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The Highest-Paying Careers for Women Today

Think back to your lunch box years. When you were young, what did you dream about being when you grew up? Chances are, whether you wanted to be a movie star or an astronaut, if you were anything like me, income was not a likely factor in your decision (I’m still fairly certain a princess doesn’t earn a salary). But now that we’ve grown up and many jobs that were once available no longer exist, money has taken on a different meaning (because someone has to pay back those student loans). Here’s the good news: although the United States is currently suffering from a high unemployment rate, this hasn’t stopped women from hitting the workforce at full speed ahead. Forbes.com has ranked the top ten highest paying jobs for women—and you may find the results a little surprising (computer science engineer, anyone?). Her Campus has broken down these professions so you can better understand how each job works, the responsibilities they entail and how to get a head-start in the business.

#10: Computer Scientists and Systems Analysts

Let’s face it: computers have changed the world. Can you imagine living in a world today without Google? Fortunately, we have computer scientists and system analysts to thank. Together, these professionals work to make our technology easier, safer and more efficient. Specifically, computer scientists work to improve how computers function and research answers on how to invent new ways for us and machines to communicate. Women’s median yearly earnings: $56,264 Education required: It depends. Some companies mandate an associate’s degree, while the majority requires at least a bachelor’s and more sophisticated degrees given the complexity of the project (such as computer science). What they do:

  • Solve difficult technology problems
  • Create and apply new technology
  • Solve, test and evaluate data communication systems

Are you…

  • A logical thinker?
  • A good communicator?
  • A team player?

How you can prepare now:

  • Take advanced math courses
  • Take advantage of science classes as they train you to think logically
  • Experiment with a computer science class over the summer
  • Read up on the latest computer technology news—like the iPad

A day in the life (according to the U.S. Department of Labor): “Computer scientists normally work in offices or laboratories in comfortable surroundings. Many work about 40 hours a week, but some work more than 50 hours a week. Some analysts telecommute, using computers to work from remote locations.”

#9: Speech-language pathologists

Whether it is by sign language or speaking fluent Spanish, communication makes the world go round. Speech-language pathologists work with a variety of patients from kids with speech impediments to senior citizens experiencing hearing loss, so it’s never a boring day in the office. Women’s median yearly earnings: $55,448 Education required: Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree; a license in some states What they do:

  • Diagnose and treat disorders related to speech, language, cognitive-communication, voice, swallowing and fluency

Are you…

  • An excellent communicator?
  • Compassionate?
  • Patient?
  • Supportive?

How you can prepare now:

  • Challenge yourself with science courses like biology and physics
  • Improve your communication skills with English, drama and speech classes
  • Take up a foreign language so you can better reach a variety of different people
  • Try an American Sign Language class to diversify your skills
  • Do an internship or volunteer at a speech and hearing clinic, hospital, school or nursing home to gain firsthand experience

A day in the life: “Speech-language pathologists in schools collaborate with teachers, special educators, interpreters, other school personnel, and parents to develop and implement individual or group programs, provide counseling, and support classroom activities. Speech-language pathologists usually work at a desk or table in clean comfortable surroundings. In medical settings, they may work at the patient's bedside and assist in positioning the patient. In schools, they may work with students in an office or classroom. Some work in the client's home.”

#8: Human Resource Managers

In every group of friends, there is the mediator. You know, that friend who is the support system, listens to all sides, and makes fair decisions. Think of the Human Resource Manager as the Phoebe to the Monicas and Rachels of the world. These professionals have to work with both employers and employees to ensure that everyone is a happy camper at the end of the day. They work out disagreements, oversee training and benefits, advertise job openings and more. Women’s median yearly earnings: $59,124 Education required: Bachelor’s degree, but if you want to reach the top of your field, you’ll need a Master’s degree as well. What they do:

  • Head departments in large corporations with specializations like hiring, training and development or worker benefits

Are you…

  • A clear communicator?
  • A person who enjoys meeting new people?
  • A worker who enjoys working on many different projects at once?

How you can prepare now:

  • Sharpen your writing and oral skills by taking English, history, speech and drama classes
  • Familiarize yourself with the computer. Know how to use programs with word processing and spreadsheets.
  • Sign up with an organization like Junior Achievement to learn about business from the experts.

A day in the life: “Although most human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists work in the office, some travel extensively. For example, recruiters regularly attend professional meetings, participate in job fairs, and visit college campuses to interview prospective employees. Arbitrators and mediators often must travel to the site chosen for negotiations. Trainers and other specialists may travel to regional, satellite, or international offices of a company to meet with employees who work outside of the main corporate office.”

