Guide to College Majors in Women's Studies

Table of Contents

What Is Women's Studies?

Many colleges and universities now allow liberal arts students to pursue degrees in women's studies. Using the arts and humanities as a launch pad, these popular degree programs explore the many factors that influence and shape the life of women. Students investigate these influences in the United States and throughout the world. Students who pursue a degree in women's studies learn how social and cultural influences have shaped the lives and roles of women throughout history.

Most participating students report that courses directly related to women's studies have had a profound impact on their lives. By viewing world events and cultures through the filters of different genders, students can gain powerful perspectives on freedom and empowerment. Women's studies majors learn to value the achievements of female leaders over the years while positioning themselves for their own cultural breakthroughs.

What Do Women's Studies Majors Study?

While women's studies degree programs can vary tremendously from one college or university to the next, most feature courses in the following disciplines:

Women's Health

Though women's studies majors learn the basics of female biology, students spend far more time attempting to understand the deeply politicized nature of women's health issues throughout the world. As governments and religious leaders attempt to dictate the kinds of medical treatment available to women, students learn the reasons for their opinions while discovering the ways that women have challenged the status quo.

Women's History in America

Students in women's studies programs examine the important roles women have played in shaping the direction of our young nation. Strong native Americans, tough settlers, determined suffragettes, and empowered business leaders have all changed the United States for the better. Women's studies courses in history and current affairs shed new light on the often overlooked accomplishments of women in America.

Women's History Around the World

Numerous cultures around the world have left so many accomplishments of women off the pages of history books. Women's studies majors uncover the tracks that influential women have left on global events, while attempting to understand the political and cultural reasons that their work has gone underrepresented.

Women in Literature

Throughout history, women have made significant strides in arts and culture, especially in societies where forms of political and business expression were unavailable to them. Women's studies majors trace the innovations of female authors in English literature as well as in the writings of other cultures. By acknowledging and celebrating their accomplishments, today's writers can build upon those achievements to create their own breakthroughs.

Sex and Gender

In the past few centuries, women have mobilized in many countries to take back control of their own destinies from cultures that forced them to accommodate the wills of men without question. Women's studies majors analyze the roles of physical differences between men and women in order to understand how sexuality influences everything from the ways we play to the ways we fight.

Sociology of Women

Women's studies majors examine the ways that women interact with each other and with men. By understanding the reasons that men and women treat each other differently, students can improve their own relationships with friends, lovers, and colleagues.

Women in Politics

Though American women have only recently held significant public offices, women's studies majors explore the variety of ways in which women have influenced public life throughout history. As first ladies and advisors, strong women have shaped important policies and decisions by counseling men to make wise decisions. As queens and prime ministers, women have directly changed laws and social behaviors to fit their own ideals. Today's women complete for important political roles, with women's studies graduates poised to lead future generations through even more revolutionary changes.

Feminist Theory

Students in women's studies programs immerse themselves in the history and development of the feminist movement. By understanding the ideals and the objectives of women's liberation, students can compare our achievements here at home with budding movements in other parts of the world.

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Career Education in Women's Studies

Because women's studies is still a fairly new specialty, there are many differences among degree programs. Some programs emphasize arts and literature, while others focus on politics and activism. Since no two programs are alike, prospective women's studies majors should prepare to spend extra time evaluating programs for their suitability.

For instance, students should ask to see some detailed course descriptions and reading lists before enrolling in a women's studies programs. Since many programs are highly politicized, students should either find a program that matches their existing political orientation or they should prepare to either expand their own world view or defend their opinions in academic debate.

Diplomas, Certificates, and Associate Degrees in Women's Studies

Course time is typically equivalent of two full time semesters of work. The actual time required to obtain an online certificate in women's studies varies dependant on the educational institution, transferable credits, and the learning pace set by the students.

Bachelor's Degrees in women's Studies

The required time to obtain an online bachelor's degree in women's studies varies depending on the educational institution, transferable credits, and the learning pace set by the student. A bachelor's degree in women's studies requires a curriculum of core courses which can include English composition, humanities, mathematics, general science, fine arts, history and a variety of electives. A bachelor's degree in women's studies also requires subject-specific classes, such as introduction to feminism, third world feminism, feminist theories, and formations of race and gender.

What Can You Do With a College Major in Women's Studies?

Though women have steadily increased their presence in the business and political worlds, graduates of women's studies programs can use their insight and experience to provide qualified leadership in a number of positions. Authors Barbara F. Luebke and Mary Ellen Reilly chronicled some of the jobs that Women's Studies graduates have filled over the past decade.

Women's Studies Career Paths

Clinical Social Worker

Counselors and other clinical social workers benefit from integrating a women's studies major or minor into their professional development. Understanding the history and development of women's roles in society can help clinical social workers provide perspective for their clients. Graduates can use the knowledge from their degree programs to connect clients with the most effective and appropriate resources in their communities.

Health Clinic Coordinator

Working in health clinics allows women's studies majors to combine their understanding of the social and political aspects of women's health with their innate organizational and leadership skills. Health clinic coordinators often handle everything from scheduling medical personnel to appealing for funding. At the same time, they must manage relations with neighborhoods that often face conflict with politicians and religious groups.

College Professor

Some women's studies students use their degrees to launch a career in academia. As a burgeoning specialty, many colleges and universities are growing their women's studies departments to meet growing student demand. Likewise, many women's studies professors enjoy the opportunity to publish their work in the commercial press instead of solely in academic journals.

Human Rights Advocate

Because women in some foreign countries do not enjoy the same liberties as women in the United States, many women's studies majors campaign for equality and justice around the world. In some cases, students can volunteer or even gain jobs with international rights organizations that monitor the treatment and the advancement of women.

