue high-paying fields such as finance and consulting, while women were more likely to choose lower-paying careers in human resources and marketing.

“Women often pursue careers like social work, publishing, nonprofit and education where the pay is historically lower than in fields like finance and engineering,” says Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” “Even in medicine, more men will become surgeons, whereas female physicians tend to pursue dermatology or internal medicine, which also tend to offer lower compensation.”

That’s not a bad thing; research has shown that women are more likely to choose work they find interesting and fulfilling over work that is lucrative. From a purely financial standpoint, we wondered what careers would narrow the wage gap if more women pursued them. According to the BLS, these 25 jobs are the ones that give women the most earning potential.

1. Pharmacists 
Median weekly earnings: $1,898*

2. Lawyers 
Median weekly earnings: $1,631

3. Computer and information systems managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,543

4. Physicians and surgeons
Median weekly earnings: $1,527

5. Chief executives
Median weekly earnings: $1,464

6. Nurse practitioners
Median weekly earnings: $1,432

7. Software developers
Median weekly earnings: $1,388

8. Operations research analysts
Median weekly earnings: $1,326

9. Human resources managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,273

10. Psychologists 
Median weekly earnings: $1,244

11. Computer programmers
Median weekly earnings: $1,238

12. Physical therapists
Median weekly earnings: $1,216

13. Occupational therapists
Median weekly earnings: $1,193

14. Management analysts
Median weekly earnings: $1,174

15. Physical scientists
Median weekly earnings: $1,167

16. Medical and health services managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,166

17. Computer systems analysts
Median weekly earnings: $1,144

18. Architecture and engineering 
Median weekly earnings: $1,140

19. Marketing and sales managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,127

20. Medical scientists  
Median weekly earnings: $1,127

21. Postsecondary teachers and professors  
Median weekly earnings: $1,093

22. Speech-language pathologists
Median weekly earnings: $1,076

23. Education administrators 
Median weekly earnings: $1,061

24. Managers, all other 
Median weekly earnings: $1,047

25. Registered nurses
Median weekly earnings: $1,034

*Based on BLS data from 2011

  1. Sorry Kaitlin to disagree with you, it is not the first time I do, and I thought I would leave you a note here. My wife is an architect and she never earned anything close to what men are paid and was never given the opportunity for advancement like men. In short, a male-pig-shauvinist society is still ruling out there. Worst than that, she was even among the first layed off at the beginning of the recession and architecture took a hard hit, since it all went down due to the housing market, and it hasent’ yet picked back up. I found it outrageously disgusting that openly women don’t earn as much as men, and it is nothing else than due to the fact that the society has been created by men for men, and many men still occupy key positions and are blocking the way to many women. Add to this the fact that many families still think that the place of a woman is in the kitchen and at home to take care of the children and house, and you have it. Some of these “trends’ are even found deep in many “religious cultures” as there too men are all important and empowered supposedly by God. It is time to push things back into their place. Real equality will come when there will be a woman Presiden, a women Pope,and why not a female God (“the unique God”). The only reason I see why women are not getting paid like men, is because men are usually the bosses, are self-centered, and very few are feminist.

  2. The research is grossly mis-informed.  I am a female professional in the field of engineering (I wish to stay annonymous to protect my career potential).  I find the largest reason that women do not make it very far in this field is the continuous discouragement by the established male dominated hierarchy in engineering, construction, etc.. fields.  I regularly run into older male executives who can’t comprehend a female having the aptitude and somehow feel their manhood is threatened by a female who can succeed in the profession.  They react in defense and automatically focus on promoting from the good ol’ boys club.  Male employees are recognized with continual career development in more challenging tasks.  While the female employees are shuffled off into support positions, i.e. clerk, human resources or proposal writing.  It isn’t that the woman wishes any less than her male counterparts to go farther, it is the social belief that these positions are where women are more ‘comfortable’ and therefore belong.  I continually find myself being compared to the receptionist by higher management.  They continually seem to appear suprised that I wish to go farther and am not satisfied doing the grunt work for a male counterpart who has less seniority in the company.  Of course I am catching on to the technical aspects faster than the other women on the team, I have an engineering degree.  Why am I not being compared to my counterparts?  Why am I not compared to peers of my profession?  It usually boils down to one fact; I am the only female among roughly 30 males (as an estimate of company statistics).  With a long entrenched male corporate hierarchy there is little to be done.  Those above who are moving the pieces around the board and up the ladder feel I would be more ‘comfortable’ in a support role, regardless of my performance to the contrary.  As time goes on the female employees top out at what the company will allow them to do.  So you either accept the role the company has chosed for you, i.e. as human resources, to continue at your pay rate and benefits; or you quit the company and move on to something else.  Probably something in a field more socially acceptable as a ‘comfortable’ role for females where your contribution and potential will be recognized.  You don’t agree?  Why else would a 30 something female with a degree in engineering be working as human resources?  Typically those good with engineering are good with numbers not people.

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