100 lowest-paying jobs in America

April 15, 2021
ChameleonsEye // Shutterstock

100 lowest-paying jobs in America

The United States is the richest country in the world. Even with a COVID-19-related economic contraction, the country's GDP in 2020 was $20.93 trillion. However, this wealth does not benefit all Americans equally.

Wealth inequality is a growing problem in the United States. The jaw-dropping wealth gap between the rich and the poor in the United States looks more like the gaps in Russia and China than those in the United Kingdom, France, and other advanced democracies. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated these gaps, with jobs commonly filled by wealthy, white and college-educated Americans bouncing back quickly while women, minorities, and those without college degrees remained unemployed longer. Meanwhile, jumps in the stock market and housing prices further benefitted the already well-off.

To determine which workers have the bleakest prospects, Stacker identified the 100 lowest-paying jobs in the United States using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The scores were based on average annual wage, and ties between jobs with the same salary were broken by their median hourly wage. The data is originally from May 2020, but was released on March 3, 2021. Only occupations in the “detail” level were considered, and jobs with “all other” in the title were excluded from this list.

Keep reading to learn which of the nation’s occupations pay barely livable wages, and see how your job stacks up to others on the list.

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William Hook // Flickr

#100. Motion picture projectionists

- Annual mean wage: $34,380 (38.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.2
- Number employed: 2,270

Motion picture projectionists set up and run equipment used to screen movies and play sounds. It can take up to 12 months of training with more experienced employees to master the tasks of this job. Motion picture projectionists are at risk of losing their jobs to automation, as digital technology takes over many of the functions that used to be done by hand.

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#99. Passenger vehicle drivers, except bus drivers, transit and intercity

- Annual mean wage: $34,360 (39.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.5
- Number employed: 599,980

Passenger vehicle drivers take people to their desired destinations in taxis and other types of transportation using apps like Uber and Lyft. A valid license is mandatory for this job, which is ideal for people who want a flexible hours and/or a non-traditional schedule.

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#98. Security guards

- Annual mean wage: $34,360 (39.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.9
- Number employed: 1,054,400

Security guards are charged with keeping hospitals, schools, stores, and other facilities safe. The occupation has relatively low barriers to entry, considering the vital role it plays. Workers may not even need a high school diploma to apply for a position as a security guard.

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#97. Agricultural workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $34,330 (39.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.5
- Number employed: 6,460

Farmworkers plant, cultivate, and harvest food. Although they provide the vital service of feeding people, many of these workers are paid by the amount of bags or buckets they pick, sometimes earning below the minimum wage.

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#96. Crossing guards and flaggers

- Annual mean wage: $34,220 (39.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.8
- Number employed: 85,050

Crossing guards help guide pedestrians at key intersections such as schools and construction sites. A high school diploma is required for the job, which has specific and limited hours. Although they safeguard many communities, they are often paid a low wage.

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#95. Cutters and trimmers, hand

- Annual mean wage: $34,190 (39.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.2
- Number employed: 7,980

Many of the workers who cut and trim items like carpet, glass, and stone by hand may soon be out of a job. The BLS expects this occupation to shrink by 30% by 2029, for a total loss of nearly 3,000 jobs. It stands a 97% chance of being automated, according to the Center for an Urban Future.

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chmee2 // Wikimedia Commons

#94. Food cooking machine operators and tenders

- Annual mean wage: $34,180 (39.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.9
- Number employed: 26,530

Workers in this occupation run the machines used to make the foods that fill the snack aisle at your grocery store. It’s a demanding job that requires workers to stand all day in noisy manufacturing plants and risk serious injuries from cuts and falls. In fact, the related occupation of food processing workers has an extremely high rate of worker illness or injury, compared with other occupations.

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#93. Occupational therapy aides

- Annual mean wage: $34,160 (39.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.5
- Number employed: 5,630

Occupational therapy aides help patients recuperate and improve their ability to perform everyday functions for work and general living. A high school degree or equivalent is required for the job. The field is forecasted to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029,

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#92. Agricultural equipment operators

- Annual mean wage: $34,070 (39.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.8
- Number employed: 29,220

Agricultural equipment operators perform tasks including tilling soil and planting and harvesting crops. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 11% growth from 2019-2029.

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#91. Switchboard operators, including answering service

- Annual mean wage: $33,980 (39.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.1
- Number employed: 59,270

Switchboard operators manage incoming and outgoing calls, provide information to callers, and record messages. Facing a 96% likelihood of automation, switchboard operators will probably undergo a significant decline in demand over the next 10 years.

