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Gender Studies Jobs for 2023: Putting Ideology Into Practice at Work

By Publisher
| Last Updated February 22, 2024

A good-functioning society requires professionals who understand the nuances of individuals and groups that exist within it. Gender theories are challenged and built upon to ensure people are free to live as they identify without unfair stigma or discrimination. Gender studies jobs are an important part of this evolving system, and while the career titles don't always include "gender," these roles are essential to ensuring safe and fair treatment regardless of how a person identifies.

So, what can you do with a gender studies degree? Much more than you probably realize. People with an education in gender theory often work in reliable and good-paying areas like management, teaching, law, office administration, and finance. A 2019 survey showed 60% of people with a culture and gender studies degree were employed in one of those areas. And you don't even need to major in gender studies. Even if you choose to get your degree in another area, some gender-related education can still enhance your appeal to potential employers.

Whether you pursue gender studies, women's studies, men's studies, sexuality studies, queer studies, or something similar, this educational path does not automatically lead to underemployment or low wages. In fact, for those who pursue a cultural or gender studies major, salary expectations tend to be relatively high: On average, people who major in this area of study make $80,099 a year. And as you'll see below, many jobs come with even higher salaries.

Gender studies can help prepare you for a huge variety of careers, including many that let you confront injustice or make a positive impact in other major ways. It could even be a key part of your journey toward becoming a CEO, physician, or judge. So check out the following career examples and learn more about the amazing potential offered by this important but sometimes misunderstood area of study.

A note on grammar: while "gender studies" appears plural, for the purposes of this article, it will be treated as a singular subject. For example, "What is [the subject of] gender studies?" compared to "What are gender studies?" Generally, the singular version will be correct in this context.

What Can You Do With a Gender Studies Degree? Find Awesome Jobs Across Multiple Industries

Smiling professional womanAll kinds of people have achieved professional success thanks largely to their graduate and bachelor's degrees in women's, gender, and sexuality studies. Jobs are widely available for those with the transferable skills you can gain by following this educational path. Gender studies is an interdisciplinary area of study, so it can help many students develop versatility and adaptability that make them stand out to employers. And it often gives them a much broader perspective, which is incredibly useful for recognizing the roots of problems and devising effective solutions.

So, what jobs can you get with a gender studies degree? Here are our top job picks within the most popular career areas for gender studies majors:

Business: Management, Consulting, and Analyzing

Changing times call for changing policies, work environments, communication styles, and plenty of other major aspects of how a business or organization is run. People with a solid understanding of gender issues are necessary to help guide these changes, to ensure that employees, clientele, and consumers are treated with proper respect for their human rights and equality.

Businesses and organizations also need to reach their target audiences, gain attention and respect, build positive reputations, and in many cases, make money. This opens a whole other side of the business field that can be a lot of fun (and lucrative) for the right kinds of enlightened professionals.

Some of the roles worth considering in this field include:

  • Human resources manager
  • Project manager
  • Human services manager
  • Non-profit program director
  • Union organizer
  • Health services manager
  • Event organizer
  • Business consultant
  • Public relations (PR) specialist
  • Media analyst
  • Marketing specialist

Top Career Picks:

1. Human Resources (HR) Manager

Understanding gender-related issues can be extremely valuable when recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and retaining employees. After all, organizations everywhere continue to grapple with things like pay equity, sexual harassment, parental leave, sexism in the workplace, and similar issues. To qualify for a management role, you'll probably need many years of experience as an assistant or specialist in the HR field. But the speaking, organizational, and decision-making skills you gain from gender studies could serve you well in this kind of role.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $126K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $75K- $208K
  • Job growth: 7% (as fast as average)*

2. Business Consultant or Management Analyst

Companies of all sizes often need outside expertise when adapting their business practices to keep up with modern society. Professionals who have a better handle on gender, sexuality, and cultural trends can help ensure proper practices and standards through meaningful consultant and analyst roles.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $93K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $50K- $164K
  • Job growth: 11% (much faster than average)*

