Surprising Occupations That Pay a Pittance

Cheryl Lock

low-paying professionsNew statistics show that workers in seven of the 10 largest occupations in the U.S. earn less than $30,000 a year—much lower than the nation’s average $45,790.

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that although food prep work is the third most common job in America, workers in that field made the lowest pay—$18,720—in 2012.

And they’re not alone. In fact, workers in seven out of the 10 largest occupations (including cashiers, waiters and retail positions, among others) tend to earn less than $30,000 a year.

The nation’s average annual pay is $45,790.

Of the 10 most popular professions in the U.S., only registered nurses, secretaries and customer service representatives made above the $30,000 mark.

As CNN Money reports, “part of this decline stems from a disappearance of middle-class jobs and an explosion of lower-paying ones. Some 58% of the jobs created during the recovery have been low-wage positions, according to a 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project.”

  • Kate

    This isn’t surprising at all. It’s simple supply and demand. The larger the base of people willing and wanting to be waiters, etc the less an employer is going to have to pay them because there are so many people willing to take the job at lower wages.

    • sigmatheta

      Chicken and egg question. If waiting tables is one of the few jobs out there you can get into with a minimum of training, you’re going to take it. I had a woefully underpaid job I took not because I was willing and wanting to be underpaid, but because you take what you can get. As soon as I was able to get something better, I took it.

  • Kristie Watson

    I’m surprised that emergency services wasn’t included in that list. Surprisingly, the people that risk the most in these careers (EMT, Firefighter) often make less than $30,000 and are often the first ones to have furlough days, benefits taken away, etc when the budget requires balancing.