Move over CEO, there's a new job in town.
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Women are flocking to the labor force in record numbers. Nearly 60% sought or occupied employment in 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available, representing 46.5% of the total U.S. labor force. More than one-third of these women worked in management, professional and related occupations, accounting for 51% of all workers in this top-paying sector.
Though a pay gap persists -- women's earnings remain stalled at around 80% of men's -- women are finding the jobs that pay them the most, and some may surprise you. Based on a U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau 2008 analysis, we ranked women's median weekly earnings as full-time wage and salary workers to uncover the highest-paying jobs for women.
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An unlikely No. 1 emerged. Much to our surprise, pharmacy topped the list, where women pharmacists earn a median wage of $1,647 per week or about $86,000 a year. Women currently account for slightly less than half of all pharmacists in the U.S. and earn about 85% as much as their male colleagues. It's a much smaller pay gap than that of medical doctors, however, where women make 59% as much as men. And pharmacy requires less education.
Women physicians and surgeons came in far behind pharmacists at No. 6 on the list, earning a median of $1,230 per week. Dr. Drucilla Barker, economist and director of women's and gender studies at the University of South Carolina, explains this by the wide distribution of salaries in the medical profession. Women often go into family practice or other lower-paying specialties, she says, rather than work the 80-hour-plus weeks of surgeons. In jobs like pharmacy and speech pathology there is a clear and narrow salary range, and women are more likely to have manageable schedules, Barker says.
Women computer scientists and systems analysts came in at No. 10, earning a median wage of $1,082 per week or about $56,000 a year. In recent years, telecommuting has become increasingly common in the industry, making computer science even more appealing to women seeking high-paying work and flexibility.
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And just above, at No. 9, were speech-language pathologists, the only occupation on our list in which women earn exactly equal to men and represent 50% of the field's total workers.
While women are inching higher and higher in status positions and earnings -- the pay gap has narrowed by 10 percentage points since 1990 -- there remains a large divide. About 3.5 million women earn within the highest pay bracket, making a minimum of $1,500 per week, compared with almost 10 million men. This may be explained by the most common female-held positions: administrative assistants, nurses and grade school teachers. (As a comparison, there are 36 times as many women administrative assistants as there are women pharmacists.)
Yet women outnumber men in some unexpected high-earning jobs like financial managers, accountants and auditors, and budget analysts. Women human resource managers, the No. 8 position on our list with a median of $1,137 per week, outnumber men in the field 2 to 1.
Top-Paying Jobs for Women
Though a pay gap persists--women's earnings remain stalled at around 80% of men's--women are finding the jobs that pay them the most, and some may surprise you. Based on a U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau 2008 analysis, we ranked women's median weekly earnings as full-time wage and salary workers to uncover the highest paying jobs for women.
No. 1: Pharmacists
Women's median weekly earnings: $1,647
Women's median yearly earnings: $85,644
Percentage of men's earnings: 84.9%
Education required: PCAT; Pharm.D. degree; six to seven years of collegiate study
What they do: Distribute pharmaceutical drugsNo. 2: Chief Executives
Women's median weekly earnings: $1,603
Women's median yearly earnings: $83,356
Percentage of men's earnings: 80.1%
Education required: Varies; many hold a bachelor's or graduate degree in business administration or more specialized discipline
What they do: Hold overall responsibility for the operation of an organization, including corporate and small businessesNo. 3: Lawyers
Women's median weekly earnings: $1,509
Women's median yearly earnings: $78,468
Percentage of men's earnings: 77.5%
Education required: LSAT; J.D. degree; about seven years of collegiate study
What they do: Advocate in criminal and civil courts and provide legal counsel to clients on business and personal mattersNo. 4: Computer Software Engineers
Women's median weekly earnings: $1,351
Women's median yearly earnings: $70,252
Percentage of men's earnings: 87.3%
Education required: Bachelor of computer science or software engineering
What they do: Design, develop, test and evaluate computer systems and softwareNo. 5: Computer and Information Systems Managers
Women's median weekly earnings: $1,260
Women's median yearly earnings: $65,520
Percentage of men's earnings: 85.4%
Education required: Bachelor's degree; often a technology-specific MBA
What they do: Implement technology into an organization, often overseeing network security and IT operations