7 of the Worst Paying Jobs in America

Zoolander 2

Ben Stiller as a male model in Zoolander 2 | Paramount Pictures

America is the land of opportunity, but we’re not all going to make presidential salaries, as unfortunate as that is. One of the biggest topics of conversation, as far as the economy is concerned, isn’t so much the lack of jobs — we’ve seen the unemployment rate improve dramatically over the past several years — it’s the lack of quality jobs. Well-paying jobs. Jobs that can support a middle class lifestyle.

Many of those jobs are in danger of being lost forever, from an influx of cheap labor, automation, and other threats. Though there are still opportunities out there, many Americans are finding themselves in low-paying, low-skill work. Jobs that aren’t quite cutting it.

But there are still those at the bottom rung of the professional ladder. Americans working jobs that pay absolutely dismal wages, and offer little in the way of skill development and advancement. They’re stuck in America’s lowest-paying jobs. These jobs have a lot in common with dead-end jobs, but in terms of actual take-home pay? They’re at the bottom of the barrel.

Of course, with varying minimum wages across the country, it’s hard to get an exact read on which jobs pay the least. But we can rely on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get a pretty good idea. Using the government’s information, we know that jobs in the restaurant and food industry are pretty dreadful — so much so that seven of the the top 10 lowest-paying jobs in America are concentrated in the industry.

So, when we used BLS data to compile the following list, we lumped them all together for a bit of diversity. With that in mind, here are America’s lowest-paying jobs.

7. Models

Male models in Zoolande

Male models in Zoolander | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images For Paramount Pictures

This is, without a doubt, the most surprising entry on our list. Evidently, models don’t make much at all. When you think about it, it makes sense though. A lot of people want to be models — meaning there’s an influx of supply for the relative few modeling gigs out there. It’s a buyer’s market for models. The intricacies of the modeling industry are likely fairly complex, but if we go by the BLS numbers, models make at or near minimum wage in most cases.

6. Ushers and ticket-takers

Movie tickets and popcorn

Movie tickets and popcorn | Thinkstock

A job that is likely slated for extinction in the near future, ticket takers and ushers make very little. It’s a job that requires very little, other than a pulse, and for that reason, anyone could do it. That’s why it pays so little — there’s an incredible number of people who can do the job, leaving all the leverage in the hands of employers. Want a job that’s going to get you through college? Taking tickets at a local theater isn’t going to cut it.

5. Amusement and recreation attendants

roller coaster

Roller coaster | iStock

Similar to ticket-takers, recreation and amusement park workers aren’t employing much skill during their work day. There are exceptions, of course, but this is another job that doesn’t require much, if any, skill to get hired. If you can open a gate, make sure seat-belts are fastened, and hit a big green or red button, you’re probably qualified. For that reason, you’ll likely only get minimum wage.

4. Farm workers

Poultry farm

Poultry farm | iStock

Farm work is notoriously difficult. You work long hours, perform dirty, difficult, and physical jobs, and get paid peanuts to do it. This is why so many illegal immigrants end up taking these jobs — a lot of Americans simply won’t do them. But they are important, in the grand scheme of things. The unfortunate thing is that the people in the industry are paid very little.

3. Gaming dealers

Roulette wheel at a casino

Roulette wheel at a casino | William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

With all of the money floating around at casinos, you’d think that some of it would end up in the pockets and bank accounts of the dealers manning the poker tables and roulette wheels. Well, that may be true in some places, like Las Vegas. But by and large, dealers make very little.

2. Shampooers

shower, shampoo, man

A man shampooing his hair | iStock

If you’re unfamiliar with a shampooer, it’s exactly what it sounds like: someone who shampoos and cleans your hair at a salon or barber shop. This is more common at salons, as many men who frequent old-school barbershops probably had no idea this was a thing. But shampooers are paid very little. So much so, that only one other group of workers make less than them, at least on average.

1. Food industry workers

Server taking a man's order

Server taking a man’s order | iStock

We’re including everyone here: dishwashers, servers, bartenders, fast food workers, and cooks. They all show up high on the BLS list, so we’re combining them. We mentioned before that seven of the top 10 lowest-paid jobs in America are in the food and dining industry, and that’s how they all end up in the top spot. There is a bit of room for discussion, however, as servers and bartenders typically pad their incomes with tips. But back of the house staff, bussers, and hosts? They’re making very little. Less than anyone else in the country, typically.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: