Special Report

25 Lowest Paying Jobs in America

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5. Maids and housekeeping cleaners
> Median annual earnings: $25,480 (tied)
> Total number of workers: 895,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 -1.7%
> Maids and housekeeping cleaners with a bachelor’s degree: 5.5%

Maids and housekeeping cleaners work in a range of environments, from private households to commercial establishments such as hotels or hospitals. The occupation typically has no formal education requirements and may only require some short on-the-job training. Only 5.5% of maids and housekeepers have a bachelor’s degree, and fewer than two-thirds have a high school diploma. The median annual salary for the job is just $25,480.

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4. Laundry and dry-cleaning workers
> Median annual earnings: $25,480 (tied)
> Total number of workers: 112,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 -0.5%
> Laundry and dry-cleaning workers with a bachelor’s degree: 4.5%

With a median annual income of $25,480, laundry and dry-cleaning is one of the lowest paying jobs in the U.S. Like most other low-paying jobs, there are no formal education prerequisites to becoming a laundry and dry-cleaning worker. Just 4.5% of laundry and dry-cleaning workers have a bachelor’s degree, and fewer than two-thirds have a high school diploma.

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3. Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
> Median annual earnings: $24,024
> Total number of workers: 191,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 17.3%
> Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food with a bachelor’s degree: 7.3%

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food, are some of the lowest-paid workers in the labor force. The occupation is one of only three in the U.S. where someone working full time earns less than $25,000 a year. While some workers in this occupation receive customer tips, most rely exclusively on their hourly wage.

Americans are dining out more and more, and the number of fast food and fast casual restaurants in the United States is projected to grow in the coming years — and with it demand for such workers. The number of Americans working as combined food preparation and serving workers is projected to climb by 17.3% between 2018 and 2028.

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2. Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop
> Median annual earnings: $23,712
> Total number of workers: 81,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 11.1%
> Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop with a bachelor’s degree: 20.6%

The typical host or hostess at a restaurant, lounge, or coffee shop earns $23,712 a year, about half as much as the typical American working full time does. The job, which typically entails welcoming patrons and showing them to their seat, has no formal education requirements and only short-term on the job training. Still, more than one in every five hosts and hostesses in the United States have a bachelor’s degree, a larger share than nearly every occupation on this list.

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1. Dishwashers
> Median annual earnings: $23,556
> Total number of workers: 126,000
> Projected employment change 2018-2028 3.3%
> Dishwashers with a bachelor’s degree: 4.0%

Dishwashing is the lowest paying job in the United States. The typical American working full time as a dishwasher earns just $23,556 a year, about half the median income of $47,684 across all full-time workers. The job has no formal education requirements and only requires short-term training. Only 60% of Americans 25 and older working as dishwashers have a high school diploma, nearly the smallest share of any occupation on this list.