Most common jobs in America

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May 4, 2021
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Most common jobs in America

Keeping America’s economy moving would be impossible without office workers, package handlers, food prep workers, and truck drivers. What would the sick do without the millions of hospital workers, nurses, and home health aides? Whether fixing America’s drinks as a bartender, vehicles as an auto mechanic, or legal problems as a lawyer, the top 50 jobs listed in this article employ more than 74.2 million people. While most of the jobs on the list make less than $20 per hour, 13 jobs had annual salaries above $60,000, with three clearing six figures.

Stacker analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine the 50 most common jobs in America. Jobs are ranked by total U.S. employment (excluding self-employed workers) as of the May 2020 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates report (released on March 30, 2021, and the most recent data available). Only detailed job categories were included in the dataset.

There were 144.7 million total employees in America as of May 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact greatly affected employment numbers, bringing the overall number down to 139 million in May 2021. However, since then, employment has begun to stabilize, with jobs numbers growing in recent months. 

The 10 largest occupations in America employ some 30 million workers. Most jobs on the list don’t require much beyond a high school diploma, but some can require years of schooling, certification, and state or federal licensing. Supporting data is also provided around the average hourly and annual wages for most of the roles. The BLS calculates average annual wages for occupations by multiplying average hourly wages by 2,080 hours (40 hours per week for 52 weeks) to represent year-round, full-time workers.

Read on for Stacker’s list of the 50 most common jobs in America.

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#50. First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers

- Number employed: 614,080
- Annual mean wage: $72,990 (29.6% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $32.61

Scheduling and training workers is key to this construction management role, but managing budgets is equally important. The two Washingtons—the state and the district—are the most lucrative markets in terms of mean wages for these professionals. 

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#49. Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

- Number employed: 620,110
- Annual mean wage: $46,760 (17.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $21.18

As long as there are cars on the road, automotive service technicians and mechanics will not want for work. Your Mechanic reports almost a dozen unique roless, including parts specialist, battery mechanic, and brake technician. Meanwhile, Career Addict lists “The 12 best entry-level auto mechanic jobs," which range widely from automotive AC repairman to collision repair assistant. Additionally, these roles require only on-the-job training, so student loan debt is not a factor.

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#48. Computer User Support Specialists

- Number employed: 634,820
- Annual mean wage: $57,000 (1.2% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $25.33

Managing the needs and frustrations of computer users whose hardware and/or software aren't working optimally—or at all—is the day-to-day responsibility of these professionals. Wages for this type of role are highest across several West Coast and East Coast states.

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#47. Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators

- Number employed: 640,950
- Annual mean wage: $39,210 (30.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $18.06

Warehouses are a typical environment for these workers that ensure that products, pallets, and materials are safely transported around a site. Even though there's a greater demand for warehousing due to e-commerce sales, growth for this job is slowing as more warehouse operations are automated.

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#46. Human Resources Specialists

- Number employed: 647,810
- Annual mean wage: $69,430 (23.3% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $30.52

Beyond hiring new workers, professionals in this field are also responsible for managing ongoing compensation and training needs. Demand continues to grow as health care considerations and employment law become more complex. 

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#45. Financial Managers

- Number employed: 653,080
- Annual mean wage: $151,510 (169.1% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $64.51

Accountants and financial analysts are well-positioned to step into this senior role that oversees financial planning, reporting, and investing for companies. Financial managers with expertise in cash and risk management are expected to be in especially high demand in coming years. 

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#44. Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

- Number employed: 654,900
- Annual mean wage: $70,000 (24.3% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $31.51

What first began as slave patrols in the south and tactics to suppress labor unions in the north merged into modern policing. Today, being a police or sheriff’s officer is considered a risky job, ranking 18 out of 25 on a recent investigation into the country’s most dangerous jobs. The difference between the two types of law enforcement officers is a sheriff works throughout county limits, whereas police patrol in one designated town or city in a county.

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#43. Electricians

- Number employed: 656,510
- Annual mean wage: $61,550 (9.3% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $27.36

Some electricians attend a technical school, and others learn to install, maintain, and repair many types of power through apprenticeships. Aside from providing residential and commercial services, other specializations include line repairmen and installers; electrical estimators; and drafters, who draw up system blueprints based on engineering and architectural plans.

