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Explore the Top Degrees, Friendliest U.S. Cities, and Support Resources for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Graduate Students
“If the desire as a society is to remove racism, bigotry and hate, then education is the only way to eradicate it.”Ryan Wilaby, LGBTQ leadership coach.
Because the LGBTQ community still remains largely misunderstood, according to Ryan Willaby, there is much work to be done and education is the key. “LGBTQ degrees are important because misunderstanding and ignorance breeds bigotry. Having degrees in specific niches around LGBTQ issues creates focus. Where there is focus, there is change, and where there is change there is progress.” Ryan notes that, as a modern society, we should always be looking to move toward progress and equality for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The following graduate degrees are great options for LGBTQ students or their allies aspiring to make a difference.
This degree equips master’s level students with understanding of the ideologies and frameworks behind LGBT movements on both sides of the debate. Courses in areas of power movements, gender within race identity, gender theory, and discrimination offer insight needed to understand historical implications while working toward greater equality.
Gender Studies is an important degree as it grounds the movement in an academic study, allowing practitioners to provide data-driven research about where the movement is and how it can be moved forward.
Possible careers: researcher, teacher/professor, advocate or grassroots campaign manager
This emerging interdisciplinary degree combines studies in sociology, psychology, history, literature, and politics to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to be resounding voices in ongoing discussions on LGBTQ rights and equality. Courses may include queer texts, the history of gender and sexuality, body politics and social theory.
LGBT studies degrees ensure students are able to think outside the box and approach the field from many different angles due to the infusion of multiple disciplines and ways of thinking.
Possible industries: non-profit administration, journalism, education, news and media
Also sometimes called sexuality studies, this program explores topics related to the psychology of sexuality, international views, sexual diversity, how sex and love are viewed in modern society, and the role of race.
Human sexuality degrees are crucial for continued understanding and evolved knowledge on human sexuality and how it varies according to sexual orientation and gender identity
Possible careers: sexologist, sex therapist, LGBTQ advocate or reproductive rights specialist
Rooted in theory and method, sociology programs equip graduates with frameworks they can apply to myriad research questions, including those related to LGBT issues. Students will learn how to form research questions, frame research studies and further the field through intellectual inquiry.
Because LGBT topics remain misunderstood and unheard even in present day, sociology gives an academic and intellectual voice to the continued pursuit of widespread understanding and acceptance.
Possible career areas: research, teaching, writing, advocacy or human rights
To be an advocate requires perseverance, political savvy, effective communication and a team effort, and degree programs in this area outfit students with these skills and more. Common classes include applied advocacy, advocacy methods, transformational leadership, civic participation and building sustainable organizations.
Regardless of future career aspirations, a degree in advocacy prepares students to work in their communities, their states, the nation or the world by enacting effective policies.
Possible career areas: community organizing, political advising, grassroots movements, nonprofit administration or government relations
Although first year cornerstone classes are the same for all students regardless of the area in which they plan to practice, the second and third years allow for more flexibility to tailor degrees. Law students seeking to work with the LGBTQ community frequently focus their studies in areas of civil and human rights
Because so many LGBTQ issues revolve around equal rights, law is a critical area of study for advancing the conversation and creating more equitable environments for LGBT individuals.
Possible areas of practice: litigation, human rights, government relations or in-house legal consulting
Psychology is a discipline concerned with the mind and behaviors, and students enrolled in LGBT psychology programs apply psychological principles and frameworks to understand issues within this community. Topics such as the history and mythology of LGBT movements will be covered alongside affirmative approaches to treatment, affirmative psychotherapy and LGBT mental health issues.
Because the LGBTQ community continues to face oppression, hate crimes and misunderstanding, individuals able to address underlying psychological factors and mental health are critical to providing therapy and treatment programs.
Possible careers: counselors, therapists, psychoanalysts or researchers
Social justice programs are focused on educating students in the practice of creating fair and equal societies by addressing injustice and prejudice. This is accomplished by providing both practical and theoretical coursework. Students learn about creating sustainable communities, addressing systemic prejudices, embracing and promoting diversity, and working with established institutions to enact change.
Outdated mindsets about what is “normal” continue to perpetuate offensive and oppressive stereotypes, making social justice an incredibly important discipline for altering views and enacting change.
Possible career areas: advocacy, policy analysis, mediation, intervention or social service
Individuals looking to help organizations or causes gain awareness are often drawn to graduate programs in public relations and development, as it gives them the tools to be effective communicators on behalf of their clients. Students learn how to create strategic communication plans, develop donor campaigns, use digital and print media to craft appropriate messages, and deploy fundraising strategies.
