The Lowest Paying Jobs You Can Find in America in 2018

With unemployment the lowest it’s been in decades, Americans are starting to focus on a bigger employment problems: low wages. People who make under $60,000 a year didn’t get much of anything from Trump’s tax plan, and employers haven’t handed out much in raises, either.

As the average worker looks to get a piece of this corporation-first economy, it all comes down to the job you land. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many full-time jobs still don’t yield a living wage.

In fact, the numbers released in spring 2018 show dozens of professions with an average salary below $25,000 ($12.50 per hour). Here are the 15 worst-paying jobs Americans can get these days, ranked by median wage.

15. Childcare worker

kids at a day care center

Child care worker | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.72/hr

Workers who take care of children at schools, homes, and businesses fall under this job category, and the pay is not good. For a year’s work the median salary is less than $24,000.

Yet it’s how over 550,000 Americans make a living these days. Even at the job’s peak income, you won’t earn over $33,000.

Next: This job may require some technical skills, but it doesn’t pay.

14. Movie projectionist

a picture of a movie theater

It’s hard to find a job as a projectionist these days, and if you do, you won’t make much. | Thinkstock

  • Median wage: $10.60/hr

There is not a ton of work projecting films in movie theaters in 2018, but what’s left of it requires a certain skill. Given the median wage, employers clearly don’t see it that way.

Over the course of a year, earning $10.60 an hour equals $22,050, and many people make less.

Next: It may have a higher profile than some jobs, but the paycheck won’t add up.

13. Bartender

Hell's Kitchen Gordon Ramsay bar

For low-level bartenders, it’s tough making ends meet. | Caesar’s Palace

  • Median wage: $10.43/hr

At the top of the profession, bartenders work quick shifts mixing expensive cocktails for a wealthy clientele, and the pay is excellent. However, for the overwhelming majority of guys and gals working this gig, the pay is poor.

In fact, many bartenders who don’t serve customers directly don’t get tips, either. The median salary sat at under $22,000 in 2018.

Next: This job has always symbolized low wages.

12. Dishwasher

Kitchen of a cruise ship

This tough job doesn’t pay much. | Marina113/iStock/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.34/hr

In restaurant hierarchies, dishwasher has typically been the worst job you can get, but these days that’s not the case. Fast food and casual restaurants have positions that pay less in 2018.

Regardless, over 500,000 people in America wash dishes for a living, and the median annual salary is $21,500.

Next: This job pays less than anything else you can do in West Virginia. 

11. Lifeguard

Lifeguards have an important job, but it’s not one that pays well. | iStock

  • Median wage: $10.24/hr

Among the most economically depressed states, West Virginia is always near the top of the list (or bottom, depending how you see it). In fact, personal finance site WalletHub ranked it dead-last for people looking for a job in 2018.

West Virginia lifeguards certainly don’t need to hear it twice. It’s the worst-paying job in the state, according to career site Zippia.

Next: In Oregon, Connecticut, and Delaware, this job pays the lowest median salary.

10. Busboy/barback

Two waiters talking in restaurant

Barbacks makes lessthan $23,000 a year. | Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.18/hr

This category of employment includes “dining room and cafeteria attendants” as well as “bartender helpers.” For lack of better words, that would be busboys and barbacks.

The median wage for this job is under $23,000 a year. Meanwhile, it’s the lowest-paying work you can find in two East Coast states (Connecticut and Delaware) and Oregon.

Next: This job is the lowest-paying work you can find in 10 states.

9. Fast food cook

McDonald's drive thru service

Fast food workers struggle to make ends meet. | Yaoinlove/iStock/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.12/hr

It may not be the worst-paying job in America, but fast food cook comes close. In fact, there are 10 U.S. states where it’s the bottom rung of the employment market.

Rhode Island, Tennessee, Michigan, and Alabama are just three of the states where it ranks last for median salary. Over 500,000 people hold down this job in America.

Next: Nearly 3.6 million people have this low-paying job.

