Women choose lower paying university majors than men

Women choose lower paying university majors than men. New research has found this to be the case even when both male and female college students say they want to pursue a major with the best earning prospects, and asked the question of why.

Even when women prioritize earnings, other preferences win out

Sociologist Natasha Quadlin at The Ohio State University found that “the logics of major choice” and “finding a field that’s a good fit” may lead women to select different majors from men. Quadlin used data from the Pathways through College Study, which surveyed 2,720 students from three higher education institutions with programs designed to attract and retain STEM majors.

“Even when women place great emphasis on earnings, other preferences may ultimately win out for them,” said Quadlin in a statement.

Students were asked to rank the importance of four considerations for choosing a major on a scale of 1-5: earning potential, career options, engaging classes, and helping others. They later reported which major they chose, and Quadlin used federal data to source the earnings associated with the majors.

Men consistently chose majors associated with significantly higher earning than women, regardless of what they said about their preferences. Even when men and women prioritized other considerations, like helping people, men still chose higher-paying majors.

Men choose pre-med majors while women choose nursing

For example, men who prioritized helping people were more likely than women to choose biology, a pre-med major, because they thought doctors helped people. Women who wanted to help people were more likely to choose nursing.

“Nursing is a relatively high-paying job, but it generally doesn’t pay as much as doctors can earn,” Quadlin said in a statement. She points to research suggesting that men and women have different ideas about the careers and fields that are open and available to them.

“Some STEM careers that pay the most may not be as receptive to women as they are to men, so women adjust what majors they select.” So, women who are motivated by earnings may choose relatively high-paying majors that are more available to women, Quadlin said.

Good to know.

The highest paying degrees in Canada

If you’re heading into university yourself, or considering a career change, here are the top 10 most valuable degrees in Canada according to a 2016 report by RBC:

10: Civil Engineering

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $80,080
First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760

9. Nursing

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $84,510
First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $9,100

8. Specialized Engineering

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $85,009
First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760

7. Business Administration

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $85,508
First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,780

6. Software Engineering

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $90,001
First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760

5. Geosciences

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $100,006
First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,780

4. Pharmacology

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $102,398
First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $20,070 (PharmD)

3. Finance

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $103,376
First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,780

2. Petroleum or Chemical Engineering

Average salary in 2017 dollars: $104,000
First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760

1. Business, a.k.a., Management Sciences (MS)

Average salary in 2017 dollars: ~ $110,000 – $115,000
First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,780

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