What Are the Lowest-Paying Jobs?

FT Contributor  | 

In America, there’s no shortage of different types of occupations. Some of these jobs are high-paying while others don’t offer generous salaries. If you’re earning minimum wage, you may already understand how other aspects of your life are affected by earning a low salary.

If you can only afford to make minimum payments on your credit card or loan balances, this debt may easily grow and become unmanageable. Unexpected expenses, such as medical bills or home repairs, can send you into a financial spiral, making it tough to pay for other necessities, such as food or utilities. When you live paycheck to paycheck, it’s almost impossible to plan for your future and retirement since you simply can’t afford to put money into savings.

This guide examines some of the lowest-paying occupations in the country. By identifying these low-paying occupations, you may better understand the financial hardships that workers in these positions endure.

The 8 Lowest-Paying Jobs in America

Fast Food Servers

Fast food servers work in fast food restaurants and are responsible for greeting customers and taking their orders. They may also assist with cooking and preparing food items and presenting them to customers. Additionally, these workers may be tasked with cleaning the restaurant and operating the cash register.

The median pay for fast food servers is $10.45 an hour but the lowest 10% of workers earn less than $8.34 per hour. Living independently on a salary slightly higher than minimum wage is tough for workers. They may have trouble affording basic necessities, such as rent, food, or clothing.

Cashiers

Cashiers usually work in retail stores and are responsible for assisting customers in making purchases and returns. They may work in clothing, grocery, sporting goods, or other types of stores and must possess basic math skills and customer service skills. Cashiers may also be responsible for bagging customer orders and answering questions about products in the store.

In May 2018, cashiers earned an average wage of $10.78 per hour. The highest-paid cashiers worked in pharmacy and drug stores while the lowest-paid cashiers worked in restaurants and eateries. The lowest-paid 10% of cashiers earned an average hourly wage of $8.49.

Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers

A job as an usher, lobby attendant, or ticket taker generally earns low pay because it doesn’t require much employment history or experience. A worker in this position is responsible for assisting theater attendees in finding their seats or tasked with answering general questions about the facility. They also collect tickets from attendees to ensure they’ve paid for their entry and are sitting in the correct section of the theater.

The median hourly wage for ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers is $10.01 per hour. However, the lowest-paid 10% of workers in this position earned $8.27 per hour, which is only a bit higher than the national minimum wage rate of $7.25.

Shampooers

Shampooers work in hair salons and assist hair stylists by shampooing and conditioning clients’ hair. Shampooers may greet clients, bring them back to the shampooing area, complete their hair wash, and towel dry their hair.

They may also be responsible for escorting these clients back to the stylists’ chairs. In addition to shampooing, these workers may also be tasked with cleaning the floors in the salon and ensuring hair products are in stock. Shampooers earn a median hourly wage of $9.77 and the lowest-paid 10% of workers earn an average hourly wage of $8.54.

Hosts and Hostesses

Hosts and hostesses work in restaurants greeting and seating customers. They’re responsible for keeping tabs on wait staff and the tables they’ve been assigned. They may also answer the phone and take reservations using a computer system. In some restaurants, hosts and hostesses may be tasked with recording to-go or delivery orders from customers by phone and relaying them to kitchen staff.

The median hourly wage for a host or hostess is $10.06 but the lowest-paid 10% of workers earn only about $8.28 per hour. Since hosts and hostesses don’t serve food or drinks, they generally don’t receive tips as most servers do.

Farm Workers

Farm workers take care of livestock and raise crops with the intent to harvest and sell them. Farm work is labor intensive and may include irrigating soil, digging ditches, or operating heavy farming equipment. Farm workers may also be responsible for herding livestock, moving plants, and controlling insects by applying pesticides.

Unlike farm owners, farm workers don’t profit from the sale of livestock or crops. They earn a median hourly wage of $11.84, which equates to $24,620 per year. The employment outlook for farm workers is only expected to grow by 1% between 2018 and 2028, which is much slower than other occupations. The slow growth of the industry is attributed to advanced farm technologies and machineries farm owners invest in.

Home Care Aides

Home care aides visit the homes of residents who are elderly, disabled, or living with chronic illness or cognitive impairment. They help these residents complete basic activities, such as showering, getting dressed, or taking walks.

Home care aides may also assist residents in completing daily chores, such as house cleaning, laundry, or washing dishes. In some cases, these workers transport residents to doctor’s appointments, social gatherings, or other engagements.

Most employers only require home care aides to possess high school diplomas and no secondary education or experience in the field. The median hourly wage for home care aides in May 2018 was $11.57. While the pay for home care aides is low, the employment outlook is hopeful. Employment is expected to grow by 36% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than other occupations.

Automotive and Watercraft Service Attendants

Automotive and watercraft service attendants assist vehicle and watercraft owners in filling up fuel and other fluids. They may also help customers choose and purchase accessories for their vehicles or watercraft and are responsible for collecting payment. Attendants who are trained and have experience may also assist with oil changes, part lubrication, and repairing or replacing tires.

Automotive and watercraft attendants earned a median hourly wage of $11.64 in May 2018. The lowest-paid 10% of attendants earned an average hourly wage of $9.21. Depending on the employer, some attendants may be permitted to accept tips from customers for their service.

The Effects of Earning the Minimum Wage

Many workers in the occupations discussed above earn only slightly higher than the minimum wage, which can take a toll on their health and finances. Workers who earn higher living wages find it easier to seek medical treatments when needed without concern of the cost. Wage increases may also motivate workers to perform their jobs more efficiently.

Budgeting Tips for Minimum Wage Employees

If you struggle while earning minimum wage or slightly above it, it’s important to carefully budget your money. Stay away from debt and ensure you and your family live comfortably by:

  • Finding a side job in addition to your full-time occupation.
  • Creating and adhering to a strict budget.
  • Paying down debt as quickly as possible.
  • Creating an emergency fund.
  • Selling items online or engaging in other ways to make money.

Earning minimum wage or close to it by working one of these low-paying jobs makes it hard to live independently and comfortably. If you’re working a low-paying job, it’s important to stay on budget, consider other occupational opportunities you’re qualified for, and avoid debt.


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