Because many of the leading LGBTQ organizations operate as nonprofits, the field needs qualified and passionate individuals who can raise their profile and help build a diversified donor base.
Possible careers: public relations specialists, fundraisers, development directors, direct campaign coordinators or publicists
Public policy graduate programs help students become leaders in the world of policies – be they regulations or laws – by engaging in decision-making, legitimation and ongoing dialogue about ethics and values. Throughout the program, students are required to think about established norms and existing laws, and how those have shaped the world.
The law of the land is the deciding factor for many issues relating to LGBTQ interests, as seen by the ruling on same-sex marriage. Because policy makers are at the forefront of setting agendas and leading change, professionals furthering the interests of the LGBT community are vital.
Possible careers: policy analysts, researchers, planners, public interest advocates or legislative aides
Individuals with a desire to serve others are frequently drawn to MSN programs, where they learn how to be professional and knowledgeable while also exhibiting compassion and resiliency. Programs are designed to instill these traits through coursework covering physiology, pharmacology, health assessment, disease prevention, human and family development, and sexual health.
Though nursing is an established field, heterosexism in healthcare can prevent LGBTQ individuals from receiving care that meets their unique needs. Nursing professionals’ sensitive to their concerns are needed make the field more inclusive and ultimately more effective.
Possible career settings: hospitals, physician offices, health clinics, schools or nonprofit agencies
Functioning as a hybrid degree of public policy and health care, this program addresses disparities and shortcomings of healthcare provision to the LGBTQ community. Through interdisciplinary coursework, students learn how to create inclusive healthcare initiatives, advocate for more holistic service and bring awareness to LGBTQ health issues.
The disparity between health care and policy all too often means that LGBTQ individuals don’t receive the best care since policies weren’t created with them in mind. Professionals who understand both sides of the coin are needed to pioneer this emerging area.
Possible career areas: social work, advocacy, education initiatives, medicine or health care
Social work attracts individuals with a passion for improving their client’s lives, helping them understand and tackle problems and treating a range of mental, behavioral and emotional issues. Within an MSW program, students learn about social environments, human behavior, social welfare, working with varied communities and social service policy.
Ranging from discrimination or hate crimes to lack of healthcare or housing, LGBTQ individuals often face challenges that require trained social workers who understand their unique needs.
Possible areas of practice: mental health agencies, schools, international organizations, hospitals or nonprofit agencies
These programs prepare graduates to serve individuals through a variety of platforms, ranging from mental health services to alcohol and drug treatment centers. Students receive theoretical and practical knowledge to help them navigate myriad cases and provide tailored care. Coursework covered includes human behavior, multiculturalism and diversity, ethics, policy and social change, and group dynamics.
Research has shown that LGBTQ individuals can be at a higher risk for mental health issues and substance abuse given the oppression and misunderstanding they encounter on a daily basis. Professionals are needed to shed light on their needs and create specialized services and programs.
Possible career areas: research, direct care, advocacy, counseling or consulting
Science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM, comprise a group of disciplines related to scientific inquiry and the progression of concrete and applied studies. Although coursework specific to LGBT interests does not exist, recent years have seen a movement to make the arena less ethnically and culturally homogenized.
All the fields encompassed within STEM are areas where minorities, including the LGBTQ community, have traditionally been underrepresented, highlighting the need for a diversified and socially educated workforce.
Possible careers: researcher, technician, teacher, engineer, mathematician, biologist, physicist, chemist, software developer, computer programmer and countless more
While much has been done to create equitable working environments, change can bring resistance. “When there is movement in legislative law for equality, there can sometimes be backlash from the old mindset. While things are getting better and more states and companies are passing laws and policies to protect LGBTQ employees, it’s important to realize there is still a long way to go,” says Ryan Wilaby. “A lot of things determine levels of satisfaction, such as industry, geography, socioeconomic levels, the individual’s physical appearance and gender matching mannerisms. None of these should be factors, but they are in today’s society.”
For LGBTQ graduate students and allies who aspire to work with companies valuing inclusion and equality, the following list highlights those on the forefront of creating diversified workforces.
Uber, which is based in San Francisco but has offices in all of its major cities, has been vocal in supporting LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage. The company celebrated the federal ruling by highlighting the gay pride flag on its mobile app.
