We work jobs for a number of reasons, but it’s not called a "job" for nothing. You are performing work for money. Many jobs you know won’t pay for a second house or extravagant vacations, and other careers sound like they would, but actually don’t. This list contains the jobs that you’d expect to pay a lot, but don’t.
There is little consistency in what jobs pay or don’t pay. This list includes high profile positions, jobs that prolong the lives of others and bow ties. It also includes jobs that require a lot of schooling and very long hours of work. Benefits are not factored in, but in many cases are also below expectations.
A few jobs just missed the list. Surgical Technologists work next to the Surgeons that perform risky procedures and often save lives. If they don’t do their jobs well, the Surgeon can’t perform his job well. They make an average of $45,000 a year. Now, Embalmers are a strange group that you would think do a job no one else wants with financial reward, but they are only hauling in $50,000 on average. Then there are the reporters (oh, the poor writers) who go out and get news and report it. They bring in on average $45,000 a year.
A lot of the jobs listed are noble professions, but the salary is low due to job application saturation, supply vs. demand or alternate options for that particular product or service. Next time someone tells you they are a Marine Biologist you can still be impressed, just know they aren’t swimming in hundred dollar bills. Here are 15 jobs that pay less than you thought.
15 Head Chef - Average Salary: $40,000
Prior to chefs being on television every night this wasn’t an envied job. Head chef’s work long hours, work to exhaustion and get low pay with few benefits. Since the celebrity chef boom the work hasn’t changed and neither has the pay or benefits, in fact, in some ways it has gotten worse because now there are more people trying to become the next Anthony Bourdain or Guy Fieri. Even worse, many are going to culinary school, adding another expense to remain a top candidate for the best chef positions. For a top chef or senior chef in a chain restaurant you can expect an average salary around $40,000, of course there’s often overtime pay which is great only if you don’t die from exhaustion.
14 Fashion Designer - Average Salary: $70,000
Many dream of becoming the next Michael Kors or Marc Jacobs, but you have better odds making it as a professional athlete. The Fashion Designer job market is really saturated and each opening brings hundreds or even thousands of applicants. Because there are so many applicants, fashion companies don’t have to pay their associates very much. A Fashion Designer (associate level) can expect to make around $70K which sounds pretty good except when you consider where most of these jobs are located. Living in New York City on a salary of $70K is like earning $50K in Chicago or $35K in Indianapolis. Oh, and the job is no cake walk, the hours are long and your co-workers are often high on drama.
13 Casino Dealer - Average Salary: $15,000 (without tips)
Hey, you get to wear a suit, bow tie and handle large amounts of cash so you would think you would get paid as well. You have skills that consist of card dealing, managing your table and keeping your overall composure – not skills everyone possesses. You had better hope you get a high roller on your table and that he wins because tips are the only way to make any money as a dealer. Most Casino Dealers make just over minimum wage ($10/hr) and benefits are typically not top notch. Also, working in a smoke-filled casino full of gamblers probably isn’t good for your long-term health or well being.
12 Dietitian/Nutritionist - Average Salary: $50,000
People often go to a Nutritionist when they need to make changes, often because their life depends on it. A Nutritionist will create a healthy plan that includes food, exercise and other goals to improve overall quality of life. However, don’t expect to get paid just because you are adding value to lives. A Nutritionist (or Dietitian) can expect on average to earn $50K a year. To add to the monetary burden many states require a license and testing which involves additional schooling (and expenses). Going into this field is for those who want to help others first, be financially secure second.
11 Legislator - Average Salary: $50,000
Crooked legislatures are part of our pastime. Often people openly criticize because these individuals already make so much money. True, they should be criticized, but not because they are hauling in big money. Full time legislative staffers (not top politicians) are responsible for making the laws on federal and state levels (draft, debate and vote on laws); on average they make just over $50K a year. Many legislators have graduate or law degrees, adding to their overall debt and making their salaries seem low. In some cases they also have to kick in money for reelection expenses (especially if they have to “run” for their position). There should really be a law to change that!
10 Marine Biologist - Average Salary: $55,000
Like most people, I associate Marine Biology with intelligence and lots of schooling, and that’s correct. Marine Biologists are experts in their field. This profession studies animals, their characteristics and habits, looking to improve as well as learn how improve marine life. They often relocate to be near water and will relocate again depending on projects available. As far as education you need a bachelor degree to start, but really you will need a master’s degree and probably a doctorate degree to move into a senior position. For all of this work you can expect an average salary around $55K. Clearly saying you’re a “Marine Biologist” is more important than the salary you are making.
