Dear Matt: What are nontraditional careers and why are they good options for job seekers?

Matt says: Nontraditional careers are ones that are dominated by one gender, says career coach and nontraditional careers expert Joan Runnheim Olson, founder of Pathways Career Success Strategies, LLC ( “Gender stereotypes oftentimes impact an individual’s career choice,” says Runnheim Olson. “Males and females tend to gravitate toward careers that are traditional for their gender.”

Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC/, which promotes nontraditional career paths for women, mentions engineering, “which is considered nontraditional for women, because national statistics indicate that of all individuals working as engineers only 14 percent are women. Another example is nursing, which is considered nontraditional for men, because national statistics indicate that of all individuals working as nurses only 8 percent are men.”

Many budget-friendly nontraditional learning opportunities can be found via programs at schools in the Minnesota Community and Technical Colleges ( system. NCTC recruits women for its automotive service technology, carpentry, electronics, HVAC technology and plumbing technology programs (among many others). Dunwoody Technical College has a page for Women in Technology ( St. Paul-based WomenVenture offers the Women Can Do It! Path ( for women considering a career in the construction, trades, manufacturing, energy process or IT sector. Additional information can be found via the nontraditional careers page (

Women in nontraditional careers often earn 20-30 percent higher wages than the traditional careers they often pursue, says Runnheim Olson. Nontraditional careers for males include nurse, veterinary technician, paralegal and administrative assistant, among many others. “Careers such as nursing or teaching allow for portability and flexibility which may be appealing for some males,” says Runnheim Olson. “Nurses are needed all across the country which makes it a portable career. Because nursing is needed 24 hours a day, it can allow a husband and wife the flexibility to cut down on child care costs with the husband working in the evening while performing child care duties during the day while his wife is at work.”

Most Americans work at least 40 years over the course of their life, which translates to roughly 83,000 hours. “I think the number one reason for a female or male to consider a nontraditional career is career satisfaction,” says Runnheim Olson, “basing a career choice on interest and aptitude rather than gender stereotypes.” □