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#42. Lawyers

- Number employed: 658,120
- Annual mean wage: $148,910 (164.4% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $61.03

Long before lawyers were more notorious than celebrated, they were merely Roman orators who pleaded their friends’ cases. Now, becoming a lawyer requires a rigorous academic career and passing the bar exam, which is considered extremely challenging.  

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#41. Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

- Number employed: 676,440
- Annual mean wage: $50,090 (11.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $23.47

As the title notes, practical and vocational nurses must become licensed after completing a state-approved education program to practice in the medical field. Many in the field work in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices, while some can be employed privately. A typical office day for an LPN includes meeting with patients, checking vitals, monitoring medication and treatment, managing administrative tasks, and assisting in surgery when needed.

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#40. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists

- Number employed: 690,160
- Annual mean wage: $73,970 (31.4% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $31.64

Along with following product and service trends, market research analysts observe sale methods and pricing points to determine productivity, often creating campaigns around consumers’ buying habits. Recruiter reports while the average analyst salary is around $70,000, marketing specialists make up to $82,290 annually in Oregon, with manufacturing considered the most lucrative field of practice. The profession is one of the 15 fastest-growing industries, according to Moneywise, reporting that by 2026, another 138,300 jobs will open up in the field.

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#39. Carpenters

- Number employed: 699,300
- Annual mean wage: $54,200 (3.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $23.81

While carpenters build structures in all shapes and sizes, 22% work on residential building construction, with up to 27% self-employed in 2018, according to the BLS. The physical job of cutting, shaping, and installing wood and building materials includes standing, kneeling, lifting, and carrying material for hours in sometimes unpleasant weather conditions, and can be hazardous.

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#38. Medical Assistants

- Number employed: 710,200
- Annual mean wage: $36,930 (34.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $17.23

The profession dates back to ancient physicians, such as Hippocrates and Galan, who were always surrounded by student residents who assisted them. While some states require a medical assistant to have a certificate or two-year education, others learn the clinical and administrative duties on the job. The American Association of Medical Assistants details clinical obligations including taking a patient’s medical history, drawing blood, and performing laboratory tests, along with administrative tasks like insurance coding, billing, and updating and filing medical records.

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#37. Shipping, Receiving, and Inventory Clerks

- Number employed: 727,640
- Annual mean wage: $37,210 (33.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $16.95

Natural gas distribution and postal services are the best-paying industries for this type of clerk. Washington—both the Western state and D.C.— have the highest mean wages for this type of job.

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#36. Management Analysts

- Number employed: 734,000
- Annual mean wage: $97,580 (73.3% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $42.14

Reducing costs and increasing revenue are always the goals of any management analysts, who are ranked in the top 10 of U.S. News & World Reports’ Best Business Jobs. Becoming a management analyst requires a bachelor’s degree and a Certified Management Consultant certification, with top-paid analysts making over $100,000. Projected job growth for the profession is 11% from 2019 to 2029.

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#35. Food Preparation Workers

- Number employed: 793,590
- Annual mean wage: $26,820 (52.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.53

Food preparation workers do everything from sanitizing work areas to slicing and dicing vegetables while working under a chef. They are also responsible for weighing and measuring ingredients for chefs and storing food at recorded temperatures. The BLS reports food preparation workers are often in charge of salad bars and buffets, keeping them supplied with fresh food on time, and can be found doing dishes in downtime to keep the kitchen clean and stocked.

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#34. Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners

- Number employed: 795,590
- Annual mean wage: $28,010 (50.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.61

Hotels employ over half of these workers, who perform duties like vacuuming, making beds, and cleaning. No education is required, but the hourly wage is among the lowest on this list, with much of the work revolving around tourism and a strong economy. Maids were so prevalent in the U.S. in the early 1900s that a woman “either had a maid, or she was one,” according to The Atlantic.

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#33. Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers

- Number employed: 872,370
- Annual mean wage: $33,800 (40.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $15.26

Making sure the grass is always greener falls to landscapers and groundskeepers, whose duties can also include tree trimming, digging, planting, or non-concrete wall installation. Serving America’s homes and buildings is where most landscapers and groundskeepers find their work, although places like golf courses, sports complexes, and local governments need their grounds kept as well. Landscape architecture dates back to the Ancient Romans and Greeks, who used their gardens as much as their homes.

