Lower-income workers bore the brunt of job losses; they were more likely than higher-income workers to have their hours reduced or lose their employment entirely. In 2020, the national median wage for all employees was $984 per week or $51,168 for the year. However, there are hundreds of jobs where most employees were paid less than $32,000 each year.
The data on median weekly wage for over 500 specified occupations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey programme was used to find the lowest paying jobs in America. The service industry employs many of the lowest-paid workers in the United States. These positions have traditionally earned minimal wages because they do not require any prior work experience or formal education.
There is a strong link between education and income, with virtually all of the lowest-paying jobs requiring little to no schooling, while the majority of the highest-paying jobs in the country — with a few exceptions — demand at least a bachelor’s degree.
The Lowest Paying Career 2021
10. Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks
- Median annual earnings: $27,768
- Total number of workers, 2020: 60,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: -6.9%
- Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks with a bachelor’s degree: 19.3%
With a median annual salary of $27,768 in the United States, desk clerks are among the ten lowest-paying positions in the country. Like many other vocations on this list, desk clerks are young, with a median age of under 30. Many lower-paying jobs have young labour forces, providing entry-level opportunities to employees who lack the education or work experience necessary to qualify for higher-paying jobs.
Desk clerk occupations are expected to fall by 6.9% from 2019 to 2029, even though the average U.S. job is expected to expand by 4%. As more hotel, motel, and resort visitors book their stays online; fewer front desk personnel will be required to assist them.
9. Food servers, non-restaurant
- Median annual earnings: $27,612
- Total number of workers, 2020: 85,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: +6.8%
- Food servers, non-restaurant with a bachelor’s degree: 10.5%
Food servers that work outside restaurants bring meals to individuals in hotels, hospitals, and residential care institutions. These employees work in one of eight food preparation and service business jobs, among the country’s lowest-paying jobs. There are only eight occupations with lower median annual income than non-restaurant food servers, who earn $27,612. There are usually no formal education or work experience prerequisites for this position. With a median age of 33.1 years, these workers are rather youthful.
- Median annual earnings: $27,456
- Total number of workers, 2020: 83,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: +0.5%
- Dishwashers with a bachelor’s degree: 5.5%
Dishwashers receive a median yearly salary of $27,456, lower than all but seven other occupations. Like many others on this list, Dishwashing occupations have a low barrier to entry because they do not require any schooling. Only 63.9 percent of dishwashers aged 25 and over have a high school diploma, while 5.5 percent have a bachelor’s degree. To put things in perspective, 92 percent of American workers aged 25 and up have a high school education, and 38.9% have a bachelor’s degree.
7. Waiters and waitresses
- Median annual earnings: $26,728
- Total number of workers, 2020: 600,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: +3.7%
- Waiters and waitresses with a bachelor’s degree: 16.2%
Waiting tables is one of the lowest-paying jobs in America, with a typical annual salary of less than $27,000 — one of only seven jobs where this is true. Although waiters rely on tips for most of their income, almost a quarter of food service workers, such as waiters and servers, said they couldn’t work because of the epidemic. However, as restaurants shifted to takeout and delivery models, cooks were allowed to keep their hours, while wait workers were all but phased out.
- Median annual earnings: $26,520
- Total number of workers, 2020: 1,026,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: +10.0%
- Cooks with a bachelor’s degree: N/A
Cook is one of America’s most prevalent job titles, with over 1 million people working as professional cooks. Over the next decade, this job is expected to increase at more than twice the average job rate. Restaurant demand is predicted to rise as the United States’ population and earnings rise. Cooks don’t usually make a lot of money; the median yearly salary for this position is $26,520.
5. Food preparation workers
- Median annual earnings: $26,520
- Total number of workers, 2020: 355,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: -1.1%
- Food preparation workers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.5%
Workers in the food preparation department chop, wash and prepare any food ingredients that the cooks require. However, these professionals earn about the same as cooks, with both jobs having a median annual salary of $26,520. Food preparation jobs have the highest gender pay discrepancy among the 25 jobs with the lowest median income. The median weekly wages for women in this field are $489, which is less than 85% of the $876 median weekly earnings for male food preparation workers.
4. Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers
- Median annual earnings: $26,416
- Total number of workers, 2020: 99,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: +6.5%
- Cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers with a bachelor’s degree: 8.1%
Cleaning and busing tables, setting seats, pouring water, serving guests, procuring supplies for cooks and bartenders, and other chores are performed by the dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender assistance in eating and drinking establishments. Because these positions typically do not involve any form of degree or specific training, workers in this industry are underpaid, with the majority earning less than $26,500 per year.
- Median annual earnings: $26,364
- Total number of workers, 2020: 1,088,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: -7.4%
- Cashiers with a bachelor’s degree: 12.5%
Customers’ payments are processed by cashiers who work in one of America’s three lowest-paying jobs. Cashiers make a median annual pay of $26,364, which is little over half of the $51,168 median wage for all employees in the United States. Though cashier is one of the most popular positions, with over 1 million people employed in the United States, this is expected to change fast. As many businesses have installed automated kiosks to handle orders and payments from customers, computers are fast replacing cashiers. As a result, in 2029, there are expected to be 7.4 percent fewer cashiers than in 2019.
2. Maids and housekeeping cleaners
- Median annual earnings: $26,156
- Total number of workers, 2020: 629,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: -0.3%
- Maids and housekeeping cleaners with a bachelor’s degree: 5.7%
At $26,156 per year, maids and housekeeping cleaners have the lowest median annual wages of any occupation. This is $25,000 less than the national median wage for all occupations in the United States.
Young people early in their careers hold many of the lowest-paying occupations in America. Maids and household cleaners, on the other hand, have a median age of 46.5 years, which is four years higher than the national average. Moreover, there is a close link between education and earnings, and maids have the lowest educational attainment of all workers, with only 65.1 percent had completed high school. Fewer than 6% have a bachelor’s degree.
1. Fast food and counter workers
- Median annual earnings: $24,336
- Total number of workers, 2020: 231,000
- Projected employment change 2019-2029: +11.4%
- Fast food and counter workers with a bachelor’s degree: 15.2%
Workers at fast-food restaurants and counters take orders and serve meals. With a typical yearly salary of $24,366 dollars, these workers make less than any other American worker. There is no other occupation with a median salary of less than $26,000. In addition, with a median age of 22.4 years, these workers are among the country’s youngest, more than 20 years younger than the median age of all jobs.
Many fast-food employees may be starting their careers for the first time, as the industry is one of the most generally available and requires no additional training or degree. From 2019 to 2029, the number of fast food and counter workers is expected to increase by 11.4 percent, approximately three times faster than the average job.