3. Marketing Research Analyst

Businesses and advertisers can be considerably out of touch with today's social and cultural realities, and they can use the insights of someone with a background in gender studies. With the right education, you could prove to be extremely useful when marketing products or services in ways that appeal to (and don't marginalize or offend) specific demographics and groups of people.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $64K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $38K- $128K
  • Job growth: 19% (much faster than average)*

Social Services and Healthcare

Happy male nurseWhen it comes to caring for the physical and mental health of others (and ourselves), a solid background in gender studies and sexuality-related topics is crucial. For patients and clients, having healthcare providers who truly understand the nuances of how people are affected by gender and sexuality could make the difference between receiving proper care and slipping between the cracks.

Some of the standout careers in the business of taking care of people include:

  • Social worker
  • Victim advocate
  • Community outreach coordinator
  • Family and relationship therapist
  • Mental health counselor
  • Industrial-organizational psychologist
  • Nurse midwife
  • Registered nurse

Top Career Picks:

1. Social Worker

Whether you want to help children, families, addicts, or people with physical or mental health problems, this field is a great match for gender studies majors. It lets you draw upon a huge variety of skills, not to mention your well-honed understanding of social issues, their causes, and their potential solutions.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's or master's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $50K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $37K- $83K
  • Job growth: 9% (faster than average)*

2. Registered Nurse

Licensed nurses continue to be in demand, and if you already have some education in gender studies, getting into a nursing career where you can let those skills shine may not take that much longer in school. It's possible to qualify for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), which may take you only two years or less to complete. And with your additional training and understanding when it comes to sex and gender issues, you might be able to find specialized roles that can be incredibly fulfilling.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree, associate degree, or diploma
  • Median yearly pay: $78K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $59K- $120K
  • Job growth: 6% (as fast as average)*

3. Mental Health Counselor

Marginalized people are often at higher risk of developing problems such as low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety. As someone with a gender studies background, you could be well-prepared to offer support to women, troubled youth, minorities, or LGBTQ couples and individuals. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but it's a good idea to pursue specialized training or a master's degree and internship in this field.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $49K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $31K- $78K
  • Job growth: 22% (much faster than average)*

Law, Criminal Justice, and Politics

Well-informed and educated professionals are critical to ensuring that all citizens are treated with the same rights and respect, and not persecuted or unfairly affected by gender or sexuality. Finding a meaningful role in this area could mean working on the front lines as a police officer, in the courtroom, or even on the campaign trail.

Jobs that involve championing the rights of marginalized groups or individuals are vital to the cause of creating a society in which everyone is treated with fairness and dignity and has both the opportunity and the means to thrive.

Some of the most notable roles in this area include:

  • Lobbyist
  • Political aide
  • Human rights advocate
  • Judicial law clerk
  • Lawyer
  • Police officer

Top Career Picks:

1. Public Relations (PR) Manager

Do you get fired up thinking about people in power and how they affect laws and other aspects of government related to gender, sexuality, and overall human rights? If you say yes, PR could be a great area to work in. Political representatives, campaigns, and candidates who stand for positive social change need people to effectively and sensitively manage how the public receives them. These professionals work to enhance voters' trust and perception of a candidate or party's authenticity and efficacy. Ultimately, more support equals more power for real social change.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $120K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $60K- $204K
  • Job growth: 8% (faster than average)*

2. Paralegal

Similarly to how politicians need PR specialists to effect change, paralegals are essential to the success of the lawyers and clients they support. Paralegals with some education in gender studies are well-suited to more specialized work that can have a far-reaching and incredibly meaningful impact. This is an especially great option for those who want to advocate for marginalized and victimized people, but don't necessarily want to invest the time and money it takes to become a lawyer.

  • Entry-level education: Associate degree or bachelor's degree plus certificate
  • Median yearly pay: $56K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $36K- $89K
  • Job growth: 14% (much faster than average)*

Media and Communications

Gender studies majors who work in communications and media are responsible for finding and dispensing information accurately, effectively, and fairly. Books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, television shows, movies, and advertisements — how we educate and enrich ourselves — are incredibly diverse and rapidly evolving with emerging technology like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

And we need to have that kind of variety because we all have preferences in how we consume media. Some people rely on trusted bloggers on social media to keep them informed of important political issues, and some prefer a good old-fashioned newspaper. No matter the format, it's important that the media being consumed is created with integrity and authenticity.