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#90. Helpers—installation, maintenance, and repair workers

- Annual mean wage: $33,960 (39.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.3
- Number employed: 91,430

Repair and general maintenance workers fix and maintain buildings, equipment, and machines. Their daily work can vary in tasks and locations. The field is forecasted to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029, but may increase further due to the bustling housing market.

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#89. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers

- Annual mean wage: $33,800 (40.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.3
- Number employed: 872,370

Landscaping and groundskeeping workers beautify outdoor environments, such as golf courses, municipal areas, and college campuses. New hires typically learn all the skills for this work through on-the-job training, but they may need to take exams and apply for a state license if they wish to use pesticides and fertilizers. Since this occupation can be seasonal, some workers in the field may offer additional services like snow removal and installation of holiday decor in the colder months.

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#88. Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

- Annual mean wage: $33,710 (40.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.0
- Number employed: 2,805,200

Also known as “pickers,” workers in this occupation play an important role in the shipping industry. They often work in warehouses, where they load trucks, move items to storage areas, track packages, and sort materials. Just a few weeks of on-the-job training is enough to get new hires up to speed in this role.

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#87. Mail clerks and mail machine operators, except postal service

- Annual mean wage: $33,700 (40.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.4
- Number employed: 79,310

The primary function of this occupation is to take care of incoming and outgoing mail and packages in industries like publishing, business support services, and public relations. It’s a job that’s on the decline. Mail clerks and machine operators face a high risk of job loss due to automation, and the field is expected to shrink by at least 7% from 2019 to 2029.

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#86. Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing

- Annual mean wage: $33,540 (40.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.5
- Number employed: 75,160

Members of this occupation take care of woodworking duties, such as operating drill presses, nailing machines, sanders, and lathes. It can be a dangerous job, and workers have been known to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, hernias, and pain from excessive amounts of awkward physical movements.

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#85. Bicycle repairers

- Annual mean wage: $33,530 (40.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.7
- Number employed: 11,290

Anyone who knows their way around a bicycle and can figure out how to fix broken parts stands a chance at entering this occupation. As rates of bicycling continue to climb, there will be an increased demand for workers who can fix two-wheelers over the next decade.

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#84. Helpers—painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons

- Annual mean wage: $33,520 (40.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.2
- Number employed: 9,500

Workers assisting painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons generally earn low wages, as their job requires less skill than that of the people who hire them. These helpers generally perform tasks such as holding tools and cleaning areas and equipment. The job outlook for this field is below average.

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#83. Forest and conservation workers

- Annual mean wage: $33,520 (40.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.7
- Number employed: 6,490

People who love working all day outdoors may land a job as a forest and conservation worker. These roles, which typically only require a worker to possess a driver's license and high school diploma, involve taking care of trees and clearing brush from trails. Forest and conservation workers who wish to advance in their careers may need to seek higher education in forestry or a similar field.

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#82. Residential advisors

- Annual mean wage: $33,430 (40.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.0
- Number employed: 102,450

Working in college dorms, group homes, and other living facilities, residential advisors have a diverse array of duties to keep residents and their homes safe and orderly. They may coordinate activities, order supplies, determine the need for furniture, assign rooms, and refer residents to counseling resources.

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#81. Gambling service workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $33,340 (40.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.1
- Number employed: 8,570

A job as a gambling service worker is ideal for someone looking to work in a casino or entertainment venue. They are employed to elevate the customer’s experience. While little formal training is necessary, customer service skills are essential to perform this role, as well as on-the-job training to adhere to the venue’s policies and protocols.

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#80. Psychiatric aides

- Annual mean wage: $33,300 (40.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.2
- Number employed: 51,550

This occupation may be one of the easier opportunities for people who wish to break into the field of mental health. While more advanced jobs in the field may require a master’s degree and state license, psychiatric aids generally only need a high school diploma. On-the-job training gives them the tools they need to monitor patients in health care facilities, help them with daily tasks, serve meals, and perform other duties.

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#79. Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood

- Annual mean wage: $33,290 (40.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.2
- Number employed: 48,400

Part of the field of woodworking, this occupation specializes in running specific kinds of machinery, like CNC wood routers, to make products such as cabinets. Entering the field only requires a high school diploma, but advancing to the next level may take many years of experience on the job.

