34 Terrific Gender Studies Jobs That Prove the Doubters Wrong
Yes, you can thrive by majoring in gender studies. Jobs for people with this kind of education exist in plenty of different fields and industries. You just have to ignore the skeptics, home in on your strengths, and move forward with confidence and a practical understanding of your career possibilities. The more you know about your potential options and real capabilities, the easier it will be to find great opportunities and rise above other job candidates.
So, what can you do with a gender studies degree? Much more than you probably realize. Despite the popularity of a gender studies meme that implies you'll trade your graduation cap for a McDonald's hat, your future will likely be a lot more exciting, meaningful, and prosperous than that. After all, you're not a stereotype. And many of the negative stereotypes about this area of study are just plain wrong.
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 about $78,000 a year.1 And as you'll see below, many jobs come with even higher salaries.
You're about to discover that gender studies can help prepare you for a huge variety of careers—including many that allow you to 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.
- 23 awesome jobs to pursue with a bachelor's degree in gender studies
- 11 great careers to pursue with a graduate degree or special training
- Why gender studies is important
- What you can learn about
- What you can become good at
- Where you can work
The salaries below are based on national estimates, rounded to the nearest thousand. Unless otherwise noted, they represent median yearly wages.
23 Awesome Jobs to Pursue With a Bachelor's Degree in Gender Studies
All kinds of people have achieved professional success thanks, in large part, to their 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. In fact, since it's an interdisciplinary area of study, gender studies helps many students become more versatile and adaptable than other career seekers. And it often gives them a much broader perspective, something that's incredibly useful for recognizing the roots of problems and devising effective solutions.
So, what jobs can you get with a gender studies degree at the bachelor's level? By identifying and promoting your top strengths and most employable skills, you may be able to obtain jobs like:
1. Human Resources (HR) Manager—$113K2
Understanding gender-related issues can be extremely valuable when it comes to 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 in the HR field as an assistant or specialist. But the speaking, organizational, and decision-making skills you gain from gender studies could serve you well in this kind of role.
2. Project Manager—$74K3
Among many other skills, an education in gender studies can make you good at cooperating with diverse people, organizing a complex assortment of detailed information, and keeping track of the big picture. That's why you might excel in jobs that involve project management. All kinds of progressive companies and non-profit organizations need people with that combination of skills and social and cultural expertise.
3. Business Consultant—$73K3
Many companies—both large and small—have a hard time adapting their business practices to the changes occurring in our society. They often rely on the perspective of outside professionals who have a better handle on issues related to gender, sexuality, and cultural trends. So you may be able to find (or generate) some pretty meaningful consultancy jobs. (Gender studies is more relevant to the business world than many people realize.)
Do you care a lot about the impacts that certain laws and public policies have on women or the LGBTQ community? Why not channel that passion into a career in which you get to convince politicians to support actions that make America more inclusive and better for everyone? Students who major in gender studies are often known for their ability to talk about controversial topics and persuade others.
5. Human Services Manager—$65K2
Some of the most rewarding women's and gender studies jobs are in the field of social and community services. That's because this type of work requires traits like tolerance and good judgment, as well as the ability to recognize disparities, perceive social cues, and find the best resources and individualized solutions for a diverse range of people. You'll need a bit of experience in the field in order to move into a management role.
6. Marketing Specialist—$63K2
Do you ever wonder how certain businesses and advertisers can be so hopelessly out of touch with today's social and cultural realities? They obviously need the insights that someone like you can provide. A background in gender studies could prove to be extremely useful when it comes to marketing products or services in ways that appeal to particular groups of people.
With a gender studies major, jobs that involve writing should definitely 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.
8. Public Relations Specialist—$60K2
Public perception seems to be more important than ever. But many organizations and public figures continue to make mistakes or show a general lack of social or cultural awareness. That's where you can come in. Your greater understanding of the world can be used to help educate clients, employers, or even the general public. And you can help those you work for develop and maintain reputations that are more favorable within today's society.
9. Communications Specialist—$51K3
In this type of role, you can use your writing and speaking abilities to help manage an organization's external communications. But you can also help craft and distribute important internal communications, which may deal with sensitive topics such as sexual harassment, discrimination, or other issues that you probably care about.
10. Event Organizer—$49K2
Your community might have all kinds of great organizations that support worthy social causes. And many of them probably host events to celebrate successes, solicit public support, or get their messages out. Why not use your organizational skills to help plan and coordinate such events? (For example, with an "LGBT degree," you can help organize pride festivals in your region or create job fairs or networking events for marginalized people in your community.)
11. Social Worker—$45K to $63K2
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 allows you to draw upon a huge variety of skills, not to mention your well-honed understanding of social issues, their causes, and their potential solutions.
