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.
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 2020. 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.
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 $24,300, while short-order cooks earned a mean yearly income of $27,030.
Overall, cooks in restaurants earn an annual average of $29,530. However, private household cooks and chefs can earn as much as $46,810 a year or more.
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 $24,320.
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 $24,540.
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 $24,800.
Dishwashers are responsible for cleaning dishes, utensils, and food-preparation equipment. They may work at a variety of foodservice establishments, such as restaurants, coffee shops, and cafeterias. Dishwashers earn an average annual income of $25,600.
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 $25,610.
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 $25,710.
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 $26,050.
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 $26,110.
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 $26,300.
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.
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 $26,600.
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 afters-chool 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 $26,790.
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 $26,820.
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 $26,900 annually.
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 $27,050.
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 $27,130
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 $27,470.
Food servers in non-restaurant environments such as coffee shops average $27,460 annually.
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 $27,910.
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 $28,010.
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 with 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. Personal care aides earn an average annual income of $28,060.
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 compensation varies based on location and type of vehicles serviced, the average annual income for a service worker is $28,150.
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 $28,380 annually.
Bartenders mix and serve drinks to patrons. In some cases, patrons may order directly from the bartender at the bar; in other cases, the drinks may be served by waitstaff. Bartenders might work in a bar or a restaurant or in a place that provides travel accommodations, such as a lounge.
Bartenders earn an average income of $28,910.
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 income of $29,010.