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ProfDEH // Wikimedia Commons

#78. Couriers and messengers

- Annual mean wage: $33,010 (41.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.9
- Number employed: 70,700

Couriers and messengers get documents and packages where they need to go. While some might walk between the destinations, other workers use a bike, car, or public transportation to complete deliveries farther away. A good sense of direction and knowledge of navigation software can go a long way toward success for these workers.

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#77. Tellers

- Annual mean wage: $32,960 (41.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.7
- Number employed: 423,570

Tellers specialize in cashing checks, depositing cash, collecting payments, and processing other routine transactions at banks. With bank branch locations on the decline, online banking on the rise, and technologically advanced ATMs becoming the norm, the need for tellers is dropping. The field is projected to lose about 15% of its jobs in the coming years.

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#76. Dietetic technicians

- Annual mean wage: $32,920 (41.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.5
- Number employed: 26,430

While workers who wish to become a dietitian or nutritionist usually need a bachelor's degree, they can become an entry-level dietetic technician with just an associate’s degree. They are usually supervised by an experienced dietitian, producing healthy meals and offering nutritional guidance to clients.

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#75. Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists

- Annual mean wage: $32,740 (41.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.2
- Number employed: 302,410

This occupation helps people look their best through hair and makeup services. No matter which state they work in, hairstylists and cosmetologists need to obtain a license, which usually requires more than 1,000 hours of training. Starting salaries are low, but workers can boost their pay through tips for good service and landing a coveted position at a high-paying salon.

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#74. Entertainment attendants and related workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $32,580 (42.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.1
- Number employed: 3,900

Entertainment attendants workers encompass a wide variety of jobs including gambling dealers, ushers, costume attendants, and dressing room attendants. This low-paying segment of the workforce cratered in 2020 during the spread of COVID-19.

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#73. Receptionists and information clerks

- Annual mean wage: $32,410 (42.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.0
- Number employed: 968,420

Receptionists and information clerks can be found in nearly every industry, often greeting guests, picking up the phone, and providing information about their companies. They play an important role in giving customers a good first impression of the organization. The occupation can be a springboard to more lucrative jobs, such as secretaries and administrative assistants.

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#72. Textile knitting and weaving machine setters, operators, and tenders

- Annual mean wage: $32,370 (42.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.0
- Number employed: 18,830

Workers in this occupation run the machines that knit, loop, or weave fabrics. They need to show great attention to detail, checking for defects in textiles and ensuring that products meet specifications. Unfortunately for people who have built their careers in this field, jobs are on the decline. The occupation is expected to lose about 13% of its jobs between 2019 and 2029.

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#71. Cooks, all other

- Annual mean wage: $32,350 (42.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.7
- Number employed: 19,080

While advanced education is not a prerequisite for cooks, those who are serious about careers in the field obtain degrees in the culinary arts and/or certification from the American Culinary Federation. Cooks with a nutrition degree earn 43.84% more than the average salary. Cooks enjoy benefits including flexible schedules and provided meals.

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#70. Pharmacy aides

- Annual mean wage: $32,250 (42.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.1
- Number employed: 38,900

Pharmacy aides help keep track of the stock of medication at their workplaces and let their supervisors know if they need to reorder merchandise. The job is rapidly declining and is expected to lose 5,900 positions by 2029.

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#69. Textile winding, twisting, and drawing out machine setters, operators, and tenders

- Annual mean wage: $32,130 (42.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.9
- Number employed: 25,480

More than half the people who work in this occupation do not possess a high school diploma. The job involves operating machines that wind or twist fabrics. The state of Georgia employs the most people as textile winding, twisting, and drawing out machine setters, operators, and tenders.

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#68. Nursing assistants

- Annual mean wage: $32,050 (43.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.8
- Number employed: 1,371,050

Nursing assistants provide basic care to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. They may help patients bathe, get dressed, use the toilet, and eat meals, and track their vital signs. States require that workers complete an approved education program and demonstrate competency on a nursing assistant exam before they can enter this occupation.

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#67. Helpers—production workers

- Annual mean wage: $32,000 (43.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.7
- Number employed: 239,340

Production workers work in factories or warehouses assembling product parts, monitoring checkpoints, making sure equipment is running properly, and helping with shipping tasks. A high school diploma/GED is required, along with an ability to multitask. Production workers need to be able to stand on their feet for long stretches of time and lift up to 50 pounds.

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#66. Driver/sales workers

- Annual mean wage: $31,870 (43.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.4
- Number employed: 420,890

While some delivery drivers are only responsible for getting a package to the right place, driver/sales workers have additional sales responsibilities. They may encourage a retail client to introduce new products to their stock, or try to find new clients on an existing route. While the occupation is only expected to gain 3% in jobs between 2019 and 2029, they may see new opportunities from app-based delivery companies in the coming years.

