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Top-paying jobs for women

business Updated: Aug 20, 2009 15:09 IST

Women are flocking to the labor force in record numbers. Nearly 60% sought or occupied employment in 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available, representing 46.5% of the total U.S. labor force. More than one-third of these women worked in management, professional and related occupations, accounting for 51% of all workers in this top-paying sector.

Though a pay gap persists--women's earnings remain stalled at around 80% of men's--women are finding the jobs that pay them the most, and some may surprise you. Based on a U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau 2008 analysis, we ranked women's median weekly earnings as full-time wage and salary workers to uncover the highest-paying jobs for women.

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An unlikely No. 1 emerged. Much to our surprise, pharmacy topped the list, where women pharmacists earn a median wage of $1,647 per week or about $86,000 a year. Women currently account for slightly less than half of all pharmacists in the U.S. and earn about 85% as much as their male colleagues. It's a much smaller pay gap than that of medical doctors, however, where women make 59% as much as men. And pharmacy requires less education.

Women physicians and surgeons came in far behind pharmacists at No. 6 on the list, earning a median of $1,230 per week. Dr. Drucilla Barker, economist and director of women's and gender studies at the University of South Carolina, explains this by the wide distribution of salaries in the medical profession. Women often go into family practice or other lower-paying specialties, she says, rather than work the 80-hour-plus weeks of surgeons. In jobs like pharmacy and speech pathology there is a clear and narrow salary range, and women are more likely to have manageable schedules, Barker says.

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Women computer scientists and systems analysts came in at No. 10, earning a median wage of $1,082 per week or about $56,000 a year. In recent years, telecommuting has become increasingly common in the industry, making computer science even more appealing to women seeking high-paying work and flexibility.

And just above, at No. 9, were speech-language pathologists, the only occupation on our list in which women earn exactly equal to men and represent 50% of the field's total workers.

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