The 25 Lowest-Paying Jobs in America

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What are the lowest-paying jobs out there? While your compensation can vary drastically, based on your geographic location, your experience level, the company you work for, and the minimum wage in your city or state, there are a number of occupations that earn consistently low pay.

These jobs are very diverse, in industries ranging from entertainment to transportation to healthcare. However, despite being in different industries, they have a number of similarities.

These jobs typically pay by the hour. Many are service jobs that require tipping in order for the worker to make a decent salary.

Note

Most of these low-paying jobs require that the applicant have no more than a high-school diploma, and many offer on-the-job training.

25 of the Lowest Paying Jobs

Here are the top 25 worst-paying jobs in America, according to an employment survey from the U.S. Department of Labor in May 2021. Keep in mind that this list doesn't include some occupations that generally don't work year-round or full-time, such as actors or musicians.

Shampooers

Shampooers massage, shampoo, condition, and rinse customers' hair before haircuts or stylings. Some shampooers also train to become hairstylists or cosmetologists. Shampooers earn an average annual income of $25,160.

Cooks

Cooks work in institutions ranging from cafeterias to fast-food chains to high-end restaurants. They prepare, season, and cook dishes and may help plan the menu with the head chef. On the low end are cooks working in fast-food restaurants, who earned an average annual income of $25,490, while short-order cooks earned a mean yearly income of $28,110.

Overall, cooks in restaurants earn an annual average of $31,630. However, private household cooks and chefs can earn as much as $43,260 a year or more.

Hosts and Hostesses

Hosts and hostesses work at restaurants, lounges, and coffee shops. They are responsible for welcoming customers, seating them, and ensuring quality service. They may also be responsible for receiving and recording reservations and answering other calls. Hosts earn an average annual income of $26,000.

Fast-Food and Counter Workers

Fast-food and counter workers are involved in a variety of food preparation and serving tasks in fast-food restaurants, cafeterias, food concession stands, and coffee shops. The average annual compensation for these positions is $26,060.

Amusement and Recreation Attendants

Amusement and recreation attendants may work in a variety of recreation facilities, such as amusement parks, ski resorts, sports complexes, or community centers. They perform a variety of duties related to the use of the facility.

They may operate amusement rides or concession stands, schedule use of the facility, and maintain and provide equipment to participants (particularly at recreation facilities). While pay varies depending on the type of facility, attendants earn an average annual income of $26,110.

Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers

Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers work at various entertainment establishments, such as cinemas, concert halls, and theaters. They perform duties such as collecting admission tickets, helping patrons find their seats, and guiding patrons to facilities such as restrooms. The average annual income for these positions is $26,390.

Cashiers

Cashiers receive and disburse money to customers purchasing goods and services. They typically work in retail stores. Most use equipment such as scanners and cash registers, and they also process payments. Cashiers may work part-time or full-time, but full-time cashiers earn an average annual income of $26,770.

Recreational Protective Services (e.g., Lifeguards and Ski Patrol)

Recreational protective services personnel are responsible for monitoring recreational areas to provide protection and assistance to attendants. They may provide safety precaution information, monitor recreation areas, and be responsible for administering first aid to injured people. Recreational protective services workers may be stationed at pools or beaches as lifeguards, on ski slopes as ski patrollers, or in any other recreational area that requires protective services.

Some of these positions require special certifications, such as first aid or CPR training. Recreational protective services workers earn an average annual income of $27,320.

Dishwashers

Dishwashers are responsible for cleaning dishes, utensils, and food-preparation equipment. They may work at a variety of food service establishments, such as restaurants, coffee shops, and cafeterias. Dishwashers earn an average annual income of $27,350.

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers are responsible for the well-being of children. They may be responsible for feeding and bathing children, overseeing play, and even helping older children with schoolwork.

Childcare workers may be employed at schools (as after-school or infantcare workers), at childcare centers, in their own homes, or at the homes of the children for whom they care. They may work full-time or part-time. The average full-time annual income for a childcare worker is $27,680.

Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers

Attendants and bartender helpers keep dining rooms, restaurants, cafes, and bars stocked with supplies like fresh linen and clean glasses, silverware, and dishes. They also clear dirty dishes and may serve water or coffee. The average annual pay for this job is $27,690.

Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Workers

Laundry and dry-cleaning workers operate or tend to washing and dry-cleaning machines. Workers may be employed at laundromats, dry-cleaning stores, or industrial washing sites that provide laundry services to larger institutions like hotels and hospitals. Laundry and dry-cleaning workers earn an average annual income of $27,830.