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#65. Tire repairers and changers

- Annual mean wage: $31,790 (43.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.5
- Number employed: 98,560

Workers in this occupation maintain the condition of vehicle tires and repair or replace tires that are worn or damaged. While most jobs in this field only require a high school diploma, workers must learn how to operate a hydraulic lift so they can elevate a car and access the wheels.

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#64. Orderlies

- Annual mean wage: $31,780 (43.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.4
- Number employed: 43,570

Orderlies typically work in hospitals and nursing homes, bringing patients to different areas of the facility and stocking supplies. It’s a physically demanding job that often requires lifting patients and responding to emergencies. An NPR investigation from 2015 found that the rate at which orderlies and the related profession of nursing assistants suffer from back injuries is three times that of construction workers.

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#63. Textile bleaching and dyeing machine operators and tenders

- Annual mean wage: $31,600 (43.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.6
- Number employed: 7,260

Besides getting textiles bright white, workers in this occupation may also dye, shrink, wash, and finish fabrics and fibers. While they rarely need more than a high school education, workers will need to have knowledge of production and processing, chemistry, and math to be successful in this field.

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#62. Shoe and leather workers and repairers

- Annual mean wage: $31,480 (44.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.7
- Number employed: 7,380

This line of work involves constructing and repairing leather products, including footwear, saddles, and luggage. Workers need little formal education to enter this field, but they will need to undergo a moderate amount of on-the-job training to master their craft.

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#61. Shoe machine operators and tenders

- Annual mean wage: $31,430 (44.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.7
- Number employed: 4,080

Shoe machine operators and tenders use a variety of machines to fashion footwear, joining parts together and adding decorative touches. Most workers in this occupation work in Maine, but they can earn more money in Minnesota.

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#60. Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

- Annual mean wage: $31,410 (44.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.0
- Number employed: 1,990,510

Any building can credit its cleanliness and condition to janitors and cleaners. The roughly 2.4 million workers in this occupation are responsible for everything from collecting trash and cleaning restrooms to scrubbing floors and washing windows. Most workers learn on the job, but some undergo certification through professional organizations to become more competitive for employment.

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#59. Slaughterers and meat packers

- Annual mean wage: $31,210 (44.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.8
- Number employed: 77,980

People who slaughter animals and pack meat make up this occupation. In the New York Times’ “opposite job” engine, slaughterers and meat packers were deemed the antithesis to physicists, as the job requires a lot of physical abilities, including speed and dexterity. Workers usually need a high school diploma to land a job in this field.

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#58. Funeral attendants

- Annual mean wage: $31,130 (44.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.0
- Number employed: 32,300

Workers in this occupation take care of tasks for a funeral, including arranging floral offerings, closing the casket, storing equipment, and escorting mourners. It’s an entry-level role at a funeral home that requires candidates to have a high school diploma or GED and participate in a brief period of on-the-job training. Funeral attendants can advance in their careers by studying funeral service or mortuary science and passing a state licensing exam to become a funeral service manager or director.

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#57. Textile, apparel, and furnishings workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $31,070 (44.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 16,510

Textile, apparel, and furnishing workers may be tailors, dry cleaning workers, or pattern makers. Work in the industry includes long hours and physically demanding conditions such as sitting, standing, or learning for long periods. A high school diploma is necessary for these jobs.

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#56. Bakers

- Annual mean wage: $31,060 (44.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.1
- Number employed: 168,890

America has a sweet tooth, and it’s driving up the demand for bakers. The occupation is expected to grow 5% by 2029. Formal education isn’t mandatory for this job, but some workers receive training at technical or culinary schools for up to two years. They may need to start their career as a baker’s assistant before learning the techniques to become a full-fledged baker.

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#55. Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals

- Annual mean wage: $31,060 (44.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.0
- Number employed: 36,820

Workers in this occupation typically undergo on-the-job training and rarely need a high school diploma to find a job. They take care of livestock. Those who wish to advance can pursue supervisory positions, such as crew leader, and may be more competitive if they are bilingual in both English and Spanish.

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#54. Stockers and order fillers

- Annual mean wage: $31,010 (44.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.0
- Number employed: 2,210,960

Stockers and order fillers work in stockrooms, warehouses, or storage yards receiving, storing, and issuing materials to fill orders and/or stock items. Some may have to operate power equipment to fulfill orders or put prices on merchandise and set up displays. A high school diploma is needed for this job.