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#32. First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving Workers

- Number employed: 891,540
- Annual mean wage: $37,880 (32.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $16.62

Supervising over 3 million food prep workers falls to these supervisors, who train, schedule, and oversee the day-to-day activities of their employees. Restaurants, including fast-food establishments, employ almost three-quarters of these professionals, while specialty food services and schools are also viable workplaces. No education is required to obtain a position supervising food prep and serving workers, but most places hire from within the ranks of their workforce.

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#31. Light Truck Drivers

- Number employed: 929,470
- Annual mean wage: $41,050 (27.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $17.81

With e-commerce booming, and delivery of everything from food to office supplies becoming commonplace, future job prospects for light truck drivers are better than most. Also, there are few barriers to entry: Drivers need a license where they'll be working, and a clean driving record.

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#30. Receptionists and Information Clerks

- Number employed: 968,420
- Annual mean wage: $32,410 (42.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.96

Receptionists are often responsible for the first impression of a company, whether answering and directing calls on the phone or greeting customers as they walk through the door. A high school diploma, computer skills, and a positive attitude are often all that is required to work the front desk anywhere from hotels, where some fear automation will shrink the industry, to doctors’ and dentists’ offices. Before 1880, the role was mostly occupied by men, but the advent and mass production of the Remington typewriter spurred a complete gender flip (women were thought to have smaller fingers).

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#29. Construction Laborers

- Number employed: 971,330
- Annual mean wage: $43,000 (23.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $18.22

The first occupation on our list to hit 1 million workers, construction laborers work with their hands or tools in their role. Their responsibilities vary from job to job, from cleaning and digging to erecting scaffolding and heavy lifting. Construction laborers, who have been plying their trade since civilizations began building, have especially high rates of injury and illness.

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#28. Sales Representatives of Services, Except Advertising, Insurance, Financial Services, and Travel

- Number employed: 977,070
- Annual mean wage: $70,490 (25.2% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $28.25

Sales representatives, except those in advertising, insurance, financial services, and travel, fall under this category. With just two exceptions, all of the states where these professionals earn the most are on the West or East Coast.  Almost 75% of the professionals in this field are white. 

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#27. Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education

- Number employed: 991,000
- Annual mean wage: $67,340 (19.6% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: -$4.00

Shaping the minds of America’s teenagers requires a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate at a minimum. Secondary educators create and implement lesson plans according to their districts’ curriculum and often use their own money to stock their classrooms. Secondary school teachers became a specialized profession in Massachusetts in the early 1800s.

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#26. Security Guards

- Number employed: 1,054,400
- Annual mean wage: $34,360 (39.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.93

Working as a security guard usually requires little more than a high school diploma or GED, though some states mandate licensing; more if the position is armed. The profession dates back to the days of ancient Egypt, when pharaohs would hire private security forces to protect their families. There are a variety of settings to secure, including banks, housing developments, and shopping areas.

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#25. First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers

- Number employed: 1,063,110
- Annual mean wage: $47,300 (16.0% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $19.99

Retail salespeople make up much of the nation’s workforce, and it requires more than a million people to supervise those workers in settings like food stores, gas stations, or department stores, which employ more than any other field, according to the BLS. Apart from supervising workers, duties include budgeting, purchasing goods, accounting work, and ensuring a quality customer experience.

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#24. Cooks, Restaurant

- Number employed: 1,109,650
- Annual mean wage: $29,530 (47.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.84

Even with the pandemic shutting down many dining venues, the restaurant industry generated more than $650 billion in sales in 2020, with cooks working behind the scenes to season and prepare every dish that goes out the door. Attention to detail and a love for food are all that’s required to become a cook in an industry where competition is fierce to acquire and keep top talent.

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#23. Teaching Assistants, Except Postsecondary

- Number employed: 1,272,840
- Annual mean wage: $30,630 (45.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: -$4.00

Alaska and Washington state pay teaching assistants more than the rest of the country. The outlook for jobs is average, with 4% growth projected between 2019 and 2029.

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#22. Accountants and Auditors

- Number employed: 1,274,620
- Annual mean wage: $81,660 (45.0% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $35.37

Benjamin Franklin once said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, making this well-paying job virtually recession-proof. While they’re most visible at tax time, accountants work behind the scenes with businesses, schools, and governments to handle financial statements, balance the books, and forecast trends throughout the year. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant requires a bachelor’s degree, national exam, and extensive field training.

