The definition of a "best" career varies significantly by individual. Some women put a premium on salary. Others want a field with good growth potential or with opportunities to shape their industry through leadership. Work-life balance ranks high in importance for many females. And plenty of people look for an occupation they feel truly makes a difference in the lives of others.
Jobs generally contain a mixture of these factors with varying degrees. For women looking to emphasize a certain element, the following list examines 20 of the best careers in four popular fields — education, health care, business, and technology.
Note: All figures are per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unless otherwise cited.
Best for salary: Principal
Dealing with students, parents, faculty, budgets, governmental mandates, and more keep principals hopping. No wonder they post a $96,400 median annual wage.
Best for job growth: Instructional coordinator
Schools face increasing scrutiny of what material gets taught and how best to teach it. Combine that with accountability for test scores and graduation rates, and it's easy to see why institutions hire professionals trained in curriculum and instruction. The BLS projects employment growth of 6% between 2019-2029.
Best for leadership: College administrator
From admissions decisions and academic policies to student life and housing, these post-secondary administrators take charge of activities vital to all aspects of college life. Common job titles include provost, dean, head, and registrar.
Best for flexibility: Teacher
Mothers looking for a schedule mimicking that of their children can't beat a career with similar Monday-Friday hours and summers off. For those interested in occasional employment, a teaching license opens the door to substitute gigs.
Best for serving others: School counselor
The COVID-19 pandemic reminded everyone just how much society depends on all educators, but here's a special shout-out to school counselors. From helping grade school kids deal with anxiety and the challenges of learning remotely to raising the spirits of high schoolers missing proms and wondering what to do after graduation, these professionals epitomize caregiving.
Best for salary: Pharmacist
Female pharmacists bring home a wallet-happy $2,160 median weekly paycheck. Women also hold about 55% of all pharmacist positions, making it one of the best STEM careers in terms of representation.
Best for job growth: Occupational therapy assistant
A considerable number of jobs in the health care industry boast eye-popping employment projections. We're zeroing in here on occupational therapy assistants, a position that looks to grow from 47,100 jobs in 2019 to an estimated 63,500 by 2029 — a hearty 35% increase. The job only requires an associate degree, posts a median annual wage of $61,510, and helps patients with various conditions lead better lives.
Best for leadership: Physician
With 11-15 years of post-secondary education under their belts, doctors possess an impressive knowledge base. Patients and medical staff members alike depend on their direction and decision-making abilities.
Best for flexibility: Dental hygienist
Want to work full-time? Part-time? Just weekends? Scheduling options abound for dental hygienists — and at a median rate of $36.65 per hour.
Best for serving others: Nurse practitioner
Again, how do you pick one entry for a field filled with essential workers making a huge difference every day? In an increasingly burdened health care system, nurse practitioners take much of the responsibility for primary care off of doctors' shoulders. Some travel to underserved areas. Others stay on-call in addition to working a full slate of hours. All deserve thanks for their medical advice, thoughtful treatment, and care for those they serve.
Best for salary: Chief executive
The glass ceiling is shattering slowly but surely. Women currently hold nearly a third of all chief exec positions, and they pull in a median weekly income of $2,051. The next step — catching up to the $2,712 earned by their male counterparts.
Best for job growth: Operations research analyst
What organization isn't interested in saving money? As companies and the government continue seeking ways to increase efficiency and lower costs, they'll turn to operations research analysts to look at data and guide decision-making — to the tune of 25% projected job growth from 2019-2029.
Best for leadership: Human resources manager
Management positions, in general, involve decision-making and overseeing specific operations. We're giving the "best" title to human resources managers for handling the influx of activity in their department during the past year — remote work, sick leave and medical insurance, safety measures, mental health initiatives, mass layoffs, and retirements, diversity and equality concerns. And, by the way, nearly three-fourths of human resource managers are women.
Best for flexibility: Personal financial advisor
Roughly one-fifth of personal financial advisors are self-employed. Those that work for companies often have some control over when they schedule client meetings.
Best for serving others: Fundraiser
Nonprofits need business-savvy employees, too. Raising funds for a cause or group you support, and earning nearly $28 per hour in the process, sounds like a win-win.
Best for salary: Software developer
Salaries for computer and information technology occupations, in general, run relatively high. Female software developers support this trend with a healthy median weekly wage of $1,728. Now it's time for more females to join their high-paid ranks: Men outnumber women in the occupation by well over a million.
Best for job growth: Information security analyst
Data breaches commonly cost organizations millions of dollars. Problems have worsened since the start of COVID-19. The FBI reports a 300% increase in cybercrimes during the pandemic. Then, it comes as little surprise that the BLS projects employment of information security analysts to grow 31% from 2019-2029.
Best for leadership: Computer and information systems manager
Plain and simple: Businesses depend on their technology. These managers ensure everything runs smoothly each day plus determine future computer-related needs to keep the company modern and competitive.
Best for flexibility: Web developer
A search on any job site reveals many remote opportunities available to those who know how to create and maintain websites. Ten percent of web developers are self-employed and free to take on as many or as few projects as they see fit.
Best for serving others: Computer support specialist
On behalf of everyone who has pulled their hair out trying to determine why a device isn't working correctly, a hearty thank-you to tech support. You bring us back to life.