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#53. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

- Annual mean wage: $30,980 (45.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.4
- Number employed: 98,810

These employees handle routine animal care and assist scientists and veterinarians with their day-to-day work. Most veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers have no formal education beyond high school, but some go on to obtain certifications from professional associations to take their careers to the next level.

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#52. Recreation workers

- Annual mean wage: $30,960 (45.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.7
- Number employed: 325,640

Often employed at summer camps, fitness centers, nursing homes, and parks, recreation workers lead activities that help people get active and have fun. These are often seasonal or part-time positions with irregular hours, such as weekends. Jobs in this field require a high school diploma, but some may prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree.

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#51. Retail salespersons

- Annual mean wage: $30,940 (45.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.0
- Number employed: 3,659,670

Retail salespersons work in brick-and-mortar stores to help customers find products, pay for merchandise, and get information on store policies. It’s an entry-level role in retail and jobs typically don’t have education requirements. Once a retail salesperson gets experience and demonstrates success, they may get promoted to a supervisory or managerial role.

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#50. Telemarketers

- Annual mean wage: $30,930 (45.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.4
- Number employed: 117,610

Telemarketers call people to request donations or make sales for their company. Workers learn everything they need to know about telemarketing through on-the-job training.

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#49. Textile cutting machine setters, operators, and tenders

- Annual mean wage: $30,890 (45.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.4
- Number employed: 12,650

People who run machines that cut textiles fall into this occupation. Most textile cutting machine setters, operators, and tenders work in Georgia, California, or North Carolina. However, that may change by 2029—the date by which the occupation is expected to lose 1,400, or 10%, of its jobs.

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#48. Meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers

- Annual mean wage: $30,800 (45.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.5
- Number employed: 147,760

The main duty of this occupation is trimming and cleaning meat, fish, and poultry to the right sizes and specifications, often using a knife, cleaver, or saw. It’s one of the few jobs workers can get in the United States without any education.

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#47. Sewers, hand

- Annual mean wage: $30,790 (45.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.4
- Number employed: 3,410

Sewers use a needle and thread to join, strengthen, or finish manufactured items, such as clothing. It’s one of the top jobs at risk of complete automation, expected to decline by 8% by 2029.

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#46. Library assistants, clerical

- Annual mean wage: $30,740 (45.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 84,560

While librarian roles are reserved for people who have completed a master’s degree, clerical library assistants can enter the field with just a high school diploma and brief on-the-job training. They have basic duties, such as answering phones, organizing files, and maintaining databases. Those who excel in the role may go on to more lucrative positions, such as library supervisors.

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#45. Ambulance drivers and attendants, except emergency medical technicians

- Annual mean wage: $30,700 (45.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.4
- Number employed: 14,120

Ambulance drivers and attendants play an essential role in transporting people who are sick, injured, or recuperating from an accident. They need to stay cool in emergencies and know how to offer rescue assistance or first aid. Projected to grow by 9% between 2019 and 2029, ambulance drivers and attendants may see more opportunities for work in the coming years.

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#44. Food processing workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $30,680 (45.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.2
- Number employed: 41,840

Food processing workers use equipment to process the ingredients necessary to manufacture food. They typically work early morning, evening, or night shifts in manufacturing facilities. Although there are no formal education requirements, some food processing jobs require a high school diploma.

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#43. Floral designers

- Annual mean wage: $30,670 (45.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.0
- Number employed: 36,810

Floral designers arrange blossoms and greenery into decorative displays for some of life’s most important moments, including weddings and funerals. They have an artistic talent for evoking specific sentiments through flowers. While the demand for flower arrangements will remain steady in the coming decade, the nation is projected to need 20% fewer floral designers by 2029, as online flower delivery services widen the geographic footprint of existing shops.

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#42. Teaching assistants, except postsecondary

- Annual mean wage: $30,630 (45.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: -$4.0
- Number employed: 1,272,840

Teaching assistants support lead teachers by providing additional help to students. They often provide small group or one-to-one instructions. States and districts have their own educational requirements for this position, with many requiring teaching assistants to obtain an associates degree or attend college for at least two years.

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#41. Passenger attendants

- Annual mean wage: $30,410 (46.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 22,990

Passenger attendants greet passengers, check their tickets and passports, weigh and label luggage, and distribute boarding passes. They also ask passengers security questions. When they gain experience, passenger attendants can be promoted to managers and supervisors.