#7: Management Analysts

Management Analysts are expert problem solvers. If you’re a go-to kind of gal, this may be the ideal job for you. These analysts work with firms and businesses to help them remain competitive as they face challenges within changing industries. They are depended on to create new strategies in order to improve a company’s profits, efficiency and structure. Women’s median yearly earnings: $59,228 Education required: It depends. While many hold a bachelor’s degree and are promoted within their jobs, others also have a master’s in business administration or a similar specialization. What they do:

  • Work with organizations to improve structure, systems, efficiency and profits

Are you…

  • A good problem solver?
  • Self-motivated?
  • Have good time-management skills?

How you can prepare now:

  • Take a business or marketing course at school
  • Consider taking a leadership position in a club or sport, which will help you to be self-motivated
  • Enhance your research skills when doing a project, by seeking alternative resources in addition to the ones you normally use

A day in the life: “Management analysts usually divide their time between their offices and the client's site. In either situation, much of an analyst's time is spent indoors in clean, well-lit offices. Because they must spend a significant portion of their time with clients, analysts travel frequently.”

#6: Physicians and Surgeons

We all know that working in a hospital is more than gawking at the McDreamys in the ER (thank you, Grey’s Anatomy). TV aside, these real-life superheroes spend years studying and training to save lives. Though working 24-hour shifts can make balancing your professional and personal lives challenging at times, the rewards of helping others make it worth it. Women’s median yearly earnings: $63,960 Education required: Bachelor’s degree and M.D. degree; MCAT exam required for entrance to medical school; three to eight years of internships and residency What they do:

  • Diagnose and prescribe treatment of illnesses, disease and injury

Are you…

  • Compassionate?
  • A leader?
  • Able to work well under pressure?
  • A quick decision-maker?

How you can prepare now:

  • Load up on challenging math and science courses
  • Explore the field of psychology to learn about the human mind and body
  • Intern or volunteer at a health clinic, hospital or nursing home

A day in the life: “Many physicians—primarily general and family practitioners, general internists, pediatricians, OB/GYNs, and psychiatrists—work in small private offices or clinics. Surgeons and anesthesiologists usually work in well-lit, sterile environments while performing surgery and often stand for long periods. Most work in hospitals or in surgical outpatient centers. Many physicians and surgeons work long, irregular hours. In 2008, 43 percent of all physicians and surgeons worked 50 or more hours a week”

#5: Computer and Information Systems Managers

When you’re on ebay.com bidding for the best bargains on Marc Jacobs bags, you’re probably not thinking about the brains behind the website. Computer and information systems managers answer questions such as: is having the most recent technology worth paying top dollar for? What is the best way to market products on the web? Not only do these professionals understand how computers work, but they also collaborate with top managers to make important business decisions. Women’s median yearly earnings: $65,520 Education required: Bachelor’s degree; often a technology-specific MBA What they do:

  • Implement technology into an organization
  • Oversee network security and IT operations

Are you…

  • A clear communicator?
  • A tech junkie?
  • Innovative?
  • Great at troubleshooting problems?

How you can prepare now:

  • If you haven’t taken a calculus class yet, take at least one before graduating
  • Register for a business class. Employees not only look for grads that know their technology, but want business-savvy smarties as well.
  • Take a foreign language, as some of your potential clients may not speak English.
  • Become a tutor at your school’s computer lab, which will give you practice teaching your peers the ins and outs of computers

A day in the life: “Long hours are common, and some may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines or solve unexpected problems; in 2008, about 25 percent worked more than 50 hours per week. Some computer and information systems managers may experience considerable pressure in meeting technical goals with short deadlines or tight budgets. As networks continue to expand and more work is done remotely, computer and information systems managers have to communicate with and oversee offsite employees using laptops, e-mail, and the Internet.”

#4: Computer Science Engineers

With computer science being one of the fastest growing professions in the field, the talents of engineers are more needed than ever. These techies are depended on to debug programs and test different programs to make sure they are effective. If you work hard and build up enough experience, you may be able to start your own computer consulting business one day! Women’s median yearly earnings: $70,252 Education required: Bachelor of computer science or software engineering What they do:

  • Design, develop, test and evaluate computer systems and software
  • Direct computers on how to perform specific functions (like online bill-paying)

Are you…

  • A stickler for details?
  • A multi-tasker?
  • Persistent in getting the job done?