Victims' Advocate

Some women's studies students pursue a career that puts them in direct contact with the victims of domestic abuse, hate crimes, or other acts of violence. Victims' advocates bridge the gaps between law enforcement, the legal community, and medical professionals. Experienced victims' advocates can help confused and frightened women receive critical medical and legal attention. Victims' advocates also help their clients remain committed to pursuing criminal prosecution for their abusers, especially in situations where they feel intimidated or shamed for doing so.

Journalist

A women's studies degree or concentration can provide a student with a valuable and unusual perspective regarding current events. Women's studies majors can use their writing, interviewing, and research skills to report on issues facing women, as well as on the ways that women impact society. Today's journalists must assure their audiences that issues facing women deserve as much respect and attention as issues facing men.

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Lawyer

Attorneys who complement their law school studies with a concentration or a degree in women's studies can unlock the potential to work with a variety of specialized cases. As the general public becomes more aware of long-term challenges such as sexual harassment, discrimination, and domestic violence, attorneys who build a reputation for handling sensitive cases can build strong specialty practices.

Women's Shelter Director

Shelters or abused women face a unique set of challenges that women's studies majors can use their skills to overcome. Not only must a center director find funding and support for their facilities, they must do so in ways that protect the privacy of their clients. Many women's shelters operate in undisclosed locations so that abusive men cannot cause further harm to shelter residents.

Center directors must be able to assure neighbors of their safety, while facilitating meetings with attorneys and law enforcement professionals during divorce proceedings or criminal prosecution. In addition, women's studies degree holders use their organizational skills to provide a comfortable environment for residents. Directors must maintain their facilities and coordinate with housekeepers, contractors, and public utilities.

Nurse-Midwife

The converging trends of high malpractice insurance and the desire for more traditional childbirth experiences have created job opportunities for midwives. Whether helping to deliver children at their patients' homes or operating from comfortable maternity facilities, women's studies graduates use their strong communication skills to coach women through this joyous but challenging ritual.

Legislative Aide

As politicians work harder to court the votes of women, many elected officials have recruited women's studies majors to their research teams. By viewing current laws and proposed legislation through the filter of women's history, these specialists can help their representatives to really understand the impact of law on women in their districts.

Public Relations Manager

Women tend to make most of the buying decisions in America, often selecting the kinds of goods they bring into their households. As mothers and wives, women also influence the purchasing decisions of the men in their lives. Recent studies show that most single men often purchase the same brands of goods that their mothers chose.

Therefore, companies that want to maintain positive relationships with their female customers have started to recruit public relations professionals with exposure to women's studies courses. In addition to the strong writing and communication skills that women's studies majors develop during their academic careers, employers rely on their perspective into female wants and needs. This insight can affect the way that companies launch new products or repair mistakes.

Rape Crisis Program Director

Because they understand the challenges facing victims of sexual abuse, women's studies graduates make ideal leaders for rape crisis programs. Their knowledge of women's health gives them the ability to help clients understand the psychological and physical trauma of rape. In addition, women's studies majors possess the organizational and communications skills to train teams of volunteers and staff members. Program directors must also communicate the importance of seeking treatment to victims who are too afraid to ask for help. To do so, they write articles and make media appearances that encourage victims or their family members to seek confidential assistance.

Health Clinic Medical Assistant

As more women seek medical treatment at dedicated women's clinics, medical assistants and nurses who enroll in women's studies programs gain a powerful advantage over other trained professionals. Women visit these clinics to get a level of care and concern that they cannot find at other doctor's offices and care facilities. By understanding the wants and needs of their patients, women's studies graduates can provide a higher level of holistic care.

Union Organizer

Though women have made tremendous strides in business over the last century, many women still work in substandard conditions for unacceptable salaries. Women's studies majors that work with labor organizations identify employers that exploit women or otherwise fail to provide mandatory health and welfare benefits for their female employees. These activists have successfully lobbied for day care facilities in factories, extended maternity leave, and other important benefits.

Preparing for Women's Studies Job Opportunities

In addition to the insight that students gain from a degree in women's studies, degree candidates also develop a number of beneficial career skills, including:

  • Strong critical thinking skills. Like all liberal arts majors, women's studies students gain the classical ability to solve problems and think creatively about potential solutions. Students learn from the examples of influential writers, inventors, and thinkers throughout history. Women's studies majors benefit from an increased emphasis on the history of female cultural and political figures, especially leaders that mainstream liberal arts programs sometimes overlook.
  • Confident oral presentation skills. Women's studies majors must present a succession of oral presentations throughout their degree programs. Each opportunity to speak in front of a class provides the opportunity to hone a student's presentation skills and to reduce their apprehension about speaking to groups. These skills prove valuable later in life regardless of the career a women's studies major pursues.
  • Effective writing skills. Students pursuing a women's studies degree must learn to write powerful essays and reports that chronicle the achievements of women throughout history as well as the challenges that face future generations. Over the course of four years, students may write hundreds of papers. Therefore, students gain the chance to refine their writing skills while developing the ability to compose and edit complex reports under deadline.
  • Strong research skills. All liberal arts and social sciences majors develop powerful abilities to ferret information from libraries and from the internet. Because women's studies is a fairly new concentration, many students rely on primary interviews with subjects who have not yet told their stories to other researchers. In many cases, women's studies majors must approach research sources with a healthy degree of skepticism. Therefore, students enrolled in women's studies programs build skills and experience in fact checking and verification that surpass those of students in many traditional college majors.

Certification and Licensure

Professionals seeking careers as teachers must meet local and state requirement for certification. Many municipalities require teachers to pursue continuous education to maintain their teaching eligibility.

Those seeking careers in social agencies are usually subjected to various background checks and licensure depending on the regulations of the state of employment.

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