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#21. Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products

- Number employed: 1,278,670
- Annual mean wage: $73,500 (30.5% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $29.84

Sort of like retailers for retailers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods and merchandise to businesses. Duties are wide-ranging but can include generating new customers, keeping current clients satisfied, negotiating prices, and preparing sales contracts. The products sold by wholesale sales representatives are limitless, from household goods to large-scale farming equipment.

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#20. Maintenance and Repair Workers, General

- Number employed: 1,357,630
- Annual mean wage: $43,790 (22.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $19.64

Maintenance and repair workers keep machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings running in tip-top shape. General maintenance workers may need a variety of skills, including carpentry, plumbing, and electrical knowledge. No education is required, but many companies prefer some college along with certifications if working in a specialized field like wind turbine maintenance.

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#19. Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

- Number employed: 1,364,870
- Annual mean wage: $65,420 (16.2% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: -$4.00

Elementary school teachers lay the groundwork for future learning, instructing the youngest students on basic academic and social skills since after World War I. Teaching kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade requires a bachelor’s degree at least, along with a state teaching license, with some states mandating certification for each individual grade. Those overseeing students in New York, Massachusetts, and California can earn over $80,000 per year, according to the BLS.

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#18. Nursing Assistants

- Number employed: 1,371,050
- Annual mean wage: $32,050 (43.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.83

Nursing assistants help patients perform necessary activities like bathing, eating, and grooming, along with tasks like taking vital signs and preparing medical equipment. Nursing homes and hospitals are the primary employers of nursing assistants, who must be state-certified to work in the field. The nursing assistant sector is expected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029, thanks to an aging baby boomer population.

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#17. First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers

- Number employed: 1,427,260
- Annual mean wage: $62,010 (10.1% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $28.10

Monitoring the nation’s office and administrative workers, and making sure they adhere to company standards and procedures, falls on the shoulders of these first-line supervisors. Credit intermediation services are the top employers of office supervisors, but settings vary and include doctors’ offices, food stores, and local government. Education isn’t a necessity: A significant number of managers are promoted from within their respective companies.

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#16. Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

- Number employed: 1,443,940
- Annual mean wage: $44,100 (21.7% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $20.39

Accounting and bookkeeping clerks assist and perform many of the same duties as accountants, maintaining financial data and ensuring bottom-line accuracy. Educational requirements are minimal, but adding certifications can raise a practitioners’ profile. A majority of clerks work for tax preparers, and the emergence of at-home tax software like TurboTax and H&R Block has the field projected to lose 6% of its workforce by 2029.

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#15. Project Management Specialists and Business Operations Specialists, All Other

- Number employed: 1,444,420
- Annual mean wage: $84,290 (49.7% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $37.22

Though the federal executive branch has the highest numbers of these types of professionals, pay is best for those who work with independent performers, artists and writers. Mean annual wages for all professionals in this role are almost $85,000.

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#14. Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers

- Number employed: 1,476,800
- Annual mean wage: $114,270 (102.9% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $52.95

Job prospects for these software professionals are among the best of any industry: Growth is forecast to be over 20% through 2029. Pay is near the top too, with a mean annual salary near $115,000.

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#13. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers

- Number employed: 1,797,710
- Annual mean wage: $48,710 (13.5% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $22.66

A commercial driver’s license is all that’s required to spend a life on the open road, hauling goods across town or to the other side of the country. Trucks move 70% of all products in the United States, and Business Insider reports that grocery stores would run out of food in three days without this vital occupation. Despite the rise of self-driving trucks, there are still plenty of job opportunities. Massive shortages of drivers have a major impact on the country: One possible result is gas shortages and higher prices. 

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#12. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive

- Number employed: 1,850,360
- Annual mean wage: $40,420 (28.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $18.68

Secretaries and administrative assistants have been around since before the Roman Empire, and today perform a variety of tasks from simple clerical work to scheduling appointments. Many professionals in this field are employed by elementary and secondary schools.

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#11. Waiters and Waitresses

- Number employed: 1,944,240
- Annual mean wage: $27,470 (51.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.42

Taking food and drink orders is just one part of being a waiter or waitress, who can work anywhere from chain restaurants to upscale dining halls. Waiters and waitresses primarily work off tips, so personality and friendly service are important aspects of this job, where employers can still pay less than minimum wage.