Some major career roles in this area include:

  • Writer
  • Communications specialist
  • Journalist
  • Casting director
  • Editor
  • Editorial assistant
  • Camera operator

Top Career Picks:

1. Film and video editor

Editing video and film involves a lot of specialized knowledge and good judgment. Having a good grasp of gender issues in society can be invaluable in this type of role, whether the finished product is meant to communicate unbiased facts, passionate opinions, or artistic expressions. As an editor, you get to be an integral part of how film and video are portrayed to their audiences, which can have a monumental impact on society.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $63K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $37K- $139K
  • Job growth: 12% (much faster than average)*

2. Writer

With a gender studies major, jobs that involve writing should be on your radar. After all, effective written communication is likely to be one of your top skills after completing such a deep yet wide-ranging area of study. Even if you don't want to be an independent author, many good staff opportunities are available in traditional publishing, digital media, and corporate and non-profit environments. You may even want to explore creative writing possibilities related to film or video game development.

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $70K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $39K- $134K
  • Job growth: 4% (as fast as average)*

Education and Teaching

Teaching is one of the most fundamental ways to contribute to gender equity from the ground up. For society to progress, we need those who are more enlightened to pass on their specialized knowledge to others. And we need those who are instructing us to be trustworthy, engaging, and fair.

From preschool to grad school, teachers have meaningful impacts on how students perceive themselves and others, so they must be fair and have a good awareness of gender issues and how they may affect their students. And for those who want to learn about sexuality and gender at the college level, professors with well-rounded experience and knowledge can be the key to confidently earning their degree in gender studies or a related field.

Standout careers in education that incorporate gender studies include:

  • Gender studies professor (postsecondary)
  • Career counsellor
  • School principal
  • Elementary school teacher
  • Middle school teacher
  • High school teacher
  • Special education teacher

Top Career Picks

1. Teacher (K-12)

Your degree in gender studies can serve as a good starting point for becoming a teacher. In fact, getting certified to teach in public schools generally only requires one more year of training. And you'll probably already have the necessary resourcefulness, social perceptiveness, and communication skills. And as social norms change around gender expression and sexuality, teachers with a broader understanding of these areas will be better equipped to guide their students through their formative years.

(The BLS has separate data for elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers, but the values were very similar across those categories. The following is from an average of those three groups.)

  • Entry-level education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median yearly pay: $62K*
  • Low to high-end range of earnings: $46K- $99K
  • Job growth: 4% (as fast as average)*

Why Gender Studies Is Important

Young gender fluid person standing on the sidewalkYou've probably seen or heard the doubters — the people who think that gender studies is an easy, pointless, impractical, or worthless major. Some of them may even believe that you hate men (or feel guilty about your gender if you happen to be male). And some people even feel threatened by this area of study because they feel it promotes too much social complexity. Unfortunately, many people remain ignorant or misinformed about the purpose and benefits of gender studies.

In reality, gender studies is a branch of the social sciences that aims to deeply examine the systemic role that gender has played (and continues to play) in every aspect of our society—from art, literature, and entertainment to law, education, employment, healthcare, and public policy.

Gender studies is an important area of study because it helps us see the world with new eyes—in a way that lets us discover forms of bias, oppression, injustice, or inequality that we may not have recognized before. After all, equality and the freedom to pursue happiness are core American values. Gender studies offers a way for students and scholars to analyze why disparities exist between people based on their gender identities so that reasonable solutions can be proposed for problems caused by those constraints or disparities.

Here are three major issues that illustrate the importance of gender studies:

1. Gender Equality and Equity

By "gender equality," people usually mean that everyone has equal value, so we should all be judged on our merit, not on biological sex or how we identify or express our gender. Equality is everyone having equal rights and access to the same opportunities, not some antiquated binary concept of male vs. female.