How you can prepare now:

  • Stock up on as many math and science courses as you can
  • Sign up for computer science classes
  • Consider taking a foreign language as you’ll need to have the ability to pick up on different computer languages. Furthermore, you may end up working for an international company where knowing more than one language will prove to be very useful.

A day in the life: “Software engineers who work for software vendors and consulting firms frequently travel to meet with customers. Telecommuting is becoming more common as technological advances allow more work to be done from remote locations.”

#3: Lawyers

Never underestimate the power of persuasion. If you were that girl who could convince your little brother that the holes in Swiss cheese were from mice, you might just have a career in law. Though lawyers probably wish their jobs were as easy as debating cheese, in reality, lawyers invest years of hard work so that they can defend their clients in court, write clearly about complex issues, and dissect cases, laws and contracts. Women’s median yearly earnings: $78,468 Education required: Bachelor’s degree and J.D. degree; LSAT exam required for entrance to law school; must also pass state bar exam What they do:

  • Represent in criminal and civil courts
  • Provide legal advice to clients on business and personal matters

Are you…

  • Analytical?
  • A pro at arguing?
  • Confident?
  • Passionate about what you believe in?

How you can prepare now:

  • Read the news daily to stay updated on current events and issues affecting society
  • Join the debate team or sign up for speech classes
  • Volunteer or intern at a law firm

A day in the life: “The more detailed aspects of a lawyer’s job depend upon his or her field of specialization and position. Although all lawyers are licensed to represent parties in court, some appear in court more frequently than others. Trial lawyers spend the majority of their time outside the courtroom, conducting research, interviewing clients and witnesses, and handling other details in preparation for a trial.”

#2: Chief Executives

When a Chief Executive enters a room, they command it (think Donald Trump). As true leaders in their field, Chief Executives spearhead new initiatives and are able to tackle problems with full force. If you like to plan, direct, and conquer, read on. Women’s median yearly earnings: $83,356 Education required: It depends. Many have 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 corporations and small businesses

Are you…

  • Super responsible?
  • A leader?
  • Able to make tough decisions under pressure?
  • Extremely organized and efficient?

How you can prepare now:

  • Take leadership positions at your school
  • Start a group or club that you are passionate about
  • Take up a business class

A day in the life: “Top executives of large organizations typically have spacious offices and numerous support staff. Long hours, including evenings and weekends are standard for most top executives and general managers, although their schedules may be flexible. To monitor operations and meet with customers, staff, and other executives, general managers and executives travel considerably among international, national, regional, and local offices.”

#1: Pharmacists

You know that guy behind the counter who refills your allergy prescription once a month? Though it may not seem like it, he actually does more than just count and bottle pills all day. Not only are pharmacists responsible for handling your prescriptions, but they play an important role in treating disease. From researching and conducting experiments to helping patients kick their cigarette habits, pharmacists have to be on their toes to keep up with latest advances within the medical world. Women’s median yearly earnings: $85,644 Education required: Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree and Pharm. D. degree; PCAT exam required for entrance to pharmacy school What they do:

  • Distribute pharmaceutical drugs

Are you…

  • Cautious?
  • A good researcher?
  • A person who pay close attention to detail?

How you can prepare now:

  • Stock up in math and science courses, like biology, chemistry and physics
  • Pick up a foreign language, which will help you interact better with patients
  • Volunteer or work at a hospital, clinic or local pharmacy in your town

A day in the life: “Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals. They also advise their patients, physicians, and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications, as well as monitor the health and progress of those patients to ensure that they are using their medications safely and effectively. Compounding—the actual mixing of ingredients to form medications—is a small part of a pharmacist's practice, because most medicines are produced by pharmaceutical companies in standard dosages and drug delivery forms. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drugstore, or in a healthcare facility, such as a hospital.” Sources: United States Department of Labor (bls.gov) Forbes’ Top-Paying Jobs For Women (http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/25/top-paying-jobs-forbes-woman-careers-sa...) The College Board (collegeboard.com)

Taylor Trudon (University of Connecticut ’11) is a journalism major originally from East Lyme, Connecticut. She is commentary editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Campus, a blogger for The Huffington Post and is a proud two-time 2009 and 2010 New York Women in Communications scholarship recipient. She has interned at Seventeen and O, The Oprah Magazine. After college, Taylor aspires to pursue a career in magazine journalism while living in New York City. When she's not in her media bubble, she enjoys making homemade guacamole, quoting John Hughes movies and shamelessly reading the Weddings/Celebrations section of The New York Times on Sundays (with coffee, of course).
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