17 Jobs That Probably Pay Less Than You Think

Some jobs could have a salary so low it may surprise you.
Updated April 11, 2024
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There are plenty of jobs that keep society running or come with serious responsibilities. But how much do they pay?

You may be surprised to know that not all jobs pay well, including service jobs like teachers or paramedics. But how much is not that much?

If you have one of these jobs, you may be finding it difficult to stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Childcare workers

Svitlana/Adobe little girl spending time with her baby sitter

Childcare is in high demand as parents may be going back to work in person and need someone to take care of their kids during the day. But you may be surprised to know that the people in charge of those little minds and their little messes don’t make much.

The median pay for a childcare worker was only $13.22 an hour, or $27,490 per year, in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Monkey Business/Adobe paramedics and doctor unloading patient from ambulance

If you’re hurt or have been in an accident, you want highly trained paramedics to answer your call for help and get you to safety. But you may be surprised to know that paramedics aren’t paid well to take care of you.

An EMT or paramedic makes around $17.76 per hour or about $37,000 a year. And in addition to the low pay, they also may be expected to work odd hours, weekends, and holidays.


Davide Angelini/Adobe tired chef worker fall asleep during working hours

The next time you go out to dinner, be thankful for the chefs who put your food together behind the scenes. Chefs make around $50,000 a year or $24 an hour as a cook or head chef.

Other kitchen workers could make significantly less. Chefs and cooks also usually work nights or weekends without the same pay as a worker with unusual hours.


wellphoto/Adobe journalist taking down notes

You may be surprised to find out that the people you see on your local newscast every night or writing stories in your paper every morning don’t make much money.

Journalists and news analysts make a median pay of $23.26 per hour or $48,370 per year. The news market a journalist is in could affect that salary with bigger markets allowing for higher pay.


Gorodenkoff/Adobe enthusiastic teacher giving a lesson in elementary school

The teachers that shape young minds may not be getting paid well to do the work. Teachers make around $61,000 per year depending on which grades they teach, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But salaries and benefits can vary widely depending on where you teach. In many cases, teachers also need to decorate their classrooms, build up stashes of books, and buy learning tools with their own money.

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Fashion model

sarymsakov.com/Adobe fashion runway out of focus

Not everyone can make the money that models like Gigi Hadid or Gisele Bundchen are able to grab on the runway. But not every fashion model lives a glamorous life.

Instead, a typical fashion model in the U.S. made around $15.34 per hour in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Flight attendant

Friends Stock/Adobe male flight attendant standing in aircraft passenger salon

Flight attendants get extra perks like traveling to unique destinations, but that may not make up for their pay of $61,640 per year.

While traveling sounds exciting, it often includes flights to less-than-exciting destinations, days or weeks away from home, and dealing with unruly passengers.


luckybusiness/Adobe scientist making research in lab analyzing a new virus

A chemist could be responsible for any number of jobs related to pharmaceuticals, chemicals, or other jobs that many of us don’t realize keep society running on a daily basis.

But a job that requires such precision, as well as a college degree, makes about $80,000 or $38.34 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Mary Stark/Adobe casket with flowers

Death is inevitable, so you might hope that the embalmers get paid well. After all, they’re responsible for caring for those who have passed away while working a job that not many people may want.

Embalmers get paid around $47,780 annually or $22.97 per hour to handle dead bodies, chemicals, and bodily fluids.

Bank teller

hedgehog94/Adobe businesswoman working in exchange office

Bank tellers are responsible for handling thousands of dollars each day. They may have to know how to deal with precise financial transactions as well as cash and checks on a daily basis.

Bank tellers only make about $17.46 an hour or $36,310 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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CatonPhoto/Adobe fire training exercise

Firefighters are an important part of keeping us safe as well as responding to other emergencies like car accidents or health issues. They also work odd hours, sometimes working 24-hour shifts or long stretches of time away from home.

Unfortunately, firefighters make around $50,000 a year or $24 an hour to protect their communities.

Registered nurse

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe protective mask holding pen and clipboard

Nurses have to deal with all kinds of emergencies and patients 24 hours a day. The profession also had to deal with the additional strain of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.

For their care and expertise to help patients, registered nurses make about $37.31 per hour or $77,600 annually working in a stressful job with long hours.

Family therapist

Pixel-Shot/Adobe family visiting psychologist in office

A family therapist can be an important piece in helping people deal with issues in their relationships. That may be reflected in the fact that family therapists usually need a master’s degree to work with patients on marriage or family issues.

But despite the high level of education, family therapists earn a median pay of around $50,000 annually or about $24 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Graduate teaching assistant

fancystudio/Adobe Chemistry teacher giving a lecture

College tuition has risen dramatically in recent years. In fact, in-state tuition and fees have grown 175% in the past 20 years, according to U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.

But high tuition costs aren’t reflected in the salaries of teaching assistants, who make around $38,000 per year.

Home health aid

Photographee.eu/Adobe  happy nurse with a stethoscope covering an elderly man with a blanket

Some Americans would prefer to spend their later years being cared for at home instead of in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

It may be surprising, however, to find out that home health aids only make a median salary of $29,430 per year or $14.15 an hour to care for patients in their homes.

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Trash collectors

hedgehog94/Adobe garbage men working together on emptying dustbins for trash removal

You would notice if you didn’t have trash collectors to pick up trash and recyclables that could pile up on the curb. But trash collectors don’t receive compensation that may equal their importance to the community or reflect the dangers of the job.

Your local trash collector may earn a median salary of $38,500 per year or $18.51 an hour.


Stefano Garau/Adobe US White House front view at sunset

As the President of the United States, Joe Biden’s salary is $400,000 per year. That may be surprising when you consider the responsibilities of the job. Of course, the president receives additional money for expenses and entertainment as well as free housing at the White House.

Members of Congress also don’t make as much as you would expect with most senators and congress members taking home $174,000 in pay each year.

Bottom line

Rawpixel.com/Adobe corporate professional business workers

There are ways to make a low-paying job work for you. If you have a job that doesn’t pay well, it’s important to create a budget to pay bills, cover expenses, and boost your bank account for emergencies.

You could also leverage your experience to move up into a better-paying job if you want to move on from your current work.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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