Gender equity goes a bit further than that. With gender equity, everyone has more than just access to the same opportunities — they also have the means to take advantage of those opportunities (and achieve equal outcomes) based on their particular needs. It's a concept rooted in the reality that a single solution may not account for all individual differences between people of different genders or gender identities.

So, can you see how gender studies helps us identify opportunities to create a fairer world where everyone can thrive and reach their unique potential? It's a path of study that strengthens your ability to logically question and interpret proposed or existing laws, workplace policies, healthcare regulations, cultural practices, and much more. It can even have a meaningful impact on your own sense of identity and personal relationships.

2. Masculinity vs. Femininity

Even biological sex is not completely binary. (Intersex people have genetic and/or other biological characteristics of both sexes. And the medical standards used for assigning biological gender can be somewhat arbitrary, sometimes using social norms rather than biological reasons to determine someone's sex—such as whether a person would be able to pee while standing up.)

Consider some of the cultural standards that most of us take for granted, such as what we associate with being either masculine or feminine. How might your view of yourself and your relationships change if you more closely examined long-held stereotypes about males and females? Do all your physical traits, personality characteristics, and abilities fit neatly into just one side of the masculine-feminine dichotomy? (Hint: probably not.)

Examples of traditional masculine qualities include:

  • Aggression
  • Ambition
  • Assertiveness
  • Competitiveness
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Hard work
  • Insensitivity
  • Financial smarts
  • Leadership
  • Rejection of emotions
  • Repair abilities
  • Risk-taking
  • Self-reliance
  • Short hair
  • Strength

Traditional feminine qualities are altogether different. They include examples like:

  • Beauty
  • Caretaking abilities
  • Charm
  • Compassion
  • Cooperativeness
  • Elegance
  • Empathy
  • Gentleness
  • Long hair
  • Nurturance
  • Passiveness
  • Sensitivity
  • Submissiveness
  • Tolerance

Nobody is perfectly masculine or feminine. Depending on the circumstances, we each display qualities from both lists. So, for example, even though female is a gender traditionally (and often wrongly) associated with being submissive, it's easy to find plenty of women who are confident leaders. It's also normal for a lot of men to show empathy and emotion. Plus, what about androgynous people (i.e., those with a balance of both male and female characteristics)?

Through gender studies, we can understand why many traditional stereotypes persist and intelligently question whether it truly makes sense to separate general human traits into the rigid categories of masculinity and femininity. And we can move toward a better understanding of how many of these traditional ideas can be harmful to us and those around us. The concept of "toxic masculinity" is an excellent example of how some conventional notions of what it means to be a man are being questioned and challenged.

3. Gender Roles

Since everyone displays qualities that could be considered masculine or feminine, it's reasonable to ask why we should expect people to adhere to certain gender roles based on cultural stereotypes. After all, gender roles are not fully dictated by our biology. (However, hormone levels when we're in the womb may impact our future behavior and the preferences we develop.) Mostly, we learn gender roles by growing up in a world where we are socially conditioned through:

  • The guidance and expectations of our parents
  • Playful and non-playful interactions with friends, family members, and school peers
  • Entertainment such as films, books, television, video games, magazines, and social media
  • Observations of other people's behavior when we're out in the community
  • Classroom and extracurricular experiences
  • Religious or cultural customs

That's why many researchers theorize that gender is an identity formed as much by our social and cultural experiences as by our biology. Gender studies gives us the tools to analyze why this theory may be true. And it helps us imagine new paradigms in which gender roles are more fluid or nonexistent. (For example, picture a world in which nobody would ever question a man for being a stay-at-home dad or doing all the cooking while his wife looks after the finances and goes to work each day as a master electrician.)

"Gender aschematic" is a term used to describe people whose actions are not driven by social or cultural stereotypes about gender. It's an ideal in which people don't have gender-based biases and are not categorized according to their biological sex, human traits, preferences, or ambitions. It's the opposite of a "gender schematic" paradigm, which is what we currently have according to researchers who still subscribe to one of the most influential theories of the late Sandra Bem, an American psychologist. Gender schema theory is just one of the many fascinating subjects you may learn about by majoring in gender studies.