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#10. Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners

- Number employed: 1,990,510
- Annual mean wage: $31,410 (44.2% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.98

It can be a dirty job, but over 2 million people make their living cleaning, performing routine maintenance, and keeping management apprised of needed repairs in their role as a janitor. Providing services to buildings and dwellings employs over one-third of the field, according to the BLS. Being a janitor requires no formal education and advancement is limited, but one janitor, Richard Montanez, went from janitor to a marketing executive at Frito-Lay after creating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

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#9. Stockers and Order Fillers

- Number employed: 2,210,960
- Annual mean wage: $31,010 (44.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.03

Managing merchandise and orders is the primary focus of this job. Natural gas distribution and postal services are the industries that pay the best for this skillet.

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#8. General and Operations Managers

- Number employed: 2,347,420
- Annual mean wage: $125,740 (123.3% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $49.83

After lawyers, general and operations managers are the highest-paid professionals on this list, at nearly $60 per hour. While they serve several roles overseeing a company’s operations, these managers are primarily responsible for keeping productivity high and costs low. The profession dates back to 5,000 BCE, when Sumerian priests first devised a system of inventory and business transactions.

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#7. Office Clerks, General

- Number employed: 2,788,090
- Annual mean wage: $37,770 (32.9% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $16.98

School, health care, and local government settings are the top spots you can find an office clerk, who can do a little of everything around the office, including answering phones, bookkeeping, and clerical work. The role of office clerks emerged in the 1800s with the growth of railroads, with a need for people to manage the rapidly expanding business. High school education is usually all that’s required, and candidates are most often hired based on experience and skills.

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#6. Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand

- Number employed: 2,805,200
- Annual mean wage: $33,710 (40.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $14.96

These professionals work in warehouses manually moving goods, packing and unpacking products, and keeping records of what goes where. Physical strength, listening skills, and hand-eye coordination are some traits of good laborers, as well as customer service skills when dealing with the public at a carwash or grocery store. Most employers have on-the-job training for laborers that negates the need for formal education.

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#5. Customer Service Representatives

- Number employed: 2,833,250
- Annual mean wage: $38,510 (31.6% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $17.23

Customer service representatives field questions and concerns from the public, usually either in a call center or at a front desk. A high school education or GED is all that is required to work as a customer service representative, though patience, good communication skills, and problem-solving ability are equally important. The need for customer service agents will grow slower than the national average over the next decade because of advances in technology, which Forbes predicts will handle 85% of customer service interactions by 2020.

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#4. Registered Nurses

- Number employed: 2,986,500
- Annual mean wage: $80,010 (42.1% above mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $36.22

Registered nurses help heal the sick and injured by administering care, performing tests, monitoring patients, and maintaining meticulous medical records. Becoming an RN is a difficult process, which involves getting a degree from an accredited nursing program, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and obtaining a state license. Demand for registered nurses is expected to grow 7% by 2029, more than double the national average, due to an aging baby boomer population and more emphasis on preventative care.

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#3. Cashiers

- Number employed: 3,333,100
- Annual mean wage: $25,710 (54.3% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $12.03

Processing payments from customers for goods and services falls to cashiers, who find their home in retail settings like food stores, gas stations, or restaurants. Cashiers also can be responsible for greeting customers, checking identification, and some cleaning. The expanded use of self- and automated checkouts has the role of a cashier, which requires no formal education, projected to lose 7% of its workforce by 2029.

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#2. Fast Food and Counter Workers

- Number employed: 3,450,120
- Annual mean wage: $24,540 (56.4% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $11.47

America loves its fast food, with the industry generating more than $500 billion in revenue annually, and behind every Big Mac and Dunkin’ coffee is a food prep worker. Restaurants, including fast food chains, employ nearly three million food prep workers, roles which require no education, but also have the lowest hourly and annual wage on our list. Outside of restaurants, special food services and food and beverage stores are the next top employers of food prep workers.

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#1. Retail Salespersons

- Number employed: 3,659,670
- Annual mean wage: $30,940 (45.1% below mean for all occupations)
- Median hourly wage: $13.02

The only occupation with over 4 million employees, this field entails helping customers find products and processing their payments. On-the-job training is usually all that’s required to break into the field, which can range from selling clothing and accessories to cars and electronics. The rise of online sales has forced the closure of a number of brick-and-mortar stores, and the need for retail salespersons is expected to remain steady.

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