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FERNANDO MACIAS ROMO // Shutterstock

#40. Crematory operators and personal care and service workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $30,330 (46.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.7
- Number employed: 60,650

A crematory operator works at a funeral home and ensures that the body of the deceased is properly received and cremated, and that the remains are returned to the proper person. Along with a high school diploma and (in some cases) additional training in mortuary or funeral services, the job requires compassion and the ability to operate equipment safely.

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#39. Farmworkers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse

- Annual mean wage: $30,140 (46.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 293,910

Workers in this occupation take care of everything that needs to be done to grow crops, including but not limited to pruning, planting, watering, and applying pesticides. While farmworkers tend to fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains, those who work in nurseries and greenhouses may focus on horticultural products, like flowers and trees. Farmworkers and laborers typically learn skills on the job and may advance to managerial positions, such as crew leaders, later in their careers.

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#38. Physical therapist aides

- Annual mean wage: $30,110 (46.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.7
- Number employed: 45,790

Physical therapist aides help prepare treatment areas, wash linens, conduct clerical duties, and transport patients around therapy areas. There’s no requirement for a physical therapist aide to obtain formal post-secondary education or a state license to work. To advance in the field and become a physical therapist assistant, they need to graduate with an associate’s degree from an approved program and get certified.

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#37. Cooks, institution and cafeteria

- Annual mean wage: $29,940 (46.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 387,300

Workers in this occupation prepare food in the kitchens of institutions such as schools, hospitals, and cafeterias. While they occasionally cook customized meals for patrons, they usually make bulk meals according to a preset menu. Culinary school is not generally required to get started in this role.

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#36. Gambling cage workers

- Annual mean wage: $29,700 (47.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 10,560

Gambling cage workers perform financial transactions for people in gambling establishments such as casinos. Along with processing credit applications, they can activate check cashing or create house credit accounts. Entry-level candidates are required to have a high school degree. Some establishments prefer candidates who have taken college courses in business or economics, while others require graduates from two- or four-year college programs.

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#35. Graders and sorters, agricultural products

- Annual mean wage: $29,620 (47.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.6
- Number employed: 28,640

Agricultural products and unprocessed foods go through graders and sorters, who categorize the items according to size, color, weight, and other characteristics. Nearly two-thirds of workers in this occupation don’t have a high school diploma. They usually learn how to perform the job from more experienced workers.

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#34. Cooks, restaurant

- Annual mean wage: $29,530 (47.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.8
- Number employed: 1,109,650

Restaurant cooks can learn everything about preparing and seasoning foods on the job. Cooks who work at hotels, especially those in major cities and resort towns, generally get paid the most. Workers can also advance to better-paying positions by gaining more experience and becoming certified through an accredited program.

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#33. Sewing machine operators

- Annual mean wage: $29,420 (47.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.6
- Number employed: 116,520

People who use sewing machines to create, reinforce, or decorate garments work in this occupation. Many of these jobs have moved overseas.

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#32. Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

- Annual mean wage: $29,400 (47.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.3
- Number employed: 341,660

People who keep vehicles and machinery sparkling clean are in this line of work. They can often find opportunities at a carwash, manufacturing firm, rental car agency, or dealership. With the growing demand for car maintenance services, cleaners of vehicles and equipment may see additional employment opportunities open up by 2029.

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#31. Locker room, coatroom, and dressing room attendants

- Annual mean wage: $29,320 (47.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.8
- Number employed: 11,530

Attendants help patrons at fitness centers, venues, and theaters store their personal items. They may also assist customers using dressing rooms at retail stores. While the average salary for this occupation is low, tips can boost workers’ earnings.

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#30. Packers and packagers, hand

- Annual mean wage: $29,270 (48.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.5
- Number employed: 599,270

Labeling cartons, checking for defective items, and keeping packing records are a few of the primary responsibilities of hand packers and packagers. Formal education is not usually a requirement for this kind of job. As stores incorporate additional self-checkouts and automation takes over at warehouses, this occupation is expected to shrink.

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Kit Leong // Shutterstock

#29. Gambling change persons and booth cashiers

- Annual mean wage: $29,110 (48.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.0
- Number employed: 14,000

Gambling change persons and booth cashiers have the important job of giving customers chips, coins, and tokens in exchange for money. It is essential to keep accurate records of transactions, calculate the value of chips, and make change for patrons. A high school diploma is needed.