Hotel, Motel, and Resort Desk Clerks

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks serve patrons by registering and assigning rooms to guests. They perform a number of transactions, such as computing patrons' bills, balancing accounts, and collecting payments.

Clerks also accommodate patrons by addressing any questions and concerns regarding their stay. On average, they earn $28,040 annually.

Pressers of Textiles, Garments, and Related Materials

Pressers press or shape articles of fabric to remove wrinkles or patch items onto fabric. They may use a hand iron or other steam or hydraulic machines. Pressers may also hang, fold, and package finished items for delivery. They may work at laundromats, dry-cleaning stores, or larger industrial facilities. Pressers earn an average income of $28,110.

Food-Preparation Workers

Food-preparation workers do everything but cook. Depending on their job, they might slice meat, brew coffee, or even peel vegetables. They also clean work areas; with everything they do, it's important they adhere to food-safety standards. Food-prep workers earn an average annual income of $29,450.

Gambling Dealers

Gambling dealers operate table games at casinos, card rooms, and other gaming venues. They may dispense cards or blocks to players, dispense winnings, or collect players' money or chips. Dealers earn an average annual income of $28,960.

Waiters and Waitresses

Waiters and waitresses, also known as "servers," take orders and serve food and beverages to patrons. They may work in restaurants, bars, hotels, or other food service establishments.

Waiters and waitresses may work part-time or full-time. A waiter's income varies greatly based on the type of establishment; most rely on tips to bolster their pay. The average annual salary for a full-time waiter or waitress is $29,010.

Food servers in non-restaurant environments such as coffee shops average $29,500 annually.

Gambling and Sports Book Writers and Runners

Gambling and sports book writers and runners share information for people to place bets on various sporting events or races. They may record patrons' bets and be responsible for orchestrating any payouts. They may also work as operators for games such as bingo.

Those working in this type of position have an average income of $29,110.

Gambling Change Persons and Booth Cashiers

These are some of the people who handle the money in a casino or other gambling establishment. They sell tokens and chips, and may pay customers' out while getting their signatures on receipts. Booth cashiers may operate a booth in the slot machine area, furnish other workers with cash banks at the start of a shift, or count and audit money in drawers. For this, they earn an average of $29,130 a year.

Parking Lot Attendants

Parking lot attendants park and deliver vehicles to customers in parking lots or garages. They may also be responsible for patrolling the garage to prevent property damage and/or theft. Attendants earn an average annual income of $27,210.

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Home health and personal care aides assist elderly people, convalescents, or persons with disabilities with their daily living activities. These activities may include general housekeeping, preparing meals, and running errands. Aides may also assist patients with tasks such as exercising, eating, and bathing. Some aides also advise patients and their families about nutrition and household activities. These workers may be employed in a care facility or at a person's home.

While there are many similarities between a home health aide and a personal care aide, personal care aides typically provide less specified medical care. Home health and personal care aides earn an average annual income of $29,260.

Non-Farm Animal Caretakers

These animal caretakers tend to non-farm animals, including domestic animals like dogs, cats, fish, or, in some cases, zoo animals. They may work in pet stores, animal shelters, kennels, aquariums, zoos, or circuses. Animal caretakers may feed, water, groom, or medicate animals, as well as clean animals' quarters. These caretakers earn an average of $29,520 annually.

Maids and Housekeepers

Maids and cleaners perform various cleaning duties, such as making beds, dusting and vacuuming, disinfecting counter spaces, and emptying trash and recycling baskets. They may work in private households or public establishments, such as hotels or nursing homes. Maids and cleaners earn an average annual income of $29,580.

Entertainment Attendants and Related Workers

This group includes workers who provide service at venues other than the ones already listed, such as spectator sports events or fitness or recreation centers. They earn an average annual income of $29,680.

Shoe Machine Operators and Tenders

Shoe machine operators and tenders use a variety of machines to join, decorate, reinforce, or finish shoes and shoe parts. They may work in footwear manufacturing or for shoe wholesalers. These shoe industry workers earn an average of $29,920 per year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the lowest salary in the U.S. per month

According to information gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest average salary for any full-time job in the U.S. is $25,160 per year, which is $2,097 a month. That's the salary for a shampooer reported in 2021. Many people make less than that, but that's based on nationwide wage averages.

What is the lowest-paying job with a degree?

While you may have a college degree and work in any number of low-paying jobs, the lowest paying job that is likely to require at least an associate's degree is preschool teacher. Preschool teachers earn an average of $36,460 a year.

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