Jobs That Pay Surprisingly Little

by Ron Haynes


I read an article published on Yahoo about ten “surprising” minimum wage jobs but I was surprised that the authors didn’t really understand WHY those jobs don’t pay very well. Here’s the list:

  1. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  2. Pharmacy Technician
  3. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  4. Preschool Teacher
  5. Amusement Park Ride Operator
  6. Line Cook
  7. Lifeguard
  8. Nanny
  9. Automobile Mechanic
  10. Tax Preparer

No one is saying that these positions aren’t important, but before you scurry around to finish your degree and get one of these jobs, let’s dissect them in light of the Four Reasons Your Job Doesn’t Pay Well.

The reasons a job pays poorly are:

  • There are a lot of people willing and able to perform it.
  • The job doesn’t require any specialized skills or education.
  • The job is unpleasant.
  • The demand for the job’s product or service is low or seasonal.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – important job to be sure, but I don’t buy the claim that they make an average of $11.41/hour. Does the average include the volunteer EMT’s that work in many rural areas? If the supply was very short, but the demand was very high, these jobs would have to pay more.

Pharmacy Tech – another important job, but most of the pharmacy tech’s I’ve known were in pharmacy school and were working for the experience. Others were not in charge of dispensing the medications but were simply ringing up customers or counting pills under a pharmacists supervision.

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Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) – again another important position. When you’re feeding, bathing, dressing, grooming, moving patients and changing soiled bed linens, there aren’t long lines of people waiting to perform those duties. These are not duties that require high levels of skill and they are under the constant supervision of a registered nurse.

Pre-school Teacher – nothing’s more important than our children, right? Of course! But the number of people willing to perform this job are relatively high compared to those who can fill a stadium with screaming fans.

Amusement Park Ride Operator – seriously? You’re surprised that a part-time, seasonal position held by college students who press buttons and check the safety bar on your roller coaster is a low paying job?

Line cook – ditto. Who can be surprised at this one?

Lifeguard – again with the seasonal positions. Newsflash! Most seasonal jobs are not well paying ones.

Nanny – another one that I don’t buy. The bottom 10% earns $7.51/hr with the median range earning $10.31/hour? According to the description, my teenage daughters are nannies, so are the people offering childcare during my church’s morning Bible studies.

Auto Mechanic – yeah right. I’ll concede that new mechanics with very little experience probably don’t earn much, but then neither does anyone with very little experience. Once a mechanic learns to properly diagnose and repair a vehicle for a fair price, he or she is GOLDEN with more business than they can handle.

Tax Preparer – another seasonal position. Please don’t try to convince me that a tax accountant earns only $9.15/hour like the Yahoo article says. A “preparer” generally gets a minimal amount of education and is set loose on the public with a glorified TurboTax software package. A tax accountant has years of education, certifications, and has passed a rigorous exam as well as continuing education.

Copywriters make more than novelists. Basketball stars make more than basketball referees. Chefs make more than hamburger flippers.

Why is anyone surprised?

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About the author

Ron Haynes has written 988 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.