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#28. Baggage porters and bellhops

- Annual mean wage: $29,060 (48.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.0
- Number employed: 28,440

All a prospective bellhop needs is a high school diploma and a willingness to learn how to handle baggage to break into this occupation. The traveler accommodation industry employs the most baggage porters and bellhops overall.

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#27. Manicurists and pedicurists

- Annual mean wage: $29,010 (48.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.4
- Number employed: 73,010

Keeping fingernails and toenails clean and beautiful is the primary duty of manicurists and pedicurists. Workers may need to get a state license to enter this field, which usually requires a state-approved course. Many manicurists and pedicurists say they work in poor conditions, despite some states’ efforts at regulating this occupation.

 

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#26. Bartenders

- Annual mean wage: $28,910 (48.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.0
- Number employed: 486,720

Bartenders take orders, mix drinks, and serve them to patrons. They need to work quickly, balance numerous drink orders, and keep the bar stocked with supplies. While some workers hone their craft at a bartending school, others learn on the job. They may also need to complete courses on serving alcohol responsibly.

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#25. Animal caretakers

- Annual mean wage: $28,380 (49.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.5
- Number employed: 193,660

Animal caretaking an be challenging on both emotional and physical levels. Along with feeding, grooming, and bathing animals, caretakers often manage their exercise. Job responsibilities vary depending on whether you are working at a zoo, pet store, kennel, stable, shelter, or clinic.

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#24. Automotive and watercraft service attendants

- Annual mean wage: $28,150 (50.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.8
- Number employed: 112,750

While service technicians may repair vehicles, automotive and watercraft service attendants provide more basic maintenance services for vehicles and boats, such as refueling, lubricating, changing oil, replacing lights, and repairing tires. Hawaii and Washington are the top-paying states for this occupation. Workers who complete a post-secondary program or go to vocational school may advance into a full-fledged mechanic.

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#23. Maids and housekeeping cleaners

- Annual mean wage: $28,010 (50.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.6
- Number employed: 795,590

Workers in this occupation provide light cleaning services at private homes and commercial establishments, like hospitals and resorts. Hiring managers typically look for maids and housekeeping cleaners who have some work-related experience or knowledge of cleaning.

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#22. Parking attendants

- Annual mean wage: $27,910 (50.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.0
- Number employed: 123,790

Parking attendants park customers’ cars and deliver them upon their return. They typically hand them a numbered receipt that is later used to identify and collect the vehicle. Parking attendants must have a valid driver’s license and ability to drive all car types.

 

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#21. Food preparation and serving related workers, all other

- Annual mean wage: $27,880 (50.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.0
- Number employed: 69,070

Food preparation workers assist cooks, chefs, and food supervisors in the preparation of food. Typical tasks include sanitizing work areas, measuring ingredients, and storing foods. While some workers have a high school diploma, others have no education credentials.

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#20. Waiters and waitresses

- Annual mean wage: $27,470 (51.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.4
- Number employed: 1,944,240

This occupation is one of the most common first jobs in the United States. While it requires no formal education, most waiters and waitresses undergo a few weeks of on-the-job training to learn how to serve food, communicate with kitchen staff, and prepare dining areas. Workers who get jobs at upscale restaurants in big cities and vacation areas can make significantly more money in tips.

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#19. Food servers, nonrestaurant

- Annual mean wage: $27,460 (51.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.5
- Number employed: 254,650

Food servers serve food to people outside of restaurants, in places including hospital rooms, hotels, and cars. There are no educational requirements.

 

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#18. Gambling and sports book writers and runners

- Annual mean wage: $27,130 (51.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.1
- Number employed: 7,500

Gambling and sports book writers and runners facilitate bets, helping customers by taking and recording their wagers. In addition, they oversee games including keno and bingo. A high school degree or equivalent is needed for this job, but a college degree may be required for managers.

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#17. Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers

- Annual mean wage: $27,050 (52.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.0
- Number employed: 113,150

This occupation monitors areas like pools, beaches, and ski slopes to keep participants safe and potentially save lives in an emergency. Despite its importance, this job pays very little, and workers may need to get additional training to move into a better-paying role.

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#16. Cooks, short-order

- Annual mean wage: $27,030 (52.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.8
- Number employed: 123,350

In quick-service restaurants and coffee shops, short-order cooks whip up foods like sandwiches, eggs, and fries on the fly. Workers may advance to more prestigious kitchen jobs by attending a culinary institute and learning how to cook more complicated recipes.

