Best Paying College Majors for Women in 2014

The gap between what women and men make is narrowing, with these college majors leading to some of the higher-paying jobs for women

By Andy Gotlieb
Posted 2014

Explore College Majors for Women that Pay Well
Explore College Majors for Women that Pay Well

Women traditionally have received lower salaries than men – the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77% of what full-time male employees make.

That gap has slowly narrowed over time, but women must take steps to fight that discrepancy. And one of the single most beneficial things a woman can do is to get a good education.

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While an associate’s degree can pay dividends, a bachelor’s or master’s degree tends to pay for itself over time in salary earned, not to mention the number of job opportunities created.

A full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn 84% more over their lifetime than someone with just a high school education, according to “What it’s Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors,” a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study reported that women are most heavily concentrated in education and health majors. For example, 97% of all early childhood education majors are women, as are 96% of medical assisting services majors and 94% of communications disorders sciences and services majors.

Unfortunately, these are some of the lower paying majors, with early childhood education majors earning a median salary of just $36,000

That said, there are several majors which pay much higher salaries for women and offer strong career prospects. 

Best College Majors for Women 

Pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and administration. This leads to a career as a pharmaceutical scientist, with time spent in a laboratory discovering and learning how compounds interact with disease-causing cells and organisms.

Pharmaceutical scientist investigate how the human body interacts with the compounds, with the goal being to discover if they can become new drugs.

The median salary for women in this field is $100,000, according to the Georgetown study.

Pharmaceutical science programs will have a strong bent toward mathematics, biology, chemistry and the scientific process. Students may decide early on to focus on a particular element of the drug development cycle, such as discovery, development or manufacturing.

Information sciences. These majors combine computer science technical expertise with the social sciences in the study of how people and societies study and respond to information.

In this emerging field, students may study – among many choices -- Web environments, cyber finance, human-computer interaction, social networks, artificial intelligence and digital libraries.

Women with a degree in information science earn a median salary of $75,000, the Georgetown study said.

Chemical engineering. A chemical engineer studies the fundamental sciences of physics, chemistry and biology, as well as mathematical and computer techniques and basic engineering principles.

With this background, a chemical engineer is versatile and can work in a number of fields, including chemicals, biochemicals, petroleum, materials, microelectronics, environmental, food processing, consumer products, consulting and project management.

Female chemical engineers received a median salary of $86,000, as per the Georgetown study.

Computer Science. What exactly is computer science? According to Princeton University, “Computer science is the systematic study of information and our interaction with it. What energy is to physics, information is to computer science. It is about how we represent it, how we store it, how we manipulate it and how we present it.”

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An advantage of the computer science major is the flexibility both in terms of potential careers and as it relates to coursework. Typical coursework will include theory, information systems and applications, but beyond that there are wide range of electives.

Computer science majors can expect to earn a median salary of $70,000, according to the Georgetown study.

These four majors described above are just the tip of the iceberg, with electrical engineering; mechanical engineering; industrial and manufacturing engineering; computer engineering; business economics; and civil engineering all offering median salaries for women of at least $62,000.

The key is getting that education.

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