The 12 Worst Paying Jobs

By Ronald Kimmons. May 7th 2016

The average income in the United States of America is about $48,000 per year. However, the salary range for full-time workers can be quite broad with some people earning significantly less than that. In making career decisions, it is important to get an idea of what the salary prospects are for a particular field and how that salary compares to other fields. If your current career or the career you are considering is on the low end of this scale, you may want to rethink your professional approach and look for better prospects. Read on for a list of the 12 worst paying jobs.

Food Service Workers

Those who work in food service are some of the lowest-earning people in the United States. Waiters and waitresses, cooks, dish washers, table bussers and hosts and hostesses tend to earn around minimum wage or even less. On top of this, they tend to work long hours and spend a lot of time on their feet, often dealing with customers who can be very demanding. Such workers generally make between $18,000 and $22,000 per year.


Farmworkers do some of the toughest, most grueling work available. They spend long hours in the heat, often bending over or reaching high to gather fruits and vegetables. Even though farmers have trouble finding U.S. citizens to do this sort of work, wages tend to remain low because of large numbers of foreign workers who come to the United States – both legally and illegally – to compete for these jobs. Annual wages hover at around $20,000.


Most retail locations require the services of cashiers who stand behind counters and receive payment for products that patrons purchase. Wages for cashier jobs are low because of the simplicity of the work involved. Annual wages for cashiers are between $19,000 and $20,000.


Hair salons generally have special equipment for shampooing patrons’ hair and they pay specific people to operate this equipment. Unlike those who do the actual hair cutting, shampooers do not need any special type of licensure or training. They tend to make about $18,000 to $19,000 per year.

Amusement Park Attendants

Amusement parks hire employees who sell and receive tickets, oversee the operation of rides and sell gifts and snacks. Like cashiers and food service workers, they have relatively low job requirements. The turnover rates for such employees also tend to be relatively high as many of such employees are young people only looking for temporary work. These workers generally earn between $19,000 and $20,000 per year.

Maids And Housekeepers

Maids and housekeepers may work for hotels and motels or through housekeeping services that provide services to a large number of independent people. They may also work on their own, finding clients themselves. The work they do may involve washing dishes, cleaning floors and bathrooms, washing, drying and folding laundry and various other housekeeping duties. Wages for such workers tend to be around $20,000 per year.

Nannies And Child Care Workers

Nannies and child care workers either work for families or for institutions such as daycares and nurseries. These workers watch children, keep them safe and clean, play with them, feed them and sometimes teach them. Such workers generally make about $21,000 per year.

Nursing, Psychiatric And Home Health Aides

Nursing homes and psychiatric wards require the help of professional aides who take care of the people in their care, feeding them, clothing them and sanitizing them as needed. Home health care companies also hire home health aides to provide similar services for those people who are being taken care of in similar ways at home. In addition to the long hours and often less-than-ideal working conditions that these people face, they also have to deal with the emotional strains associated with caring for people whose health is gradually deteriorating. They make between $21,000 and $22,000 per year.

Lifeguards, Ski Patrol And Recreational Protective Services

Various types of recreational activities can present certain physical risks. Two common examples are swimming and skiing. As a result, the venues for such activities typically hire people to professionally look after those engaged in recreational activities, keeping them out of danger and rescuing them when they are in danger. Despite the importance of this type of work, those who do it only make between $20,000 and $21,000 per year.

Textile And Laundry Workers

Some workers specialize in the creation, repair and cleaning of clothing and textile products. These people may use sewing machines, pressing machines, irons, washing machines, dryers and special chemicals to do their work. They tend to make between $20,000 and $23,000 per year. However, those who operate in more highly skilled aspects of the industry may make a few thousand more.

Parking Lot Attendants

Limited space means limited parking and limited parking usually requires the creation and enforcement of parking policies. Parking lot attendants oversee the implementation and enforcement of such parking policies, issuing tickets and immobilizing vehicles when drivers do not comply. They generally make between $20,000 and $21,000 per year.

Gaming Dealers

In places where gambling is legal, casinos and other venues require the services of dealers who organize games, shuffle and dispense cards and handle the collection and payment of gambling tokens. Such dealers must learn specific skills for their jobs, but doing so does not typically require a significant time investment. Gaming dealers tend to make about $20,000 per year.

Keep these jobs in mind when you are considering your future career path. While you may find the work involved rewarding, it is important to realize that they generally (though not always) fall on the low end of the pay spectrum.


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