HRC gave Uber a perfect score in its Corporate Equality Index for 2016
Developers create and modify applications and software to use on computers or smartphones, with the overall goal of balancing user friendliness with client needs.
A rapid growth in companies using applications and software has created a demand for qualified developers. 17 percent growth between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $97,990
Aetna offers an entire section of its website devoted to diversity and inclusion, highlighting the implementation of employee resource groups, workforce diversity, and the Chairman and CEO’s vision for using a diverse employee base to better understand those they serve.
Aetna received a 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for 2016
Managers of Health Services oversee care provided in settings such as hospitals, clinics, public health agencies or managed care companies.
17 percent growth between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $92,810
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a Washington D.C.-based firm, instituted a benefits program for the domestic partners of its LGBT employees long before it was common in corporate America. The company is also celebrated for its pro bono work in the LGBT community and for sponsoring the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project reception.
AGSH&F scored 100 on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index
Lawyers perform a variety of services, including creating legal documents, advising and representing clients, litigating, lobbying or serving as in-house counsel.
6 percent growth between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $114,970
General Electric is known for being progressive in its hiring practices and celebration of workforce diversity. In addition to an internal GLBTA Alliance program, the company also has forums for African-American, Asian-Pacific Americans, Hispanic, Veteran and female workers.
General Electric was one of eleven Fortune 20 companies to receive a perfect rating by the HRC for corporate equality.
Engineers in this field work with a variety of raw and processed materials to develop new uses and products for a variety of industries and services.
1 percent growth between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $87,690
Cardinal Health has offices in nearly every state, as well as Canada and Mexico. The company is consistently ranked as a top destination for LGBT employees due to diversity training, an equality resource group, spousal and partner benefits, and support of LGBT causes.
The company satisfied all of the HRC’s requirements, gaining a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index.
NPs serve patients dealing with acute, short-term, or chronic illnesses and promote healthy practices and disease prevention. They may work alone or as part of a medical team.
31 percent between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $102,670
Ben & Jerry’s has championed LGBTQ rights for nearly four decades and has always been recognized as an outspoken corporate sponsor of this community. After the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, the company renamed a flavor in honor of the decision.
HRC is a fan of Ben & Jerry’s as well: the campaign gave B&J a perfect 100 for their equality programs.
Scientists working with raw and processed foods while also monitoring nutrient levels to create the best consumer products.
5 percent between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $60,690
Seattle, WA-based Razorfish is one of the nation’s largest creative agencies. The company provides inclusive healthcare and benefits for its employees and their partners and offers diversity resource groups. Employees recently created a video for It Gets Better, a national organization focused on inspiring LGBT youth.
With so many initiatives in place, Razorfish was given a perfect score on the HRC Corporate Equality ranking.
Individuals working in public relations help clients and companies build their public image through marketing campaigns, branding, events and fundraising efforts.
6 percent between 2014-2024
Median Occupation Salary: $55,680
Boston Consulting Group has offices throughout America and all are committed to full LGBT equality. This is accomplished through a variety of programs, including the LGBT network, career development, campus recruiting events, and full health insurance benefits for employees and their partners.
BCG was named one of the best places to work by HRC for LGBT employees.
These professionals review existing public policy and make recommendations for amendments or new policies and regulations. They frequently work for consulting firms or individually.
14 percent between 2012-2022
Median Occupation Salary: $54,657
Deloitte launched a company-wide campaign in 2015 asking employees to sign up as LGBT allies; this is just one of the ongoing efforts to encourage diversity. The company also offers leadership training, diversity resource groups, and insurance benefits.
Deloitte received a 100 from the HRC for equality practices.
Lobbyists communicate with elected officials in an effort to help them see their client’s side and either pass, reject or amend legislation. They frequently work in state or national capitols and may be in-house for a single company or take on multiple clients.
6 percent between 2012-2022
Median Occupation Salary: $65,339
Nike is a big supporter of LGBT equality, both for its employees and for the world. The company has the #BETRUE line of apparel and accessories, offers the GLBT & Friends Network for employees, and continuously works to create greater workforce diversity.
The company was given a perfect score by the Human Rights Campaign for equality in a corporate setting.
Designers create new fashions for the public, be they clothing, shoes, accessories or bags. They may work for a specific company or work in a freelance capacity.
3 percent growth between 2014-2024
Median Salary Occupation: $64,030
91% of Fortune 500 companies offer protection on the basis of sexual orientation and 61% on the basis of gender identity (source).