What You Can Learn About

Gender neutral bathroom signIn gender studies, you study how biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality intersect with national and international cultures, social customs, public policies, and more. You even study how issues of gender converge with issues like race, nationality, and disability. You discover that, in every society, the role of gender is complex and deeply rooted.

But you also discover that the concept of gender (and the role it plays) has evolved throughout history, continues to evolve, and varies significantly from culture to culture and person to person. For instance, did you know that the Navajo people believe there are four genders? That's just one example of the wide variety of non-binary gender systems other cultures have traditionally adopted.

So your studies will be highly interdisciplinary, meaning you'll take courses in various subjects. For example, most gender studies programs will enable you to explore topics like:

  • Anthropology
  • Art history
  • Biology
  • Ethics
  • Feminist theory
  • Geography
  • Health
  • History
  • Human development
  • Human sexuality
  • Language
  • Law
  • Literature
  • Modern media
  • Philosophy
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Religion
  • Sociology

The breadth and complexity of this area of study are part of its appeal. There's an almost endless variety of fascinating topics to dig into. Even something as seemingly simple as the origin of our modern concept of gender turns out to be more complex and exciting than most people expect.

For example, some people say that, in 1955, sexologist John Money "invented" the term gender as it is commonly used today (i.e., as a social or cultural role distinct from biological sex). However, there's evidence that other scholars in the social sciences explored this use of the term before then. Plus, "gender" (or its equivalent) has been used for centuries to refer to masculine, feminine, or neutral grammatical categories in various languages. So it's impossible to attribute the word to any single individual.

Closely related to gender studies, a queer studies major is an educational path that involves exploring how the subjects mentioned above intersect with gender identity or sexual orientation. Also known as LGBTQ studies or sexual diversity studies, it's a path for those interested in learning more about issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and asexual cultures and individuals.

What You Can Become Good At

A gender studies degree can lead to a wide variety of transferable skills. Sure, you probably won't find many jobs that explicitly require a gender studies degree, but as you've already seen in the career examples above, that's not the point. Your goal should be to graduate with skills you can apply to opportunities that come with all kinds of different job titles. Then, promote the heck out of those skills. Never sell yourself short.

Here are some examples of what gender studies majors often become very good at:

  • Analyzing information
  • Comprehending written materials
  • Conducting presentations
  • Discussing controversial subjects
  • Instructing others
  • Learning independently
  • Listening
  • Making decisions
  • Managing time
  • Organizing large amounts of information
  • Perceiving social cues
  • Persuading others
  • Providing insights about issues related to diversity
  • Recognizing disparities and inequities
  • Researching
  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Solving complex problems
  • Speaking publicly
  • Thinking critically and creatively
  • Understanding differences
  • Using good judgment
  • Verifying facts
  • Working cooperatively with others
  • Writing

Where You Can Work

Here's the truth: Your options are practically limitless. This area of study provides such a broad foundation of knowledge and transferable skills that it's probably easier to imagine where you can't work. Hopefully, the occupational examples above have already given you a great idea of the vast potential. A lot depends on your particular interests, ambitions, and willingness to explore unfamiliar options or earn advanced credentials.

So, what can you do with a women's studies degree or an education in gender or sexuality studies? Depending on your level of education or any additional training you pursue, you can work in almost any industry or career sector, including:

  • Arts
  • Business
  • Community development
  • Counseling
  • Criminal justice
  • Education
  • Filmmaking
  • Healthcare
  • Human resources
  • International trade
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Non-profit services
  • Politics
  • Public administration and government services
  • Publishing or digital media
  • Research and development
  • Social work
  • Sports and recreation
  • Technology

Follow Your Heart

Remember: If you major in gender studies, jobs may exist in more industries than you realize. So do what makes you happy and what you feel passionate about. You get to define your own success. And don't forget that all kinds of convenient vocational training options are available for busy adults who want to build on their existing degrees or get skills for a new career path.

* Unless otherwise noted, salary information is based on May 2021 data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. Job growth estimates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are for the 2021 to 2031 period.