8. Cashier

Cashier and customers at supermarket checkout

Millions of Americans are cashiers. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.11/hr

By specific job type, cashier is one of the jobs held by the most Americans (3.6 million). It’s also one of the worst-paying types of employment you can find.

Working 50 weeks a year of 40-hour weeks, the pay is $20,220 before taxes. In states where workers earn the lowest wages, it might even be less.

Next: Work at amusement parks and sports venues doesn’t pay.

7. Entertainment and venue attendants

Theater workers take home about $10 an hour. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.09/hr

The attendants at amusement parks and sporting events probably earn less than you think. In 2018, the median wage comes to just over $10 per hour.

For a year’s worth of work, the annual income barely breaks $21,000.

Next: This job nearly claims the title of worst-paid position in the restaurant industry.

6. Restaurant host/hostess

Rustic Restaurant Sign- Boaters, Please See Hostess at Front Door

Hosts often make less than their coworkers. |

  • Median wage: $10.06/hr

While busboys and dishwashers will struggle to make a living, restaurant hosts and hostesses have it worse as a profession. The median salary for this work is less than $21,000.

In Georgia, it’s the worst-paying job you can find.

Next: Some 2.6 million people hold this job, which pays a median salary under $21,000.

5. Waiter/waitress

Waitress Takes Payment For Restaurant Bill

Servers make just $10 an hour. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.01/hr

In many restaurant server jobs, there is only one person working tables. That explains how a waiter can make less than a busboy or barback.

Regardless, the $10.01 hourly wage adds up to a median income of $20,820. Nearly 2.6 million work this job in 2018.

Next: This movie theater gig is no moneymaker. 

4. Usher

theater seats

Ushers have a median wage of less than $21,000 a year. | Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $10.01/hr

Taking tickets and showing people the way to restrooms at theaters and entertainment venues will not earn you a living wage. Ushers and other types of attendants have a median wage under $21,000 in 2018.

In New Mexico and South Carolina, it’s the job that pays the least, and there’s not much of a future in this career.

Next: This job ranks as the worst-paying gig in four U.S. states.

3. Shampooer

A Hari's salon employee has her hair rinsed after application of the bull semen and katera treatment at Hari's Salon on February 6, 2007 in London, England. A new, alternative and intense conditioning treatment at a Chelsea hair salon, Hari?s uses organic pedigree Angus bull semen, fresh from Brooklet Farm in Cheshire. The substance?s pure protein, combined with katera, a protein-rich plant root, penetrates each shaft and deeply nourishes the hair.

Salon shampooers earn less than $10 an hour.  | Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $9.77/hr

Earning under $10 an hour is still possible in a few jobs in 2018, and shampooer at a hair salon is one of them. The median income at this gig is $20,320.

In Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Washington, you won’t find a job that pays worse. That’s why your uncle’s advice to “tip the shampoo girl” still makes sense.

Next: Some 4 million people in American hold down this low-wage job.

2. Fast food prep and counter service

Employees work inside of Chick-Fil-A, a day

Fast food workers often struggle to get by on low wages. | Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $9.73/hr

Fast food is unhealthy but it’s cheap, and thus it has become the go-to for many Americans. Naturally, getting all those potatoes ready and prepping the chicken for frying takes a small army of workers.

According to labor statistics, over 4 million people toil at this job (which also includes counter service) in America. Working full-time, the median salary barely breaks $20,000.

Next: Once you see the salary, you’ll realize there’s nothing glamorous about this casino job.

1. Card dealers


This is the worst job you can have in a casino. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

  • Median wage: $9.70/hr

The Department of Labor’s description of a gaming dealer’s job is simple enough. “Stand or sit behind table and operate games of chance by dispensing the appropriate number of cards or blocks to players,” it reads.

For casino owners to employ a dealer, it costs the house under $20,000. It’s the worst gig you can get in Maryland, North Carolina, and the U.S. capital of gambling, Nevada.

Overall, it’s the worst-paying job in America.

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