Help Barbie land her next job

Barbie is looking for a new job, and she's exploring several options: surgeon, architect, computer engineer, news anchor, and environmentalist.

Barbie's latest career move will be decided by an online vote that ends Wednesday, Feb. 10, and will be unveiled Feb. 12 at the Toy Fair in New York. Given the job prospects for some of these career paths, let's hope voters choose wisely.

The result of the vote will be the doll's 125th career in her 51 years of existence. She started as a teenage model in 1959 and has advanced to executive (1963), rap musician (1992) and NBA player (1991). She's also had several runs as a presidential candidate in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

The salaries for the five careers available for Barbie vary. According to a salary calculator at, here's what she could expect to earn:
  1. Surgeon:$228,358
  2. Computer engineer: $70,174
  3. Environmental health and safety manager: $69,987. There is no "environmentalist" job listed.
  4. Architect: $58,585
  5. News anchor: $51,520
Obviously, her best bet financially is to become a surgeon. The pay is the highest and the job outlook is good since, recession or not, people always need medical care (she will have some pretty hefty student loans to contend with, though). And even though President Obama has promised stimulus funding for new buildings and infrastructure projects, chances are that the already-decimated architecture industry won't be needing new candidates. The unemployment rate in architecture and engineering industry was a lofty 7.3% in the second quarter of 2009.

Barbie's prospects as an environmentalist depend on what she'll end up doing. Holding a picket sign won't make her much cash, but other "green" careers are just starting to take off such as in biofuel and geothermal energy. And with President Obama making environmental jobs a priority in his stimulus programs, more growth is likely to come.

With the media industry in ruins, I'd suggest Barbie steer clear of that news anchor post, although there are enough weekend shifts at news stations across the country to fill. She may be beautiful and well poised, but she also may get the pink slip much faster than she would expect.

But perhaps Barbie's most promising prospect will be as a computer engineer. The industry has seen it's fair share of job losses over the past two years, but not anywhere near the national unemployment rate of 9.7%. And, when it comes to this career, Barbie will have some enthusiastic backers.

The American Association of University Women, which criticized the doll in 1992 for being programmed to say "Math class is tough!" is tweeting about the vote and encouraging people to vote for her next career as a computer engineer to help encourage girls to explore science, technology, engineering and math.

The Significance of Barbie's Next Career

Using social media for an online contest to pick Barbie's new career is a smart way to get young women interested in careers like computer science, said Tommy Michelle Jenkins, director of chapter development at Girls in Tech.

"It's about confidence," Jenkins said. "It's about feeling that there is support for it."

Playing with Barbie dolls as girls has helped many women with their career choices. Suzanne Martinelli, who designs and sells hairstyling tools at Bombshell Beauty, said she found her passion for styling hair by using the Barbie styling head she had as a young girl in Brookhaven, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia.

Fashion designer Sherry Aikens, 38, of Wyncote, another Philadelphia suburb, said Barbie seemed like she could do anything. Barbie was an independent woman who traveled and could stand on her own. She also served as Aikens' first model for the clothes she designed.

As a girl in Philadelphia, Janice Celeste would have a daily wedding for Barbie and Ken, rotating the five wedding dresses she had for Barbie. Celeste, now 43 and living in Flanders, N.J., said she thought of this memory when deciding to work as a wedding cinematographer.

"Barbie's career choices are unlimited and so are yours," Celeste said. "You can do anything!"
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