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Non-Traditional Careers

By Randell S. Hansen, Ph. D.

There's sometimes a point in career planning when people are discouraged from following their dreams because their career choice does not fit in with traditional gender roles. Men are discouraged from careers in nursing, social work and teaching while women are discouraged from careers in technology, science and security. Men who are interested in "feminine" jobs are teased about their sexuality and women who are interested in "male" jobs are questioned as to whether they have the brains or stamina to perform.

Given all these issues, it's imperative in career planning that people—regardless of their gender—are allowed to follow their dreams and utilize their interests and skills. Career planning should not be about gender stereotyping.

And the good news is that research shows that men and women are increasingly moving into—and succeeding in—non-traditional careers. Still, there are quite a few careers for both men and women that can be listed as non-traditional. Non-traditional careers are ones those in which fewer than 25 percent of the workforce is of one gender.

However, job-seekers considering a non-traditional career path should weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision about whether to pursue this path.


  • The satisfaction of following your dream
  • Receive more attention
  • Your impact on society
  • For women, the pay is typically higher in careers where men dominate
  • For men, you are often given positions of leadership quickly


  • Lack of enough mentors in your field
  • Potential negative feelings from co-workers, especially for female workers in a traditionally male career
  • Potential to have little or no support from family and friends who may question your motives for entering a more challenging career—or who simply don't understand the pressures and problems you face in a non-traditional career
  • For women, some non-traditional careers impose both mental and physical challenges that may be overwhelming

If you are considering a non-traditional career, perhaps the best way to determine whether you really want to purse the career is to gather as much information as possible—and gain experience wherever possible. Consider informational interviews and job shadowing with people of your own sex who are successful in their careers; it's through these activities that you can learn more about their joys and frustrations and see first-hand what a career might be like for you. And, of course, you should also gain experience in your career through internships, volunteering or part-time employment.

Non-Traditional Career Paths for Women

  • Airline Pilots
  • Announcer
  • Architects
  • Auctioneers
  • Bellhops and Porters
  • Carpenters/Construction Workers
  • Chefs and Head Cooks
  • Clergy
  • Dentists
  • Electricians
  • Engineers
  • Film Directors
  • Firefighters
  • Fishers, Hunters, Trappers
  • Funeral Directors
  • Garbage/Waste Collectors
  • Groundskeepers and Gardeners
  • Hospital Administrators
  • Logging Workers
  • Machinists
  • Mail Carriers
  • Mathematicians
  • Mechanics
  • Meter Readers
  • Optometrists
  • Parking Lot Attendants
  • Pest Control Specialists
  • Printing Press Operators
  • Scientists and Science Teachers
  • Security Guards
  • Security and Fire System Installers
  • Service Station Attendants
  • Taxicab Drivers and Chauffeurs
  • Tow Truck Operators
  • Truck Drivers
  • Welders

Non-Traditional Career Paths for Men

  • Bank Tellers
  • Bookkeepers
  • Cashiers
  • Child Care Workers
  • Clerical/Administrative Support Workers
  • Cosmetologists
  • Court Reporters
  • Dental Assistants and Hygienists
  • Elementary and Middle School Teachers
  • Flight Attendants
  • Hair Stylists
  • Home Health Aides
  • Hotel Clerks
  • Librarians
  • Maids and Housekeepers
  • Nurses
  • Occupational and Physical Therapists
  • Receptionists
  • Secretaries
  • Sewing Machine Operators
  • Social Workers
  • Speech pathologists
  • Teacher Assistants