23% of closeted employees worry they may not be considered for advancement if they are out. (source)
Although 32% of all LGBTQ professionals worry their sexual orientation will prohibit them from taking leadership roles, LGBT leaders are starting to take center stage. OUT-standing compiled their list of the top 100 LGBTQ leaders and their 20 allies in 2015. (source)
Deciding to pack up and move to a new city – be it for personal, professional or educational reasons – can be an overwhelming process, especially for LGBTQ individuals seeking an equitable and supportive community. While the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in 2015 made the nation as a whole a viable option, some cities are still more progressive than others.
Ryan Wilaby is quick to point out that lifestyle choices will depend on the individual and how important factors like nightlife, being surrounded by likeminded individuals, and having access to LGBTQ movements and events is to them. “If the answer to any of these is ‘a lot,’ then it will definitely serve you to live, work and study in a more LGBTQ-friendly environment,” he says.
Using data pulled from the Human Rights Campaign, the U.S. Census, and a report by Vocative, the following list identifies some of the top LGBTQ-friendly cities throughout America.
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 6.2 percent, or 51, 921 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .44 per 100,000 residents.
Pride events: Castro Street Fair, Pink Saturday street party, the International LGBT Film Festival, the Dyke March.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: The Castro District was one of the first openly gay neighborhoods in the nation, and today flourishes with numerous businesses owned by LGBT individuals, advocacy organizations and entertainment venues.
Queer singles: 934 per 100,000 residents.
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 4 percent, or 336, 240 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .37 per 100,000 residents
Pride events: NYC Pride March, Dyke March, Gay Pride Parade, Brooklyn Pride.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: Chelsea and Greenwich Village are both known for having flourishing LGBT communities with a concentration of residents and LGBT-owned businesses, nightclubs, and entertainment venues. The city also received 5/5 stars from Vocative for adoption rights.
Queer singles: 1,683 per 100,000 residents.
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 2.6 percent, or 4,508 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .37 per 100,000 residents
Pride events: Tennessee Valley LGBT Pride Festival, Pride Parade, Meetup groups.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: Although Tennessee is traditionally conservative, Chattanooga ranks first in the nation for the number of openly LGBT politicians.
Queer singles: 531 per 100,000 residents
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 3.8 percent, or 103,322 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .11 per 100,000 residents
Pride events: Chicago Pride Parade and Pride Weekend, Pride Fest.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: The city ranks number two in the nation for gayborhood-approved businesses, with 6.68 per 100,00 residents. It also ranks first for LGBT newspaper circulation, with 21,166 per 100k residents.
Queer singles: 1,309 per 100,000 residents
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 4.6 percent, or 29,877 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .44 per 100,000 residents
Pride events: The Denver Pride Fest attracts more than 350,000 attendees; other events include an annual Pride Fest parade, and many cultural and artistic events showcasing LGBT talent.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: numerous GLBT community centers are in Denver, as well as a flourishing LGBT newspaper and LGBT-owned businesses.
Queer singles: 890 per 100,000 residents
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 4.8 percent, or 31,315 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .53 per 100,000
Pride events: the largest PrideFest in the nation takes place in Seattle; LGBT Film Festival; Gay Day of Service; Homo for the Holidays.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: the HRC recognizes nine area hospitals as leaders in providing equitable healthcare; the city also has numerous civil rights, mental health and anti-discrimination organizations, as well as the LGBT Commission.
Queer singles: 820 per 100,000 residents
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 4.4 percent, or 7,832 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .06 per 100,000
Pride events: RI PrideFest, Illuminated Night Parade, BalletBoyz, Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, AIDS Walk for Life.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: As the second largest city with an openly gay mayor, Providence has a long history of being LGBT-friendly. The HRC ranked it second in the nation for providing health care equality, while the RI ACLU is also very active.
Queer singles: 663 per 100,000 residents
Percentage of population identifying as LGBTQ: 10 percent, or 65,889 residents
LGBT-related hate crimes: .77 per 100,000 residents
Pride events: Pride Parade, Pride Festival, Pride Splash & Ride, Pride Concert.
LGBTQ community awareness and advocacy: The District of Columbia is bursting with organizations devoted to LGBT causes, including the Capital Pride Alliance, the D.C. Center, and SAGE. The Human Rights Campaign is also headquartered in D.C.