Do you have a real interest in current events and a yearning to help inform the public? Gender studies can make you good at researching, writing, verifying facts, analyzing information, thinking critically, and many other skills that are necessary for being a great journalist. You could even specialize in covering particular topics of interest, such as LGBTQ or women's issues.
13. Political Aide—$32K (average)4
This won't come as any big surprise, but politicians don't know everything. They need smart people on their teams who are well-educated on as many subjects as possible and can provide timely and intelligent insights about issues affecting their constituents. So people with gender studies degrees are often a great fit for this type of work.
14. Casting Director—$69K3
Hollywood has a long history of assigning women to the same types of stereotypical roles in movies and TV shows. Actors with non-conforming gender identities have also struggled to get good roles. But that's starting to change thanks to the courage of more progressive writers, producers, directors, agents, and other professionals. That's why, with a women's studies degree, you can get a job that involves recruiting and hiring actors (of every gender and gender identity) for film or TV projects that more accurately represent our diverse society. Of course, it helps to have some training related to film production.
Along with great writing skills, many gender studies majors have good judgment and the ability to verify facts, make well-reasoned decisions, organize information, and stay focused on the bigger picture. That's why a lot of good editors—in both traditional and non-traditional media—have come from this type of educational background.
16. Media Analyst—$72K (average)4
Like public relations specialists, media analysts are often involved in managing the reputations of organizations or specific brands. So they need to know how people of different social identities are portrayed in traditional and online media, including social media. Of course, analytical skills are also needed in this occupation, something that gender studies graduates often have in spades.
17. Non-Profit Program Director—$55K3
Do you long to make a positive difference in the world for marginalized people? All kinds of non-profit agencies, foundations, crisis centers, health clinics, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need well-educated professionals to manage and oversee their programs. A gender studies education offers a great starting point for this type of career.
18. Union Organizer—$52K3
Unions may not be as abundant or powerful as they once were, but that could all change as new political trends emerge. Besides, workers in many industries still have a lot to fight for, such as pay equity, parental leave, and equal opportunities. That's why gender or women's studies is a good major for anyone who wants to help unions boost or maintain their status as bulwarks against the pitfalls of greed and capitalism.
19. Judicial Law Clerk—$54K2
With a career in legal assistance and criminal justice, you can do your part to help ensure that marginalized people get a fair shake in the court system. Along with your social and cultural insights, the research, writing, and organizational skills you develop as a gender studies major can be put to great use as an essential assistant to judges.
20. Human Rights Advocate—$49K (average)4
This type of work is one of the most meaningful things you can do with a gender studies degree. 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.
21. Community Outreach Coordinator—$41K3
Whether you want to promote public health, evaluate the needs of marginalized people in your community, or increase public awareness of a particular cause, this type of role allows you to do a lot of good. And most of the skills you need are the same ones you can develop as a gender studies major.
22. Editorial Assistant—$36K3
You don't have to jump straight into being a writer or editor in order to start contributing to the work of a great media outlet. If you have a gender studies background, being an editorial assistant can be a perfect way to refine some of your skills and begin forming your own voice and vision based on what you care most about.
23. Victim Advocate—$35K3
Here's another great way to help make the criminal justice system work for everyone. With your ability to listen, communicate, perceive social cues, and recognize disparities, you can help victims of domestic violence or other crimes obtain the resources and assistance they need in order to leave bad situations or put their lives back together.
11 Great Careers to Pursue With a Graduate Degree or Special Training
With additional education, you can earn more money and/or take advantage of a broader variety of potential gender studies jobs. Salary expectations definitely rise if you get a master's degree, PhD, or professional degree. And your graduate education can be in almost any area of study. That's because gender studies can provide a good foundation for all kinds of advanced areas of study—even law and medicine.
Of course, you don't necessarily need to pursue a graduate degree in order to expand your opportunities. A bachelor's degree in gender studies can also serve as a good starting point for careers that may just require a little bit of focused vocational training.
Take a look at these examples:
Gender or women's studies provides a great base of knowledge for pursuing an education and career in nursing. This occupation, a special type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), is particularly well-suited for those who want to make a difference in the lives of women. Of course, you'll need to become a licensed registered nurse (RN) first, gain some experience, and earn a master's degree. But then you can help people plan their families, provide prenatal care, and even deliver babies.
2. Health Services Manager—$100K2
Also known as a healthcare coordinator or administrator, this kind of professional gets to oversee and direct a medical facility, physicians' office, or hospital department. That's a lot of responsibility, but this career provides the opportunity to help ensure that everyone—regardless of gender, sexual orientation, social stature, or identity—receives timely and effective care in accordance with the law and relevant regulations. Pairing your gender studies degree with a bachelor's or master's degree in health management or administration is a good way to qualify for this field.
From employee morale to sensitive issues like sexism or sexual harassment, this type of psychology professional helps organizations develop solutions for all kinds of workplace-related problems. Gender studies can give you a wide base of relevant skills that you can build on by getting a master's degree or PhD in this field.
