10 White-Collar Jobs That Don’t Really Pay as Much as You Think

It’s great when you love your job, but it’s not so great if you can’t pay the rent (or mortgage). You might envy friends and family who work at certain jobs, but what you might not know is some white-collar jobs don’t pay as much as you think. Some workers are secretly living paycheck to paycheck.

Don’t let fancy job titles fool you. Some of your friends might look like they’re living the fabulous life. But what they’re not telling you is they’re barely scraping by to keep up with basic living costs. What might surprise you even more is there are some blue-collar jobs that pay six figures.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as data from Payscale.com and Salary.com, The Cheat Sheet took a look at professional jobs that pay surprisingly low salaries. Here are 10 white-collar jobs that don’t even pay $60,000 a year.

1. Legislator

Man sitting in chair

Man sitting in chair | iStock.com

  • Median annual salary: $20,500
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: -1% (little or no change)

Legislators are responsible for developing, introducing, and enacting laws. Although the median annual salary for a legislator is $20,500, salaries vary based on the level of government (local, tribal, state, or federal) and location.

Some of the lowest-paid legislators are located in states, including Idaho and New Mexico, with an annual mean wage starting at roughly $18,530. Higher wages are seen in states, including New York and Illinois, with an annual mean wage starting at roughly $42,160. So if you want to make more as a legislator you’ll most likely have to move to state with a higher wage or work in higher levels of government.

2. Adjunct professor

professor

Professor | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

  • Median annual salary: $30,000
  • Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 13% (faster than average)

Adjunct professors teach courses at colleges and universities. Contrary to popular belief, adjuncts do not make the best salaries. In fact, there have been reports that some adjunct professors even have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet because of the low pay and inconsistent work.

A documentary from Brave New Films, titled Professors in Poverty, noted 51% of professors are adjuncts. One expert in the film said between 1970 and 2008, adjunct salaries have gone down 49% while college president salaries have gone up 35%. College presidents earn an average salary of $410,523 annually. The only way for adjuncts to make more money in this field is to acquire a full-time faculty position.

3. Proofreader

Woman working on computer

Woman working on computer | iStock.com/nensuria

  • Median annual salary: $35,630
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: -2% (decline)

Proofreaders review transcripts and check content for errors. If proofreaders desire to earn more money, they can do this by moving on to writing or editing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers make a median annual salary of $60,250, and editors make a median annual salary of $56,010.

4. Tax preparer

Tax forms | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Tax forms | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

  • Median annual salary: $36,450
  • Typical entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 2% (slower than average)

Tax preparers help people and businesses get their tax statements in order and ready to be filed. A tax preparer can earn more by becoming an accountant or auditor. Accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $67,190.

5. Title examiner

Young man with glasses working on his notebook

Man at work | iStock.com/NakoPhotography

  • Median annual salary: $44,370
  • Typical entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 0% (little or no change)

Title examiners search real estate records, review titles, or make summaries of legal and insurance documents. They also put together a list of mortgages, contracts, and other items related to titles by conducting a search of public and private records. They do this for real estate agencies, law firms, or title insurance companies. Those in this field can earn more by becoming a real estate agent. Real estate agents make an annual median salary of $51,930.

 6. Graphic designer

Girl wrapped in a blanket sitting and working

Girl wrapped in a blanket sitting and working | iStock.com/Kladyk

  • Median annual salary: $46,900
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 1% (little or no change)

Graphic designers create visual images with the aid of computer software to communicate ideas. They are responsible for the layout and design for websites, advertisements, brochures, magazines, and company reports. Graphic designers can earn more by moving on to a more senior level or directing an art department. Art directors earn an annual median salary of $89,760.

7. Computer-support technician

manager sitting in cafe working on laptop

Man sitting in a cafe working on his laptop | iStock.com/Halfpoint

  • Median annual salary: $51,470
  • Typical entry-level education: Education varies
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 12% (faster than average)

Computer-support technicians help people and organizations troubleshoot issues with computer software or equipment.  They can earn more money by working in higher level computer-support positions, such as software development. Software developers earn an annual median salary of  $100,690.

8. Brokerage clerk

Man working on computer during a meeting

Man working on computer| iStock.com

  • Median annual salary: $51,640
  • Typical entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • On-the-job training: Varies
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 6% (average)

Brokerage clerks engage in the purchase, sale, or holding of securities. They write orders for stock purchases or sales, compute transfer taxes, verify stock transactions, accept and deliver securities, track stock price fluctuations, compute equity, and more. Brokerage clerks can earn more by becoming a securities, commodities, or financial services agent. They make an annual median salary of $71,550.

9. Librarian

Man holding book in library

Man at library | iStock.com

  • Median annual salary: $56,880
  • Typical entry-level education: Master’s degree
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 2% (slower than average)

Librarians help patrons locate information and conduct research. They perform various job duties based on whether they work in a public, school, corporate, or medical setting. Librarians can earn more by working at a senior level. Library services directors can earn as much as $125,224 a year.

10. Human resources specialist

Businesswoman standing outside.

Businesswoman standing with folded hands | iStock.com/UberImages

  • Median annual salary: $58,350
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • On-the-job training: None
  • Job outlook, 2014 to 2024: 5% (as fast as average)

Human resources specialists are responsible for recruiting, screening, interviewing, and placing employees. In addition, they are involved in managing employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training. Human resources mangers can earn more by becoming directors. Human resources directors earn a median annual salary of $84,293.

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