25 Lowest Paying Careers–Is Your Job on the List?

payday calendar marked

Thanks to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we officially know which jobs pay the lowest wages in 2021.

State by state, those wages can vary greatly. And it’s not just a matter of varying minimum wage, although that definitely factors in. Oftentimes, different regions rank certain careers at a higher (or lower) pay grade than others. Some standard wages are tied tightly to community ideals, as well as supply and demand for certain services and products in that region. For instance, baristas in Seattle, Washington, make about $10,000 more on average than baristas residing anywhere in Alabama!

It might surprise you how many of the lowest-paying gigs on the list qualify as “essential.” But for most of these roles, it’s important to note that the lowest-paying careers do offer on-the-job training in most cases. Also, many of these roles typically don’t require more than a high school diploma or GED equivalent to qualify.

Without further ado, here are the 25 lowest-paying careers in the United States today.


On average, dishwashers bring home about $453 dollars a week, with the top earners making around $29,000 a year. However, the average dishwasher in the United States can expect to make $11 dollars per hour. This job requires standing for up to eight hours and lifting up to 50lbs per shift, but there aren’t many experience requirements for getting a foot in the door.

Fast Food Cooks

With an annual mean wage of $24,300, cooks at fast food establishments report some of the lowest wages of any gig out there. The median hourly wage is $11.70, but the lowest income reported is 7.83 hourly. While experience is always preferred, it’s typically not a requirement. Most training and necessary certifications are earned on the job.

Fast Food Counter Workers and Cashiers

No matter the role, all fast food salaries typically rank near the bottom of the pay scale. That’s also the case for cashiers. Annual mean wages for counter working roles come to about $25,000 in some cases, with the hourly wage ranging from $11 to $11.70.


Bringing in $11-11.60 hourly, shampooers fall into a similar bracket as those in the fast-food industry. Some reports show an annual income that falls slightly under 20,000 while a few bring in closer to 24,500. Post pandemic, the average annual salary for a shampooer is $22,910.

Hosts and Hostesses

Hosts and hostesses usually make about $24,800 a year. That’s 56.0% below the mean for all jobs. The median hourly wage is $11.50. Depending on the establishment, some hosts and hostesses may have more perks than others, but the wages are generally low. Top earners make $15 hourly for being the first point of contact in even the finest of dining establishments.


barista latte art

This wage can vary greatly depending on the city. But no matter where a barista may brew a cup of joe, their paycheck remains one of the lowest on the list. Like most in the food and beverage industry, baristas can earn tips. However, most aren’t able to rely on those tips to get by. The average hourly rate for a barista is $11.88.

Amusement and Recreation Attendants

Statistically speaking, most people in this line of work have no more than a high school education. Many who currently work as amusement park attendants did not complete high school. The average annual salary for an amusement park attendant falls between $31,199 and $32,723. Most can expect to make around $15 an hour.

Casino Dealers

As with baristas, these wages vary from state to state. But no matter how you slice it, the national average salary for gambling dealers is $33,950. In many casinos, dealers are allowed to receive tips. But dealers earning tips tend to make the lowest hourly salaries. Not to mention, house rules usually require those dealers to pool their tips at the end of each shift.

Barbacks and Cafeteria Attendants

These days, average barback salaries range from $20,000 to $27,127. Cafeteria attendants are looking at similar numbers. In behind-the-bar scenarios, barbacks typically get a cut from pooled tips. Very little experience is required when just starting out.

Ushers and Lobby Attendants

Ushers and lobby attendants typically earn between $11-$14 hourly. In these customer service roles, tips are sometimes accepted, but they’re typically low as well. Those in the top 10 percent make over $28,000 annually while those in the bottom 10 percent make $19,000 a year.

Valet and Parking Attendants


Top earners in valet and parking services earn around $31,000 a year. However, the average is closer to $24,000. According to the latest data, the average hourly rate for valet and parking attendants comes to $12.42 per hour.

Laundromat and Dry Clean Workers

On average, those who work in laundromats and dry-cleaning facilities work long hours and bring home between $11-$12.58 hourly. The annual mean wage is $26,170. Entry-level roles start typically start around $21,000.

Childcare Workers

Some states classify childcare workers as “essential workers.” And rightfully so. But no matter how essential, they tend to earn surprisingly low wages. Top earners can make almost $16 hourly and typically teach elementary or secondary school. The average wage for a childcare worker is only $11.42 per hour.

Food Prep Workers

Food prep workers’ median salary is $26,070 per year and $12.53 per hour. While it can be strenuous work, these roles don’t require formal education. They also tend to offer short-term, on-the-job training. Sure, work experience prior is a plus, but it’s not a necessity.

Desk Clerks For Motels and Hotels

Desk clerks are responsible for keeping almost everything running smoothly in day-to-day operations, reservations, and so on in motels and hotels. And the wages can vary drastically. But overall, the average wage for a motel or hotel desk clerk comes to $24,221.

Recreational Protective Service Workers


For lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective services workers, the median wage is $12.03. This is one of those fields where the wages vary greatly, however. For instance, a lifeguard in Georgia may earn between $9.00 and $12.00 hourly on average, while a lifeguard in California could make up to $18.00 hourly.

Waiters and Waitresses

Those who’ve worked as a waiter or waitress know that roles in this field can be hard work. But these jobs notoriously don’t pay very much. Until recently, some earned a “tip wage” as low as $2 hourly. Nowadays, most can expect to earn minimum wage. The national median wage for restaurant servers is $11.42.

Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Assisting someone elderly or disabled with important day-to-day tasks is a very serious, and sometimes difficult, job. Those in this field can work in a group home or in someone’s house. Their schedule may be 9-5 or it may evolve to meet each client’s varying needs. Regardless of the tasks at hand, home health and personal care aides only earn $27,080 per year on average.

Maids and House Cleaners

Whether they work in personal households or commercial establishments, house cleaners and maids bring in $28,010 a year. Depending on the company or type of client they work for, the duties can range from light cleaning of a house to deep cleans in a hotel. But the wages tend to remain about the same.

Automotive Service and Watercraft Attendants

The average American spends a significant chunk of their life commuting to and from the workplace, yet the workers who keep us on the road rank among the lowest-paid jobs in the country. The annual median for those in this field is about $26, 540.

Animal Caretakers

pet groomer

From grooming to kenneling, those who maintain the well-being of pets or zoo animals are always in high demand. Still, it’s consistently a low-paying job. For personal services, animal caretakers typically make around $13.45 per hour. Local government services pay the most, with a wage median of $16.76 per hour.


According to the BLS, bartenders who made the lowest wages in 2020 earned less than $8.63, while the highest 10 percent made more than $22.93 per hour. Their total earnings typically come from a combination of hourly pay and patron tips. Paychecks can vary drastically from one mixologist to the next.

Sorters, Graders, and Handlers of Agricultural Products

Workers in these roles identify and/or sort food products by size, weight, condition, etc. Agricultural graders and sorters must discern between flawed, inferior, and acceptable products–and it’s a pretty big job. The average annual salary for a role in this field is $27,570.

Manicurists and Pedicurists

The typical hourly wage for manicurists and pedicurists is between $13.40 and $15.90. Some states pay nail technicians notably better than others. In New Hampshire, Vermont, District of Columbia, Idaho, and South Carolina, those who professionally beautify fingers and toes earn up to $35,000 annually. However, the national average is closer to $28,000 per year.

Packagers and Package Handlers

In 2021, opportunities for packagers and package handlers are seemingly endless. But the pay remains historically low. Packers and package handlers earn a median salary of $27,000 to $28,000. The starting out pay across the board tends to be $15.00 hourly.

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