4. Registered Nurse—$72K2
Licensed nurses continue to be in high demand. And you may need less additional education than you think. In fact, 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. Plus, with a background in gender studies, you can begin your nursing career with much more knowledge to draw upon than a lot of other nurses.
5. Police Officer—$61K2
Most urban communities are full of diversity. But that diversity can represent a real challenge for people in law enforcement who don't have much background knowledge about social disparities or cultural inequities. That's why people with gender studies degrees can be very valuable members of city police departments. And becoming a police officer doesn't usually require that much extra training, especially compared to what it may have taken to earn your degree.
6. Teacher (K-12)—$55K to $60K2
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.
7. Family and Relationship Therapist—$50K2
Issues related to gender and sexuality play a big role in many relationship problems. That's why majoring in gender studies is often a terrific way to prepare for a graduate education in this field. With a master's degree, you can qualify for a license to practice.
8. Mental Health Counselor—$45K2
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.
You probably care a lot about civil rights. So why not use your gender studies degree as a launching point for an education and career in law? That way, you can make a practical difference in the efforts to protect the rights and freedoms of people who may be marginalized in our communities. You'll need to earn a law degree and pass your state's bar exam.
10. Gender Studies Professor—$74K2
Some people mistakenly believe that this is the only possible job for someone who majors in gender studies. Obviously, they are wrong—as you can see from this article. Still, teaching college students about issues of gender and sexuality can definitely be one of the most rewarding jobs in gender studies. You'll need a PhD.
Do you have an interest in preserving important historical records and documents? Imagine having a job in which you get to help safeguard records related to aspects of history like the civil rights movement or women's suffrage. Through gender studies, you learn a lot about history, but you also gain skills that many archivists use every day. You'll likely need a master's degree in an area like history, political science, archival science, or public administration.
Why Gender Studies Is Important
You'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, a lot of 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 men, women, transgender people, and intersex individuals 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 our particular biological sex or how we identify or express our gender. Equality doesn't necessarily mean that a perfect 50-50 ratio of males and females must exist in every part of society. It's simply about everyone having equal rights and access to the same opportunities.
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 of the 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 in which everyone can thrive and reach their unique potential? It's a path of study that hones 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 as well as on your personal relationships.
2. Masculinity vs. Femininity
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 of 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:
- Hard work
- Financial smarts
- Rejection of emotions
- Repair abilities
- Short hair
Traditional feminine qualities are altogether different. They include examples like:
- Caretaking abilities
- Long hair
Obviously, 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 who clearly have 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.
After all, 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.)5
3. Gender Roles
Since everyone displays both masculine and feminine qualities, it's reasonable to ask why we should expect people to adhere to certain gender roles that are 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 have some impact on 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 don't exist at all. (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
In 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 that other cultures have traditionally adopted.
So your studies will be highly interdisciplinary, meaning you'll take courses in a wide range of subjects. For example, most gender studies programs will enable you to explore subjects like:
- Art history
- Feminist theory
- Human development
- Human sexuality
- Modern media
- Political science
The breadth and complexity of this area of study is one of the most appealing things about it. 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 interesting 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 many 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 who are 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
People who doubt the value of a gender studies degree often point out that this area of study tends to be associated with a higher-than-average rate of unemployment. That may be true, but it doesn't tell the full story. After all, plenty of graduates—from every field of study—fail to make use of what they've learned or recognize the opportunities that may be available to them. In many cases, it's simply a matter of not knowing how to identify and promote the skills they've acquired. That's why, similar to the great opportunities you can find with a philosophy degree, jobs for gender studies grads can be found in a much wider-ranging number of fields than just academia.
When it comes to gender studies, the unemployment rate is a little hard to pinpoint. However, as of February 2019, it most likely falls somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.6 percent (for interdisciplinary studies and general social sciences).6 That means more than 95 percent of people with that type of major actually land jobs.
So as you consider a gender studies major, think about the wide variety of transferable skills you can gain. 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
- 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
- Seeing the bigger picture
- Solving complex problems
- Speaking publicly
- Thinking critically and creatively
- Understanding differences
- Using good judgment
- Verifying facts
- Working cooperatively with others
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 really just 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:
- Community development
- Criminal justice
- Health care
- Human resources
- International trade
- Non-profit services
- Public administration and government services
- Publishing or digital media
- Research and development
- Social work
- Sports and recreation
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. 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. Explore some of the training opportunities in your area by entering your zip code into the school finder below!
1 Data USA, "Cultural & Gender Studies," website last visited on November 20, 2019.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on November 20, 2019.
3 PayScale, website last visited on November 20, 2019.
4 ZipRecruiter, website last visited on November 20, 2019.
6 Federal Reserve Bank of New York, "The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates," website last visited on November 20, 2019.