Beyond the dollhouse: Discover the 10 secret careers of Barbie that will surprise you

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Barbie's careers show she's more than just a pretty face. Source: AFP

One of the most famous lines associated with Barbie is “You can be anything.” Sure, she couldn’t escape impossibly high beauty standards but this statement pretty much sums up Barbie’s careers.

It’s an empowering message to young girls, encouraging them to believe in their dreams and reminding them that the sky’s the limit — sometimes, literally.

Throughout her 64-year history, Barbie has consistently generated controversy due to her appearance: being too thin and blonde and promoting unrealistic standards for a woman’s body.

However, if you move beyond just how she looks, Barbie’s careers served all forms of inspiration. 

Whether combining beauty with intelligence, pursuing a career as both a fashion model and a scientist, or even venturing into game development, Barbie’s careers break many limits set by society on women. 

They show that women and most importantly, young girls can accomplish whatever they set their minds to.

With the new Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling to hit cinemas this coming week, it’s time to look at Barbie’s careers that you probably never knew she had. 

To be exact, she has had a staggering 200 careers in her time — plus a resume that even the most accomplished high-achievers would envy. 

Making her debut as a “Teenage Fashion Model” in 1959, Barbie quickly shattered gender norms by venturing into traditionally male-dominated fields. She played professional baseball, dabbled in computer programming, and even rose to the rank of sergeant in the Marine Corps.

While she’s is well-known for her pink, fashionable, and fabulous image, Barbie’s careers were diverse and made her the #1 leader among girls around the world.

But there were some Barbie careers that were controversial. In 2010’s sticker book, “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” Barbie,” she downloads a virus and relies on a couple of boys to do the actual tech work.

The script actually goes: “‘I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie says. “I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game.’”

In 2014’s Barbie Babysitter — complete with a baby that wets itself after being fed — was made part of the doll’s Amazing Jobs series.

These two Barbie careers didn’t sit well as they set the bar really low for young girls.

Discover ten jobs you probably did not know this icon has taken on over the years.

10 of Barbie’s careers you probably did not know about

Barbie's careers

Barbie’s careers are an inspiration to many young girls showing them that they can be whatever they want to be. Source: AFP

1. Pilot Barbie  

According to the Women in Aviation Advisory Board, women only make up less than 20% of the workforce in the aviation industry. That’s how imbalanced the gender representation in the field of pilots remains even today. 

However, in 1990, Barbie boldly assumed the role of a commercial airline pilot. Coincidentally, that same year marked significant milestones for women in aviation, including the Royal Air Force lifting its ban on women flying and Patrice Washington becoming the first black woman to fly for the United Parcel Service. 

Pilot Barbie typically wears a pilot’s uniform or flight suit with intricate details such as epaulettes, badges, and aviation insignia. 

By featuring Barbie as a pilot, Mattel aims to challenge gender stereotypes, emphasise the importance of gender equality, and promote diversity within traditionally male-dominated fields. 

2. Surgeon Barbie

Surgeon Barbie was introduced in 1973 when the percentage of female surgeons was less than 12%. 

To pursue a career as a surgeon, obtaining a bachelor’s degree with a major in a science-related field such as biology, health science, chemistry, physics, kinesiology, or a similar discipline is necessary.

Following the undergraduate degree, aspiring surgeons must enrol in medical school to complete a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.

Then they are required to undertake a surgical residency programme. Obtaining a license and board certification is crucial, as all 50 states in the US mandate that practising surgeons hold a valid license.

Surgeon Barbie is dressed in surgical scrubs or a surgical gown, with a face mask, cap, and sometimes surgical gloves, reflecting the attire of a real-life surgeon. 

This version of Barbie serves as a role model, inspiring girls to pursue their passions in the healthcare field and contribute to the betterment of society through careers in medicine.

Today the number of women surgeons has more than doubled to 48.8%. Looks like Surgeon Barbie has done her duty. 

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Barbie has had many careers over the years, including becoming the president of the United States. Source: AFP

3. Astronaut Barbie

In 1965, Barbie embarked on her first space voyage, reaching the moon four years before Neil Armstrong and more than a decade ahead of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. 

Since then, she has undertaken two more missions and even participated in Space Camp, collaborating with the US Space & Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, to educate and inspire the next generation.

Becoming a fully qualified astronaut requires extensive training, which can take up to two years. During this time, candidates must grasp the fundamentals of operating the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. They also learn essential teamwork skills through flying the NASA T-38 training jets.

Astronaut Barbie dons either a spacesuit or a flight suit, complete with the authentic NASA logo. 

