Special Report

America's Most (and Least) Common Jobs

5. Registered nurses
> Total number of jobs: 2.7 million
> Pct. change 2012 to 2022: 19.4%
> Average annual income: $68,910

Nursing is already one of the nation’s most popular professions. And the BLS projects the number of registered nurses will continue to climb — by 19% between 2012 and 2022 — due to an aging population and improved access to health care services. There are several paths to becoming a registered nurse, including associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs, as well as nursing diploma programs. In addition to educational and licensing requirements, the work schedule of many nurses is demanding. However, nurses tend to be well paid, with an average annual wage of nearly $69,000 last year, well above the national average for all occupations.

4. Office clerks
> Total number of jobs: 2.8 million
> Pct. change 2012 to 2022: 6.2%
> Average annual income: $29,990

The responsibilities of office clerks vary from company to company, but they usually help make an office run smoothly. This involves sorting mail, editing and distributing memos, and copying, filing and organizing paper and electronic documents. The average office clerk earned $29,990 last year, making it among the lower paying occupations in the U.S. The skill set for the job typically does not require a college education. Pay was not especially high, even for top earners. Only 10% of clerks earned at least $45,350 per year. The number of clerks in the U.S. is expected to grow much more slowly than most occupations — by 6.2% between 2012 and 2022.

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3. Food preparation and serving workers
> Total number of jobs: 3.0 million
> Pct. change 2012 to 2022: 14.2%
> Average annual income: $18,880

Food preparation and service workers are primarily employed in fast-food restaurants. The job usually does not require a high school diploma or long-term training. However, the physical demands of the job can be strenuous, and the environment, including hot ovens and wet floors, can be hazardous at times. The pay of many workers in food preparation and serving is very low. Workers earned an average of $9.08 per hour — less than half the U.S. average for all workers. In fact, many large employers in the industry have been criticized for their low pay. Half of all such workers were only employed part time as of 2012. A lack of full-time work is often cited as reason for why fast-food businesses fail to pay employees a living wage.

2. Cashiers
> Total number of jobs: 3.3 million
> Pct. change 2012 to 2022: 2.6%
> Average annual income: $20,420

Cashiers earned $20,420 on average as of 2013, one of the lowest salaries in the country. The number of cashiers in the U.S. is expected to grow by just 2.6% by 2022, well below the U.S. overall job growth expectation of 11% by that year, as self-service checkouts and online sales become more commonplace. According to BLS, roughly one-quarter of cashiers in the country worked in supermarkets, while 17% worked in gas stations.

1. Retail Salespersons
> Total number of jobs: 4.5 million
> Pct. change 2012 to 2022: 9.8%
> Average annual income: $25,370

No profession had more workers than retail sales, with nearly 4.5 million employed as of May 2013. Retail salespersons can work selling a range of products, from apparel to electronics to cars. Retail salespeople are not necessarily paid well, earning an average hourly salary of $12.20 as of last year, or more than $10 per hour less than the average for all jobs. Roughly one-third of all retail salespersons worked part time in 2012, although some may want to work more. Many of the biggest retailers restrict hours to prevent workers from becoming full-time employees in order to limit their costs. Despite the growth in e-commerce, jobs for retail workers are expected to rise 10% between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS.

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