9 Professors - Average Salary: $65,000
Everyone knows grade school and high school teachers don’t make jack when it comes to earnings, but pay for professors is also very low. Professors, meaning anyone teaching beyond high school, typically have gone to school for many years. Most have a Ph. D or at least a master’s degree at smaller colleges. Pay is also dependent on area; some are a tad more lucrative (although still low). Professors focusing on areas of cultural studies can expect an average annual salary of $60K, those teaching math and science $65K and literature professors make up to an average of $70K a year.
8 Accountants - Average Salary: $63,000
Most would think the employees responsible for the numbers and reporting the health of the company would be paid well, but that is not the case for Accountants. In addition to number crunching, Accountants research financial information as well as perform audit functions for both internal and external needs. Extra schooling is usually required; a bachelor degree is required and depending on the industry you can expect qualifications to be either a MBA or CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license. Despite all of the schooling and the high-profile nature of the job, Accountants only make approximately $63K a year on average.
7 Psychologists - Average Salary: $65,000
People seek help from psychologists for a number of reasons, but the reason they go is usually because they believe these doctors can help them. A Psychologist meets with their clients and then uses their knowledge and research to diagnose their mental condition and make recommendations based on their findings. They may also be called on to diagnose emotional disorders or whether an individual is capable of processing certain information. The requirements in states vary, but most require a Ph. D. degree as well as a license to practice psychology in that state. As you can see, that’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of a Psychologist. That’s why it’s surprising they can expect to only make $65K a year on average.
6 Architect - Average Salary: $65,000
There is a reason “Architect” was George Costanza’s go-to profession on Seinfeld. There is a prestige that goes along with someone that designs buildings as well as other structures. Obviously the very best can name their price, but that is a select few. For the rest of the Architects they can expect earn an average annual salary of $65K. To be an Architect you typically need more than just a bachelor degree, in order to be licensed you will need to complete a master’s degree that includes your licensing, or you will need to apply, study and pass a test for your license.
5 Chemist - Average Salary: $70,000
You would think a Chemist would have a lucrative salary, but that’s just not the case. It’s actually pretty bad when you consider the few that can really be considered good in this field of study. A Chemist studies substances, their properties and reactions and use this information for developing new products or finding efficiencies/inefficiencies in the process. Schooling is dependent on your role, but if you are in a researching role you can expect a Ph.D. degree is probably required. The good news about this job is that when you tell people your job is “Chemist” they can’t help, but be impressed. The bad news is the average annual salary for a Chemist barely reaches $70K a year.
4 Biomedical Engineer - Average Salary: $75,000
Chances are if this is your job you will have to explain exactly what you do and even then it may not be clear. Biomedical Engineers typically work with medicine and biology, finding solutions for diseases, long-term effects and new reactions. As you can probably guess, a Biomedical Engineer needs to be intelligent and have impeccable research skills. Most of these jobs offer advance degrees, usually a master’s or Ph.D. for the top jobs. A Biomedical Engineer may be the conduit for the cure for a debilitating disease, but their paycheck won’t likely reflect that. These jobs pay $75K a year on average.
3 Optometrist - Average Salary: $100,000
Eye guys really get the shaft in the world of doctors. Optometrists perform eye exams and treat problems in the area of the eyes. This includes various issues that may include infection, disease or even blindness. The schooling is similar to that of other doctors with a bachelor degree followed by optometry school (4 years) to earn your title as well as a residency if the doctor is looking to pursue a specific area of optometry. The average physician brings in around $185K a year on average; a dentist brings in $160K a year on average. That’s why it’s so surprising that an Optometrist can expect to only make around $100K a year on average. Good info for those that know they want to be a doctor, but not sure what area of the body they want to focus on.
2 Private Detectives - Average Salary: $50,000
If your goal in life is to live the life of a crime novel detective then Private Investigator (Private Detective) may be for you. If you are looking to make a ton of cash, well then, you may consider another line of work. Depending on your clients, the work may be dangerous, but the good news is that schooling is optional, especially if you work “off the books.” The average annual salary for a P.I. is $50K, which is obviously below what someone may expect. Of course, just like the novels, all it takes is that one (preferably wealthy) client and you are set.
1 Firefighters - Average Salary: $50,000
Firefighters put their lives in danger and on the line each time they punch in for work. Their job is to put out fires, but really it’s to save lives, risking their health and lives in the process. A Firefighter must be ready at anytime to respond. The training and schooling is ongoing, always making sure they are properly educated as well as in adequate physical condition for the job. For all of this a Firefighter can expect an average annual salary of only $50K. I think it goes without saying (will say it anyway) that being a Firefighter is a higher calling, money is definitely secondary when considering this career. Another reason to hold the job of Firefighter in high regard, despite the surprisingly low salary.