The 25 Lowest Paying Jobs in America

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

These jobs are very diverse, in industries ranging from entertainment to transportation to health care. 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.

Most of these low-paying jobs require that the applicant have no more than a high school diploma, and most 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 US Department of Labor in May 2019.

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 salary of $22,910.

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 salary for these positions is $23,250.

Cooks

Cooks work in institutions ranging from cafeterias to fast food chains to high-end restaurants. Cooks 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 salary of $23,530, while short order cooks earned a mean yearly wage of $26,240. 

Overall, cooks in restaurants earn an annual average of $27,550. However, private household cooks and chefs can earn as much as $45,600 a year or more.

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 salary of $23,980.

Hosts/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 salary of $24,010.

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 salary varies depending on the type of facility, attendants earn an average annual salary of $24,330.

Cashiers

Cashiers receive and disburse money to customers purchasing goods and services. They typically work in retail stores. Cashiers may work part-time or full-time, but full-time cashiers earn an average annual salary of $24,370.

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 salary of $24,410.

Pressers of Textile, Garment, 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. Pressers may work at laundromats, dry cleaning stores, or larger industrial facilities. Pressers earn an average salary of $24,820.

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 salary for these positions is $24,870.

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 salary for this job is $25,020.

Recreational Protective Services (Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, etc.)

Recreational protective services 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 earn an average annual salary of $25,380.

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 salary of $25,420.

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 afterschool or infant care workers), 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 salary for a childcare worker is $25,510.

Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers do everything but cook. Depending on their job, they might slice meat, brew coffee, peel vegetables, and so on. They also clean work areas. Food prep workers earn an average annual salary of $25,820.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Desk Clerks

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks serve patrons by registering and assigning rooms to guests. Clerks 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, desk clerks earn $25,950 annually.

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Home health and personal care aides assist the elderly, 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 regarding topics such as 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. While a personal care aide may have home health aide certification, they typically do not hold any higher medical degrees or certifications, which a home health aide might. Personal care aides earn an average annual salary of $26,440.

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 salary of $26,450.

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. While a waiter's salary varies greatly based on the type of establishment, the average annual salary for a full-time waiter or waitress is $26,800. 

Food servers in non-restaurant environments such as coffee shops average $26,080 annually.

Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners

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 salary of $26,810.

Automotive and Watercraft Service Attendants

Service attendants examine and repair cars, trucks, boats, or other automotive or marine vehicles. Attendants may be responsible for filling vehicles with fuel, lubricating vehicles, changing oil, repairing tires, or repairing and replacing accessories (such as windshield wipers or fan belts).

Service attendants may work at gas stations, auto mechanic shops, marinas, or other places where customers bring in their vehicles for service. While salary varies based on location and type of vehicles serviced, the average annual salary for a service worker is $26,860.

Nonfarm Animal Caretakers

These animal caretakers tend to nonfarm 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, and medicate animals, as well as clean animal quarters. These caretakers earn an average of $27,060 annually.

Manicurists and Pedicurists

Manicurists and pedicurists clean, shape, polish, and decorate customers' fingernails and/or toenails. They may work independently or at a nail salon or spa. Based on salary and tips, manicurists and pedicurists earn an average salary of $27,390.

Graders and Sorters of Agricultural Products

Graders and sorters sort and identify food and other agricultural products by size, weight, color, and condition. These agricultural workers are often responsible for distinguishing between inferior or defective products and acceptable products. This job pays an average annual salary of $27,570.

Hand Packers and Packagers

Packers and packagers wrap products, pack containers, inspect, and assemble packing materials and perform a variety of related tasks using hand tools. Hand packers and packagers earn an average annual salary of $27,680. 

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "May 2019 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Shampooers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019:  Fast Food and Counter Workers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Cooks, Short Order." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Cooks, Fast Food." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Gambling Dealers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, and Coffee Shop." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  8. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Amusement and Recreation Attendants." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Cashiers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  10. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Dishwashers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  11. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Pressers, Textile, Garment, and Related Materials." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  12. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  13. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  14. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and Other Recreational Protective Service Workers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  15. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Workers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  16. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Childcare Workers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  17. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Food Preparation Workers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  18. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Hotel, Motel, and Resort Desk Clerks." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  19. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Home Health and Personal Care Aides." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  20. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Parking Lot Attendants." Accessed April 28, 2020

  21. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Waiters and Waitresses." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  22. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Food Servers, Nonrestaurant." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  23. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  24. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Automotive and Watercraft Service Attendants." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  25. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Animal Caretakers." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  26. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Manicurists and Pedicurists." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  27. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Graders and Sorters, Agricultural Products." Accessed April 28, 2020.

  28. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: Packers and Packagers, Hand." Accessed April 28, 2020.