Study: 9 out of 10 highest-paid college majors are male dominated

(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

Researchers from institutions including the Pew Research Center, Stanford and Harvard have established a gender pay gap, but a recent study from Glassdoor Economic Research has built on that research, establishing what they call a “pipeline problem” beginning at college majors.

In the study, the researchers claim the gender pay gap is caused by a “pipeline problem,” which argues that men and women follow a pipeline into different jobs.

The study states nine of the 10 highest-paid college majors are male dominated, while six out of the 10 lowest-paid college majors are female dominated.

According to the study, majors with the highest gender pay gaps are healthcare administration, mathematics and biology.

Majors that lead to the lowest gender pay gaps are architecture, music and social work.

The institute cites societal pressure and norms as a potential reason for women to choose different majors than men, concluding that “choice of college major can have a dramatic impact on jobs and pay later on.”

K-State’s part in the pipeline

Kansas State is no exception from the problem described by Glassdoor Economic Research.

“I came from a small town in western Kansas,” said Andrew Wood, graduate student in architecture. “I thought that the whole pay gap was people complaining for the sake of complaining. I think it’s completely dumb that it actually exists.”

Beyond the presence of the gender pay gap, K-State finds similar statistics regarding male domination within high-paying fields.

Statistics from the university registrar’s office show that in the fall of 2016, the College of Engineering had 3,176 male students, compared to 674 female students.

The College of Education had 264 male students, compared to 886 female students.

Elise Gallant, sophomore in mathematics and secondary education, said she experienced the gender divide when she was still a student in the College of Engineering.

“When I went to the career fair my freshman year I felt out of place,” Gallant said. “I feel like I had to work harder to look as good as the males in my same position.”

Glassdoor used salary data collected from individuals five years post-graduation in order to determine gender pay gap among specific majors. However, K-State only collects salary information for those immediately following graduation for one year, with a low number of graduates reporting their salaries.

One item that contributes to the gender pay gap within specific majors is how concentrated the major is when it moves into the job field, according to the institute. For example, nursing and architecture majors hold similar jobs due to the technical nature of those degrees, whereas degrees in mathematics and English are less concentrated due to the highly variable nature of the jobs available to majors in those areas.

K-State’s Career Center shows similar findings of concentration for those who graduate from the College of Architecture, Planning and Design.

That lack of concentration in mathematics is also present, as the Career Center shows that K-State math majors have held a variety of positions including teacher, software engineer and actuarial analyst.

Gallant, for example, is interested in becoming a teacher or continuing to pursue mathematics in graduate school for a position in higher education.

One area where K-State students found fault with the study is the hypothesis for why women and men sort into different majors.

“I’ve always been interested in creative things like art, but I also really enjoy analytical subjects like math,” said Megan Burke, graduate student in architecture. Burke said architecture brings both of those together for her.

Wood echoed Burke’s sentiment, citing his childhood obsession with Legos.

When it comes to gender, neither Burke nor Gallant felt like they had any pressure placed upon them for being female.

In fact, Gallant, said she feels as if it were the opposite. Her father initially steered her toward a degree in the male-dominated field of engineering, not away from it. Gallant said she only switched from engineering to a dual degree in mathematics and secondary education because she “wanted to work with people more.”

While Burke, Gallant and Wood let their interests and passions guide them, they all noted there are many who are steered toward their major because of money.

“I know a lot of people that are engineering and they’re like ‘yeah it’s not fun, but it pays great,’” Wood said.

The Glassdoor study notes:

“It does not examine why men and women sort into different majors, or how many other conscious and unconscious biases in hiring, pay and promotion may help amplify the gender pay gap we observe in the labor market.”

While K-State may fit within the “pipeline problem,” students at the university are looking toward gender pay equality.

“I’m always of the mindset that if two people have the same skills and the same work ethic they should definitely be payed the same regardless of gender,” Burke said.

I'm Macy Davis a former Collegian culture editor and a 2019 graduate in English. When I was not reading and writing (both for class and for fun), I was also a member of the nationally ranked K-State speech team.