You deserve to do what you love for a living

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By Erin Eagan


While decreasing slightly in the last few decades, a lack of gender balance in the labor market still rears its ugly head in certain professions.

Elementary school teachers and dental hygienists are two female-dominated professions, for example, while men still occupy most plumbing and auto repair jobs. These types of careers that have been traditionally filled by one gender are referred to as nontraditional occupations when the positions are filled by the opposite gender. More specifically, nontraditional occupations are defined as one gender comprising less than 25 percent of the individuals employed in that occupation. Nontraditional occupations can include Child Care Services, Plumbing, Cosmetology, Construction, IT, Truck Driving and many more.

For generations, there have been deep-seeded notions of what men’s and women’s roles are, and nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace. We’ve been socialized and culturalized to think that certain careers are gender-specific and the numbers over the years have proven that.

In 2017, women still represent less than 30 percent of the manufacturing workforce. Men, meanwhile, represent just 9 percent of the nursing industry. Although these stereotypes have been slowly eroding in the last few decades, occupational gender stereotypes still exist.

But you deserve to do what you love for a living, regardless of any pre-conceived notions. Pursuing a career that fits your personality, passions and skills can lead to a successful and satisfying career.



Courtesy of Fox Valley Technical College

If you haven’t found a career path that is right for you, give some thought to a nontraditional occupation. Nontraditional employment can be quite advantageous with higher wages, good benefits, opportunities for advancement, and you’ll be doing work you enjoy.

Sarita Field, a Nontraditional Occupations (NTO) Advisor at Madison College, says attending  college in pursuit of nontraditional employment can be a good choice for anyone, even those who didn’t initially have college on their radar. “Many nontraditional occupations require a certificate or two-year degree, which may be a great fit for individuals who otherwise may not elect to pursue higher education,” says Field.If you decide to go the nontraditional route, all 16 of Wisconsin’s technical colleges are there to offer support throughout your academic career and beyond.

Madison College, for example, strives to support its students in nontraditional occupations in a variety of ways. “Our NTO advisors work to recruit and retain students in NTO programs by partnering with community leaders and employers to raise awareness regarding these occupations as a viable option for underrepresented genders,” says Field. “Additionally, we provide retention support through one-on-one resume, cover letter, interviewing and job searching skills as well as through NTO community building with such efforts as the student-led WomenLEAD club and campus held events.

The colleges also have several instructors who teach in NTO career areas that have also worked in an NTO field. They are great resources who want to see you succeed as you follow your dreams.

Still need more convincing? See for yourself what students in non-traditional occupations from Fox Valley Technical College, Moraine Park Technical College and Western Technical College had to say about their experiences — and then decide if it might be right for you.