4. Game developer Barbie

In 2016, when game developer was recognised as the “Career of the Year,” Barbie played a significant role in showcasing this profession to young people worldwide. 

She had a tablet, laptop, headset, striking red highlights, and, as always, fantastic outfit.

Her representation showed that this was a career choice open to all, regardless of age, gender, or popularity.

Game developers are typically involved in every aspect of creating a game, including conceptualisation, story writing, coding, programming, audio design, production, and visual arts.

To pursue a career in game development, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and a solid understanding of programming languages.

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Barbie has become more than just a doll over the last six decades. Source: AFP

5. Computer engineer Barbie

Imagine an outfit that combines a binary t-shirt, an electric circuit jacker, and comfortable yet dazzling leggings. That’s exactly what computer engineer Barbie looks like. 

Mattel introduced computer engineer Barbie as a career-focused doll, emphasising the world of technology and encouraging girls and women to pursue STEM careers. 

This version of Barbie is accompanied by accessories like a laptop, a headset, and other tech-related items. 

The launch of this Barbie aimed to challenge traditional gender stereotypes and convey the message that girls are more than capable of excelling in STEM fields.

By portraying Barbie as a computer engineer, Mattel sought to inspire young girls to explore technology-based careers while highlighting the significance of diversity and inclusivity within the tech industry.

6. Paleontology Barbie 

Searching for ancient bones and unravelling the mysteries of the dinosaurs that once roamed our planet — that’s what paleontologists get to do and Barbie had the privilege of living that dream not once but twice, in 1996 and 2012.

It’s a privilege as women only make up 19.4% of palaeontologists in the US. While not usually a job women pursue, Barbie is here to show you that it is okay to get your hands dirty working with dinosaur fossils or discovering the oldest cities in the world.

What’s remarkable is that Barbie managed to maintain her distinct style while actively working on her excavations. She sported a bright pink vest, pink-lined green pants, and a t-shirt decorated with a brontosaurus and a triceratops.

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Barbie has changed a lot from when she first started off as a fashion model. Source: AFP

7. Singer Barbie 

Singer Barbie embodies the world of music and performing arts. Being the fashion icon she is, she comes with many glamorous and fashionable outfits representing various musical genres and performance styles.

This version of Barbie was created with the aim of inspiring creativity, self-expression, and the pursuit of musical talents and dreams.

Although Barbie initially ventured into the music industry as a singer in 1961, her musical abilities have evolved over time.

In 1992, she embarked on a rap journey as “Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie,” accompanied by a boom box, and introduced her street credibility to the world through a memorable commercial. 

8. Judge Barbie 

Did you know that for the first 80 years that the judicial system existed, no women worked in it?

As of 2022, out of the 94 courts in the US, the number of female judges is less than half that of males.

In 2019, Judge Barbie was released to encourage more girls to explore and imagine themselves in positions of authority and leadership within the legal system. 

She ditched her usual pink attire for a black robe and a gavel which reflected the professionalism and importance the occupation is known for. 

Mattel said Judge Barbie was designed in the hopes of “inspiring girls to imagine everything they can become – like protecting the rights of others and ruling on legal cases.”

Judge Barbie even comes in four different skin tones as part of Mattel’s ongoing drive to diversify Barbie.

9. Optometrist Barbie

Barbie has completed many careers in the medical field, from being a doctor to a nurse and even a dentist. 

In 2015, she returned to the medical line and added optometrist to her long list of careers. As an eye doctor, she donned a white coat and her own pair of black glasses as she attended to patients. 

Optometrist Barbie came with all the tools any eye doctor would need for an eye exam. This includes: 

  • A phoropter (that’s the tool you wear when getting your eyes checked for prescription glasses)
  • A Snellen chart 
  • A patient 
  • New frames for her patients

One of the lesser-known Barbie careers, it aimed to inspire the younger generation to pursue their interests and passions, even if it may not be a common field. 

10. Entomologist Barbie

When you think of Barbie, the first thing that comes to mind is her pretty pink dresses, perfectly done hair and high heels. But this doll is full of surprises. In 2019 she ditched her heels and got down and dirty with the creepy crawlies in the great outdoors.

This officially marked the beginning of her career as an entomologist. In collaboration with National Geographic and Mattel, Barbie the entomologist came with a pink vest, a standing desk decked out in research material and a tree covered with tiny insects — all plastic, of course. 

It was designed to drive girls to explore the scientific study of insects. Entomologist Barbie has been praised for promoting science and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM fields.