Career Change to STEM

Dear, Anita,

I understand women and men had been created similarly, but one particular question I could never uncover the solution to is why you can find a lot more males functioning as doctors, engineers, and scientists? The ratio of male: females is about ninety-nine to one. Why is this, and how can I as a woman change careers to get into one of these fields?

Woman DoctorDear, Marie Curie Wanna-Be,

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 34.3% of U.S. physicians are female, so women are gaining ground in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields. As to the why, we could discuss this for hours. There is an interesting nondiscriminatory take on the issue in this recent MSN News article:

The days of working for one company in one career until you get a gold watch at retirement are long gone. But how many times do people change careers in their lifetime? The BLS estimates the average person holds 11.3 jobs from age 18-46. Of course, a change of jobs doesn’t necessarily mean a total change in your career choice.

But let’s talk nuts and bolts.  Making a drastic career change can be challenging, and double that if you’ve got kids to feed and bills to pay. So be as certain as you can be that this new career is something you will be passionate about, because you’ll need that enthusiasm to get you through the tough times.

Woman ScientistFirst, for a career in the fields you mentioned – medical, engineering, or scientific – you’ll need additional education. You didn’t mention your age (and it would be rude of me to ask!), but many of these fields take advanced degrees. I hope you have your bachelor’s behind you, or the process will take many more years. (Check out my past blog, Advanced Degrees While Employed, for tips on balancing work, life, and school.) You’ll need to narrow down your career choices to hone in on the focus for your educational efforts… and dollars.

Speaking of that, are you prepared to invest in your career change?  If you have previous student loans, are you willing to go into more debt? As an alternative to a full-blown master’s degree, you may look into certificate programs in the STEM fields (medical assistant, drafting, Microsoft certification, etc.), which may be completed more quickly and for a lower cost.

We’ve all heard stories about accountants turned bakers, and lawyers trying their hand at stand-up comedy. However, the easiest career changes are those in which you can transfer some of your current skills into your new path.  But don’t let that discourage you. For more inspiration, check out this NASA video:

Reader: Have you ever changed careers? What is the best piece of advice you can offer?

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trinidad
    May 16, 2014 @ 10:46:10

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  2. Cary
    May 13, 2014 @ 02:22:16

    I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog.
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  3. attorney quincy il
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 20:58:00

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you
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  4. Allan Johnson
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 17:57:22

    You won’t like the explanation we heard from our teachers at tech school in the ’70s, but I think they were being realistic why women didn’t make it to graduation even at a two year school. The ratio of boys to girls was out of balance and those girls were often asked on dates because they had similar interests in technology. Now that there are online schools and many of the engineering/ professional students are married ladies (and men) with kids there are not as many social pressures getting in the way of making it to graduation and the job market. Now there are STEM incentives for High School girls to get a good basis before college so they can get a head start in engineering as well as teaching professions breaking some of the stereotypes.



  5. Dave
    Mar 21, 2014 @ 06:34:48

    As unfortunate as it is true, the corperate world has changed over the past years. Its primary function is to hire yes men and eye-candy for engineering roles. Why? Simply because the most important thing today are thee things: Meetings, meetings, and meetings. Nothing fits the role finer in the politics of suckholism than a yes-man and nothing suites the male world better in meetings than red hot eye-candy. Its time to re-adapt ladies: Trade in the proffesionalism and the outstanding credentials for some botox, makeup, and tight fitting dresses. Don’t forget to act real dumb either, and ALWAYS agree with the guy in charge. Welcome to the new world of american degragation

    sent from my Samsung Mobile



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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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