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Most Lucrative College Degrees in U.S. Are Held by Men

A new study found that the college degrees leading to high-paying jobs in the United States are dominated by men, though women represent most of the country’s college-educated workforce.

Nearly 4 in 5, or 78 percent, of those who hold the 20 most lucrative bachelor’s degrees are men, while only 22 percent are women, according to a new study released by personal finance firm Bankrate on Tuesday.

The researchers looked at the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, the most recent data available, to analyze the median salaries of American workers based on the subject of their bachelor’s degrees, as well as the gender differences across more than 150 college majors.

The undergraduate majors with the highest earning potential are in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), such as engineering and computer science, pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, according to the study.

In electrical engineering, 85 percent of degree holders are men and 15 percent are women, with the average salary totaling 110,000 U.S. dollars.

Of the 20 highest-earning majors, the only ones not heavily dominated by men are pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, and administration, where 56 percent are held by women.

The study also found that women continued to disproportionally concentrated in some of the lowest-earning majors, such as early childhood education, nursing, family and consumer sciences and social work.

These majors often lead to average annual salaries ranging from 35,000 to 70,000 dollars in the country.

The gender pay gap revealed in this study echoed the findings of a recent report by the California Civil Rights Department. The department reported last week that among those making more than 114,560 dollars a year in the state, 65 percent were men, and that men hold 64 percent of executive or senior-level management positions.

Labor economist Carolyn Sloane was cited by the Bankrate report as explaining that women are more likely to wind up in majors that offer more flexibility because caregiving responsibilities tend to fall on women disproportionately.

A 2018 Pew Research analysis also found that women are more likely to experience discrimination or hostility once they enter male-dominated jobs, which can push women out of those fields at higher rates. 

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