Which Majors Have the Highest Concentrations of Men versus Women?

Posted By Terri Williams on October 16, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Which Majors Have the Highest Concentrations of Men versus Women?

Some college majors – accounting, pharmacology, and marketing and marketing research, to name a few – have a relatively even gender ratio. However, there are several other majors that are either overwhelmingly female – or almost entirely male.

According to a recent Georgetown University study, these are the majors with the most significant gender imbalances, along with the median annual wage estimates for graduates with these degrees:

The top 10 majors with the highest concentration of women

Major % Women % Men Median Annual Wage
Early Childhood Education 97 3 $36,000
Medical Assisting Services 96 4 $56,000
School Student Counseling 94 6 $53,000
Communication Disorders Sciences and Services 94 6 $40,000
Library Science 93 7 $55,000
Family and Consumer Sciences 93 7 $40,000
Nursing 92 8 $60,000
Elementary Education 91 9 $40,000
Nutrition Sciences 89 11 $46,000
Special Needs Education 88 12 $42,000


The top 10 majors with the highest concentration of men

Major % Men % Women Median Annual Wage
Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering 97 3 $82,000
Mechanical Engineering Related Technologies 94 6 $64,000
Military Technologies 93 7 *
Construction Services 92 8 $70,000
Electrical and Mechanical Repairs and Technologies 91 9 $57,000
Nuclear Engineering 91 9 $104,630
Industrial Production Technologies 91 9 $65,000
Mechanical Engineering 90 10 $80,000
Mining and Mineral Engineering 90 10 $80,000
Electrical Engineering Technology 90 10 $68,000

*Sample size was too small to be statistically valid

The majority of female-dominated majors are related to education and healthcare, and – with the exception of nursing and library science – are among some of the lowest-paid majors. On the other hand, the majors with the highest percentage of male students – engineering and industrial arts – are on the higher end of the pay spectrum.

GoodCall spoke with several experts who shared their perspectives on the lopsided gender composition of these majors.


Some women may choose these female-dominated majors because they offer more convenience, according to Jackie Reynolds, who teaches biology at Richland College in Dallas, Texas.

“One reason women choose nursing is that they can opt out of the workforce for a period of time when pregnant – or for whatever reason – and then return to nursing, as well as work part time.” By comparison, Reynolds says taking leave is very difficult to do in a field like engineering, where it’s important to keep up with peers and also keep up with the technical information related to the field.

“It’s true that there is tech information that a nurse needs, but you can learn those skills easily enough when you return on the job,” she explains. “And if you are out of the workforce for a period of time, you can re-take the nursing boards.” She says there are also courses to help returning nurses to re-enter the workforce.

Historical perspective

According to Dr. Shannon Ydoyaga, district director of the Health Careers Resource Center for the Dallas County Community College District, “For many generations, women have been the primary care-givers in the home, and they were encouraged to work in the teaching and healthcare professions, such as nursing. It has only been within the last few decades that we have seen females move into male-dominated areas such as business leadership, engineering and manufacturing types of environments.”

However, Ydoyaga says there has been an increase in male nurses as the healthcare industry begins to understand the importance of diversity, “Not only from a race or ethnicity standpoint, but from all factors of creating a diverse workforce, including gender.”

Dr. Peggy Shadduck, district director of the Dallas County Community College STEM Institute, adds, “There is a complex cultural and social history associated with the roles of men and women in society. That history is a major influence on our gender identities, and therefore some of the decisions we make when we identify with a gender group.”

According to Shadduck, these gender identification decisions are impacted by a society’s economic conditions, religious traditions, and other cultural factors. “Most of us who are in the world of higher education deal with the consequences of this and work to slowly make inroads towards changing the culture,” she says.

Lack of information and exposure

Dr. Callie Babbitt, an Assistant Professor at the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the 
Rochester Institute of Technology, says one key reason female students do not pursue engineering and industrial careers is because they often don’t have a clear understanding of what engineers do or how jobs in these fields directly contribute to solving societal problems. “From an early age, students see the tangible contributions of healthcare and education professions, but may not be aware that engineers are directly involved in creating the clean water we drink, the innovative products we use, and the technology surrounding our every-day lives,” says Babbitt.

Dr. Beena Sukumaran, Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rowan University in Glasboro, New Jersey, agrees. “I think women tend to choose professions based on their perception of the profession and if it is viewed as helping humanity.” She says that education and health assisting are professions that can be easily understood to be nurturing and helping other people and therefore are dominated by women.

“The best way to get more women into male dominated degrees is to emphasize how these professions help humanity,” says Sukumaran. “The descriptions of careers that are male dominated, like engineering, tend to emphasize technology and gadgetry, rather than how those devices can be used for the betterment of society, which would attract more women.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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