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Interested in studying the arts and humanities but want to venture beyond that vague “liberal arts” degree? Consider a women’s studies major, which delves into those arts and humanities topics, but from the lens of how they’ve shaped, and continue to shape, women’s roles and lives. In addition to satisfying your inner feminist, this is a pragmatic major to pursue: The world needs more people who are committed to promoting awareness for gender-themed issues in the workplace, schools, and society overall, including sexual harassment, parental leave, equal pay, and flexible schedules for working families.

What do women’s studies majors work on in school?

Besides your general-education work, you’ll be taking classes on a wide variety of themes related to gender issues. These differ by college (some focus on the arts, others on activism), but they can include women’s history (both here in the US and globally), women’s health, women in literature and politics, sexuality, the intersectionality of gender and race/sexuality/class, and feminist theory.

So where can you expect a women’s studies major to lead you?

The jobs you can apply your women’s studies major to are diverse and plentiful.

Jobs that directly relate to women’s issues are somewhat obvious: You could end up running a women’s health clinic, shelter, or rape crisis center, become a domestic violence advocate or social worker, or work for a human services department specializing in women’s issues. But the truth is, there are so many jobs that can benefit from candidates who come with a women’s studies background, especially in the community development, government, social services, and business arenas. Some possibilities:

  • Journalist with a gender and sexuality beat
  • Jobs in government, such as a congressional aide, that help shape policies that affect women
  • Psychologist
  • Attorney
  • Grant writer or fundraiser for women’s-based charities or non-profits
  • Nurse or doctor specializing in women’s health
  • Teacher, especially in the realm of public health
  • Union organizer

Even though you likely didn’t pick this major for its moneymaking potential, that potential is there.

It’s hard to nail down salary for women’s studies majors, as there are so many paths you can choose: The career you select can be an extremely satisfying but perhaps low-paying choice or a lucrative one. Combining a woman’s study major with further education—say, a law degree or an MBA—can help you achieve the best of both worlds: a fulfilling, higher-responsibility job in the field you’ve chosen (perhaps as an attorney who specializes in helping domestic violence victims or the director of a rape crisis center, to go with the above law degree and MBA), and a higher salary to match.

You’ll be well-poised to become a valuable citizen of the future.

During your studies, you’ll learn about different social structures, ways to fight oppression and social injustices, and working to instill equity across gender, race, culture, sexuality, and socioeconomic status. And that includes eradicating ignorance on hot-button topics. People fear what they don’t know—just hearing the word “feminism” can intimidate even well-meaning people who at heart want to create an equitable society.

With your schooling and activism background as a women’s studies major, you can play a role in breaking through stereotypes and gently guiding friends, family, and the community you end up working for to understand that women aren’t inherently worse at math than men, what the term “rape culture” really means (and its consequences), and the ins and outs of a litany of women’s issues. In short, you’ll be using your knowledge to make the world a better place—for everyone.

Your studies and subsequent work can have a great impact on your own personal life.

This is true especially if you identify as a woman, as what you learn can help you navigate the complexities of the health, workplace, and societal issues that will personally affect you throughout your life. But women’s studies aren’t just for women: Anyone can benefit from learning more about these topics and becoming more sensitive to them. In fact, some people say everyone should have to take a women’s studies course or two during their college years. It helps to have allies from all corners understanding how to help create a more equitable stage across the board.