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#15. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks

- Annual mean wage: $26,900 (52.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.3
- Number employed: 222,550

This traveler-focused worker manages reservations for accommodations, responds to guests’ requests, assigns rooms, maintains occupancy records, and answers phone calls. Knowing how to create spreadsheets can make a clerk more competitive in this field.

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#14. Food preparation workers

- Annual mean wage: $26,820 (52.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.5
- Number employed: 793,590

Supervised by cooks and chefs, food preparation workers get the kitchen and ingredients ready for the day. They sanitize work stations, cut meats, peel vegetables, and mix salad ingredients. Once food preparation workers get enough experience, they may be promoted to an assistant or line cook.

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#13. Childcare workers

- Annual mean wage: $26,790 (52.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.2
- Number employed: 494,360

Childcare workers take care of youngsters and maintain safe environments at daycare centers, schools, religious organizations, and private homes. People who enjoy this line of work may command higher salaries by earning a bachelor’s degree and becoming a preschool director.

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#12. Laundry and dry-cleaning workers

- Annual mean wage: $26,600 (52.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.2
- Number employed: 179,890

Workers in this occupation run machines that wash or dry-clean a variety of items, including cloth garments, blankets, curtains, and carpets. They typically learn how to perform critical duties through on-the-job training.

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Siriport Pimpo // Shutterstock

#11. Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers

- Annual mean wage: $26,390 (53.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.1
- Number employed: 95,600

Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers take care of more straightforward tasks at entertainment facilities. They grant admission to ticketed patrons, help them find their assigned seats, locate lost items, and direct people to restrooms.

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#10. Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers

- Annual mean wage: $26,300 (53.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.0
- Number employed: 374,940

An entry-level role in food service, this occupation involves cleaning tables, transferring dirty plates to the dish room, and stocking service areas. This experience may give attendants the skills they need to advance to more lucrative positions, such as waiters or waitresses.

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#9. Gambling dealers

- Annual mean wage: $26,110 (53.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.4
- Number employed: 67,330

Casino dealers create a winning vibe by interacting with players, explaining the rules, and playing games. Dealers are skilled at table games and have great people and math skills. Requirements for the job vary from a high school diploma to vocational training and language fluency.

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#8. Pressers, textile, garment, and related materials

- Annual mean wage: $26,050 (53.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.3
- Number employed: 31,980

People who use their hands or a machine to get fabrics free of wrinkles are called pressers. Business Insider in 2016 found that this occupation had one of the most significant gender pay gaps, with women earning an average of nearly $9,000 less than their male counterparts each year.

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#7. Cashiers

- Annual mean wage: $25,710 (54.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.0
- Number employed: 3,333,100

Cashiers work directly with customers to process payments for goods and services at stores, gas stations, restaurants, and pharmacies. They get trained on the job, and cashiers may later advance to better-paying retail positions, such as customer service representatives.

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#6. Amusement and recreation attendants

- Annual mean wage: $25,610 (54.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.9
- Number employed: 248,190

Workers in this occupation are often responsible for managing schedules at recreation facilities, providing participants with equipment, and operating concession stands and amusement park rides. Most people in this occupation work at amusement parks in California and Florida.

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#5. Dishwashers

- Annual mean wage: $25,600 (54.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.2
- Number employed: 395,660

Dishwashers keep a restaurant’s kitchen equipment, utensils, and plates clean. It's one of the lower-paid positions at restaurants, but it requires no education.

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#4. Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop

- Annual mean wage: $24,800 (56.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.5
- Number employed: 316,700

Hosts and hostesses greet customers and keep track of reservations and waiting lists. The position can be a stepping stone to eventually becoming a waiter, waitress, or bartender.

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#3. Fast food and counter workers

- Annual mean wage: $24,540 (56.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.5
- Number employed: 3,450,120

Fast food servers assist customers by greeting them, fulfilling their orders, and taking payment. Servers do not need to have formal education. The job is a good fit for high school students looking to gain on-the-job training and experience.

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#2. Shampooers

- Annual mean wage: $24,320 (56.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.6
- Number employed: 8,310

Shampooers clean customers’ hair at salons. While low-paid, the role gives workers who are interested in hairstyling and cosmetology some hands-on experience in the industry.

 

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#1. Cooks, fast food

- Annual mean wage: $24,300 (56.8% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.7
- Number employed: 544,420

These cooks prepare meals at fast-food restaurants, like McDonald’s and Burger King. Corporations often have training programs that teach fast-food cooks how to perform the tasks at hand. Some fast-food workers have gone on strike for better wages in recent years.

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