Special Report

25 Lowest Paying Jobs in America

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

10. Cooks
> Median annual earnings: $26,624
> Total number of workers: 1.4 million
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 11.3%
> Cooks with a bachelor’s degree: N/A

Cooks can work in any number of environments, including restaurants, schools, hospitals, and even private households. While there is a wide range of salaries for cooks, depending on where they work, the median annual salary among all cooks working full time is just $26,624.

The gender pay gap among cooks is less than in most other professions. Women working as cooks earn about 90 cents for every dollar men earn. Meanwhile, across all occupations, women earn about 80 cents for every dollar men earn. About 61% of all cooks are men.

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9. Waiters and waitresses
> Median annual earnings: $26,572
> Total number of workers: 973,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 6.5%
> Waiters and waitresses with a bachelor’s degree: 15.8%

Waiters and waitresses earn just $26,572 a year, about $21,000 less than the annual salary of the typical full-time American worker. While waiters and waitresses have a lower median salary than nearly every other occupation, customer tips likely contribute to higher incomes for many in the field.

About 70% of all waiters and waitresses are women. The industry has a considerable gender pay gap, with women earning about 83 cents for every dollar men earn.

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8. Cashiers
> Median annual earnings: $26,156
> Total number of workers: 1.4 million
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 -3.8%
> Cashiers with a bachelor’s degree: 11.8%

The median annual income for full-time cashiers in the U.S. is just $26,156. Technological advances will also make the job less common in the coming years. As more retailers use self-service checkout stands, the number of Americans working as cashiers is projected to decline by 3.8% between 2018 and 2028.

Cashiers have one of the smallest gender pay gaps of any occupation, with women earning 97.8% of what men do. Across all occupations, women earn just 81.5% of what men do.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. Food preparation workers
> Median annual earnings: $25,792
> Total number of workers: 574,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 8.2%
> Food preparation workers with a bachelor’s degree: 10.7%

Americans in food preparation work under cooks and chefs doing routine tasks like slicing meat and peeling and cutting vegetables. These jobs exist almost everywhere food is served, including places like hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and cafeterias. Food preparation is one of only seven jobs in the United States where the majority of workers earn less than $26,000 a year.

Source: SDI Productions / Getty Images

6. Childcare workers
> Median annual earnings: $25,740
> Total number of workers: 473,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 2.4%
> Childcare workers with a bachelor’s degree: 19.1%

Childcare workers — a group that is more than 90% women — can work in a range of environments, from daycare centers to private residences. While the median annual wage among child care workers is $25,740, pay can vary substantially, often with better-educated workers earning higher wages. An estimated 19.1% of adult child care workers in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree or higher.