Queer singles: 719 per 100,000 residents
Pursuing LGBTQ degrees is important because there is segment of our population that is largely misunderstood and ignored. Ignorance breeds bigotry. If the desire as a society is to remove racism, bigotry and hate then education is the only way to eradicate it. Having degrees in specific niches around LGBTQ issues creates a focus. Where there is focus there is change, and where there is change there is progress. As a civilized society we want to continue to move towards progress and equality for all our citizens.
We have made great strides in LGBTQ rights in the last 10 years. When there is movement in legislative law for equality there can sometimes be a backlash from the old mindset. When this happens, it can create hostility toward that specific group. In only 22 of the 50 states is there employment protection for LGBTQ individuals. While things are getting better and more states and companies are passing laws and policies protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination, it is important to realize there is still a long way to go. A lot of things determine level of satisfaction in the workforce as a LGBTQ individual, such as industry, geography, socioeconomic levels, the individual’s physical appearance, and gender matching mannerisms. None of this should be a factor, but it is in today’s society.
While it’s the individual’s decision on whether to be out or in, studies show that LGBTQ individuals who are out of the closet have a more fulfilling personal life and feel a sense of burden being lifted from them. Every industry, workplace, business culture is going to be different. I worked in one of the most conservative industries – banking and finance – for over 20 years. There was bullying, discrimination and hostile work environments, but this can be navigated and circumvented to eliminate most of the negative experiences. Every person decides every day what he or she will carry from someone else.
When an experience of discrimination is occurring it is important to realize this has nothing to do with you but everything to do with the person projecting the hate. You have a choice in that moment to take that on or carry what they have attempted to put upon you. Staying focused on your results and building a team of allies is very important in a business culture. There is a real opportunity when this is occurring. When people see you succeed and excel in these environments there will be a sense of admiration and awe that will be bestowed upon you. This will set you up for more advancement and opportunity in the long run. This is a true demonstration of leadership, when one has the ability to lead themselves. Go out, get after it! Be a leader!
This is going to be a personal choice and how submerged an individual is in the lifestyle. There are advantages and disadvantages and largely will be dependent upon your industry and goals. How important is nightlife, how important is it that you are surrounded by likeminded individuals, how important is that you are involved in the LGBTQ movement? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘a lot,’ then it will definitely serve you to live, work and study in a more LGBTQ friendly environment.
As we continue to move forward with recognition and rights as a community at large, I think it will become less and less important. It is important that we integrate in all communities and live, work and study wherever best suits our needs. Be authentically you, that is the definition of “coming out of the closet.” Don’t let your sexuality determine where you live, work or study unless it serves you and feeds your core values. Stay true to you and do you!
BNGAP works to empower the current generation to enter healthcare, offering an annual LGBT health workforce conference for LGBTQ professionals in the field.
Since 1994, Centerlink has supported the creation of LGBT community centers throughout America by providing training, education and resources.
This organization has a mission to create supportive and engaging environments where LGBTQ students, faculty, staff and alumni can thrive while also developing curricula to create further understanding.
GLMA has been working to guarantee LGBT individuals receive excellent healthcare for the last three decades; it is the oldest and largest association for LGBT healthcare professionals.
This organization supports LGBTQ individuals and their families who are working for the U.S. Department of State, Peace Corps, Foreign Agricultural Service or Foreign Commercial Service.
GLSEN works to ensure every member of the educational community, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are able to learn in safe and supportive environments.
GE empowers LGBTQ individuals and their allies to demand legal and social equality in areas of work, education and personal freedoms.
As the largest organization devoted to LGBTQ civil rights initiatives, HRC advocates for individuals in the LGBTQ community, works to elect progressive government officials and mobilizes grassroots efforts.
This professional body champions the causes of LGBTQ lawyers and legal professionals, offering an annual conference, awards ceremony and advocacy programs.
Lambda exists to achieve full recognition of civil rights for LGBTQ communities through legal frameworks. The organization also provides information and assistance on issues related to discrimination in the workplace.
This non-profit agency serves as the business voice for LGBTQ professionals and works to expand workforce opportunities for the LGBTQ community.
NOGLSTP supports gay and lesbian scientists, including students and professionals already in the workforce.
Serving as an advocacy agency, O&E works with companies to ensure their workplaces are equitable environments for LGBTQ employees.
This national organization develops, evaluates, initiates, and implements career plans and opportunities for LGBT college students by helping them build skills and explore career paths.
Operating as a non-profit, this organization represents LGBT union members, their families and their allies and is recognized by the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations.