Non-Traditional Careers for Men Learn the Benefits & Challenges of Thinking Outside the Box

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Zachary Jones Telecommunications Supervisor View Bio
José Valenzuela García Dog Groomer View Bio
Devon Van Aken Certified Anesthesia Technician View Bio
Written By:
Jana Cary-Alvarez View Bio

Non-traditional careers for men are those which are, traditionally, performed by women. Women have historically been perceived as more nurturing than men, and as a result female-dominated careers often require a significant amount of empathy (for example, fields such as teaching and nursing). Luckily these stereotypes don’t reflect the reality that men are also entirely capable of enjoying and succeeding in non-traditional careers. Continue reading to learn more about what careers are female dominated and why men should consider joining these growing fields.

What are Non-Traditional Careers for Men?

The United States Department of Labor officially defines a non-traditional career as one in which the opposite gender holds 75% or more of the positions in that occupation. In this case, that means jobs with 25% or less male employees. Here are some traditionally female-dominated careers that are expected to grow through 2026.

  • Percentage of men in this field: 4.1%
    Median annual salary: $37,630
    Employment outlook: 19% growth between 2016-26, much faster than average
    Education needed: Completion of a certificate program in most states, but not all

    What they do: Dental assistants work in dental offices to help complete the administrative or clerical tasks needed to keep the practice running smoothly as well as to help care for the patients. People who are interested in healthcare and are detail-oriented would do well in this career.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 20.7%
    Median annual salary: $56,900
    Employment outlook: 7% growth between 2016-26
    Education needed: Bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification for public schools

    What they do: Elementary school teachers work with young children (ages approximately 5 to 10) to educate them and help them develop the skills they will be using for the rest of their lives. Patience, persistence and a love of children are all invaluable skills for this career.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 14.9%
    Median annual salary: $48,290
    Employment outlook: 11% growth between 2016-26, faster than average
    Education needed: Bachelor’s degree

    What they do: Event planners work with customers to organize conventions, meetings and more, including small personal engagements and larger corporate events. People with strong organizational and communication skills will perform well in this career, especially if they are talented at working independently.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 7.4%
    Median annual salary: $24,900
    Employment outlook: 13% growth between 2012-26, faster than average
    Education needed: Completion of a state-approved program, passing score on state licensing exam

    What they do: Hairdressers and cosmetologists help their customers look their best, whether for a special event or a new everyday hairstyle. People interested in art and fashion may enjoy this career, as well as individuals who enjoy working closely with other people.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 20.5%
    Median annual salary: $58,520
    Employment outlook: 9% growth between 2016-26
    Education needed: Master’s degree in library science

    What they do: Librarians help patrons find books and other resources while also connecting them with community events, tools, information and more. Individuals who love reading, enjoy helping others and are passionate about information literacy would be a good fit for this field.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 8.4%
    Median annual salary: $32,480
    Employment outlook: 29% growth between 2016-26, much faster than average
    Education needed: Completion of a medical assisting program may be required, some of which lead to an associate degree. Some positions may only require a high school diploma.

    What they do: Medical assistants work alongside other medical professionals, often performing administrative duties and taking patient histories. Organization and communication skills are useful for this career.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 13.7%
    Median annual salary: $50,410
    Employment outlook: 15% growth between 2012-26, much faster than average
    Education needed: Associate degree or certificate in paralegal studies

    What they do: Paralegals work closely with a lawyer or law office, assisting with vital case work like background and legal research, filing and record-keeping. The ability to work well as part of a team and time management are integral parts of being a paralegal.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 10.1%
    Median annual salary: $70,000
    Employment outlook: 15% growth between 2012-26, much faster than average
    Education needed: Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a diploma from a nursing program, depending on the employer.

    What they do: Registered nurses work in private practices, clinics and hospitals alongside doctors and other medical workers to care for patients by administering treatments, measuring vital signs and a wide variety of other important tasks. Compassion and the ability to work under pressure are musts for a successful career in nursing.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 17.5%
    Median annual salary: $47,980
    Employment outlook: 16% growth between 2012-26, much faster than average
    Education needed: At least a bachelor’s degree, though clinical social worker positions will require a master’s degree and post-degree experience in a clinical setting

    What they do: Social workers offer support to children, families and individuals by connecting them with resources and other types of assistance. Social skills such as empathy and clear communication are needed to be a successful and effective social worker.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 14.4%
    Median annual salary: $58,980
    Employment outlook: 8% growth between 2016-26
    Education needed: Bachelor’s degree, plus a state-issued certification for public schools

    What they do: Special education teachers work with students who have intellectual, developmental and/or physical disabilities that prevent effective learning in a traditional classroom setting. People who are optimistic, compassionate and patient might enjoy this career.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Percentage of men in this field: 15.8%
    Median annual salary: $26,140
    Employment outlook: 19% growth between 2016-26, much faster than average
    Education needed: High school diploma

    What they do:  Veterinary assistants work alongside veterinarians, helping with procedures and caring for animals at the office by feeding them, cleaning their cages and more. People who enjoy working with animals and have good problem-solving skills would be a good fit for this career.

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Why Men Should Consider Non-Traditional Careers

Non-traditional careers can come with a wide range of benefits for men who decide to enter them. Not only are these so-called pink-collar jobs often parts of growing industries, but they also allow men to use a set of skills often ignored in traditionally male-dominated fields.

  • Men and women may enter a non-traditional career for the same reason, such as a passion for health care or a desire to put communication skills to good use. By entering non-traditional careers, men have the opportunity to work alongside individuals who have similar interests and passions.

  • Men in non-traditional careers may find themselves working with a wide range of customers, coworkers and clients. These careers are often people-oriented or social in nature, which means that men may meet and interact with significantly more people than a traditional career might offer.

  • Traditionally male careers such as industry and manufacturing are on the decline while female-dominated careers such as healthcare are growing. For example, production occupations are estimated to decline 4 percent by 2026, while registered nurses and medical assistants are estimated to rise by 15 and 29 percent respectively. This means that non-traditional careers will offer men more job security and more long-term advancement opportunities than traditional careers.

  • Choosing a career based on genuine interest and passion, rather than one based on expectation and tradition, can be immensely satisfying and turn the daily grind into something fulfilling.

  • In the interest of equity and diversity, employers in non-traditional fields may try to hire more men in order to promote a more balanced workforce. This means that men can be in high demand in these fields; additionally, if a 20-person applicant pool only has two men, those men will likely stand out and be more memorable to hiring managers and interviewers.

  • Many non-traditional careers for men are those that work closely with other people, be they clients, students or patients. Men who have good communication skills or appreciate the social aspects of a job would likely find these non-traditional jobs very enjoyable.

  • Some non-traditional careers for men are very high-paying, such as nursing, which had a median salary of $70,000 per year in 2017. Other non-traditional careers may not have as high of a starting salary, but wages in these careers are more likely to increase than traditional and blue-collar jobs.

Challenges You Might Face

Despite the many benefits and advantages that can come with working in non-traditional careers, men may face some hurdles to entering and excelling in these fields. Here are some of the main challenges that men may face in non-traditional careers.

  • Unwanted Attention

    Men may find it more difficult to blend in at their workplace if they are the only man there. As an extension of this, men may find themselves responsible for their entire gender, meaning that coworkers, friends and even bosses may perceive their successes or faults as representative of all men.

  • Discrimination or Harassment

    People may believe or assume that the skills used in non-traditional careers are found only in women, such as compassion or the ability to nurture. These beliefs can come from people outside the field or even from employers and coworkers. Coworkers may even consider male employees to be somehow undeserving of the job and think that they were hired just to improve the gender balance of the workplace.

  • Lack of Support from Friends & Family

    The people important in men’s lives may have very set ideas of what careers men should work in and as a result discourage men from entering non-traditional careers.

  • Difficulty Finding Mentors

    Depending on the career, having a mentor can range from beneficial to absolutely vital. Some men may find it more difficult to relate to female mentors in their field or have trouble finding a mentor who has followed a similar career path.

  • Internalized Bias

    Men may not realize that non-traditional careers are viable options for them because they are used to seeing only women perform these jobs. Additionally, some men may feel discouraged from pursuing these careers because of the gendered stereotypes and assumptions surrounding them.

  • Isolation

    Men who prefer to build friendships with other men may find themselves part of a workforce that has few, if any, other men. This can be especially true of careers that are extremely female-dominated, such as dental assistants.

  • Stereotyping

    People might make assumptions about a man’s personality and life outside of work because of his career, which can lead to workplace discrimination and increased isolation.

Spotlight on Men in Non-Traditional Careers

A wide range of non-traditional careers exist beyond the examples given here, and men have entered and thrived in all of them. Here are three men who have found success in non-traditional careers and who enjoy working alongside women coworkers.

Devon works as a Certified Anesthesia Technician and is currently enrolled in a Surgical Technology Program that his employer is paying for. He intends to return to school after graduation to obtain his First Assistant Certification and someday wants to open his own assisting business with a coworker.

What inspired you to enter a non-traditional career?

I first started working in the medical field in a non-clinical role. Just being in the medical environment inspired me to advance and change roles, which is something I’m still actively doing. I am interested in helping other people get well and find the medical field fascinating.

What did you do before you entered a non-traditional career (if you haven’t always worked in this industry)?

I worked in the food service industry. For me personally, I had no interest there and no room for advancement. The food industry felt like just a job to pay bills, whereas now I have a purpose and a career that shows my personal growth.

What is the gender ratio like at your job?

The majority of the other technicians and nurses I work with, especially during surgeries, are women.

What challenges have you experienced as a result of working in a female-dominate career?

I haven’t experienced any challenges in the field working predominantly with women. To me it makes no difference as long as my coworkers are well-trained and knowledgeable of the medical field. All of my challenges have mostly been from learning as much about the medical field as possible.

What do your family and friends think of your career choice?

They are very supportive, mostly due to the fact the medical field pays so well they don’t need to support me. I’d like to think they approve of my career choice because revolves around making people's lives better.

What do you find satisfying about being in a non-traditional career?

Helping other people is the reason I do what I do full time. I will continue working in the medical field until retirement.

Initially an aspiring veterinary technician, José switched gears to another animal-oriented career: dog grooming. He has been in the field for over three years and has no plans of leaving it.

What inspired you to enter a non-traditional career?

The honest answer is, I was in need of a job, and one of my teachers told me to apply for [dog grooming]. I had no idea what I was applying for, I just wanted something to do with dogs.

What did you do before you entered a non-traditional career (if you haven’t always worked in this industry)?

I was a teacher’s assistant and assistant for [an] after school program.

What is the gender ratio like at your job?

I’m the only guy in the grooming salon. My 13 coworkers are all women.

What challenges have you experienced as a result of working in a female-dominate career?

Some dogs are timid when it comes to men. Those dogs never really warm up to me. I get asked to do a lot of the heavy-lifting because I’m a guy. I have to hold and lift a lot of the bigger dogs for my coworkers because they assume I’m stronger. They book me more big dogs, too.

What do your family and friends think of your career choice?

I’ve never been put-down by [my friends]. My family finds my job different and interesting, in a good way.

What do you find satisfying about being in a non-traditional career?

Honestly, there’s nothing really satisfying about being ‘the only guy.’ In fact, more men should be working in this field. It can get time consuming helping [my coworkers] lift all the heavy dogs, or holding down the really rambunctious ones.

Zachary comes from an extensive background of customer service and takes that into every job he works at. His currently is a supervisor at a company that captions phone calls for the deaf and hard of hearing. He has plans to continue his career with the company and hopes to become a systems administrator in the future.

What inspired you to enter a non-traditional career?

At first it was rather silly: my only goal was to [advance enough for] permanent desk at my workplace. I soon, however, found a world that made me feel welcome. I have always gotten along much better with women in general so working with women as not only my supervisors but also as my co-workers I thought would be a perfect place for me to be myself and to not have to work in the bounds of a male run workplace. I have worked at several before and with one exception, they are quite hostile environments for my mental health.

What did you do before you entered a non-traditional career (if you haven’t always worked in this industry)?

Most of [my past employment] was food service but I have maintenance experience as well as retail service. My current job allows me to work within a system where I am only held accountable to my coworkers and higher ups rather than the customers that we serve. It generally makes for a better work environment and much less stressful.

What is the gender ratio like at your job?

As a supervisor, I work with about 30 or more women versus 10 other men either at my level or above. The team I supervise is about 12 women to 7 men.

What challenges have you experienced as a result of working in a female-dominate career?

One of the biggest challenges have been with handling the problems women are remiss to share with men. Most times I would just like to help but they specifically ask for a woman supervisor rather than myself. It can be difficult, but some women are just not comfortable bringing these problems to a man. I get a woman supervisor for them of course, but I wish they were comfortable talking to me.

What do your family and friends think of your career choice?

They are very proud of my choice. They enjoy hearing my work stories and they are really proud of what I do in general.

What do you find satisfying about being in a non-traditional career?

I love the ability to be myself at my job. Even though I am a supervisor [and] more is expected of me than most, that does not change the fact that we are all people [who] are allowed to flourish at my job. I may be required to dress fancier, but that does not mean I am any less approachable or friendly. I strive to have plenty of interaction and learn who the people I work with are. I want them to feel comfortable with who they are and unleash their full potential.

Tips for Success

  • Ask for Help When Needed

    Coworkers and bosses who are women are nearly a guarantee in these fields. Ask them for help, guidance, or even mentoring; even though they may have entered the career for different reasons or through a different path, they still successfully reached the same destination.

  • Find Community

    Other men in similar careers can offer support and advice. Seek them out in the form of mentors or even join online communities such as MenTeach and American Assembly for Men in Nursing.

  • Persevere

    Even if stereotypes and other challenges stand in the way, remember how fulfilling, rewarding and beneficial non-traditional careers can be.

  • Read

    Before joining a non-traditional field, read stories and advice about the gender ratios in these careers to get an idea of what to expect. For example, “Men at Work” by Charlene Sabini about male paralegals, “Men in Social Work” from Master’s of Social Work Careers and “Women’s Work: Men Who Do Non-Traditional Jobs” by Zohra Aly about a wide range of careers.