No one is surprised that fast-food workers or maids don’t make very much money, because those jobs don’t require college degrees, they aren’t very difficult, and they don’t require much training or experience. These are seen as either dead-end jobs or part-time work that might lead to higher paying careers in the future, such as a fast food cashier going to school and then becoming a manager or a cook.
But there are other jobs that pay lousy salaries that might make you raise an eyebrow. These jobs are considered important, stressful, high-risk, and many of them require years of training or schooling, yet the workers doing these jobs still remain dangerously close to poverty-level incomes. Many of these workers are passionate about what they do, but the money and recognition doesn’t correlate with their important services. Put simply, they’re getting gypped.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the supplemental poverty threshold varies depending on location, the size of the family, and whether a family rents, pays mortgage, or owns their home. Nonetheless, the average poverty line for a single parent was about $15,800 in 2013. For a family of four, the official poverty threshold was $23,283, which was largely unchanged from 2012’s census. 16% – roughly 40 million people – live below the poverty line in the United States.
The Census Bureau releases these measurements to help gauge the effectiveness of tax programs and credits that are meant to reduce the poverty level in America.
Needless to say, these ten important jobs deserve higher salaries, and no one performing them should be afraid of living in poverty.
The reason firefighters are #10 on the list doesn’t have to do with the importance of their job, but rather because they actually earn the most annual income out of all the jobs listed. And that number is appalling, given the importance and danger of their work. Many firefighters work year-round, with excruciatingly long shifts, yet the median income for firefighters is only $42,000. This is a high-demand, high-stress job that saves lives, and it requires extensive training and schooling. With all of the recent droughts, seasonal wildfires, and our impending doom from global warming, one would think that there are always open positions available, but that is not the case. In fact, many people do this dangerous job on a volunteer basis because they’re passionate about savings lives. There isn’t any job out there that is more deserving of getting a raise.
9 Medical Equipment Preparers
These people are responsible for getting everything ready prior to surgery or a medical procedure. They sterilize and clean the equipment, put everything in order, and they do it all for the low annual average of $31,100. While the surgeons might make ten times the amount as a medical equipment preparer, these are the people that make sure everything goes off without a hitch! Your life is literally in their hands. How would you feel if you were infected with some deathly virus because the medical prep person didn’t properly sterilize a needle? Other than feeling deathly, you would probably feel enraged, baffled, and you would probably sue someone. We need to pay these people more so that we’re sure they care about their job!
8 Brick and Stone Masons
In 2011, the median annual income for brick and stonemasons was just $30,000, and luckily that number is on the rise. Maybe legislators started to realize that sound infrastructure and buildings are a good thing, and they’re worth paying for. The architect and development planner for a particular job might make six figures, but the people actually putting the structure together gets screwed out of the deal. That is just not right. These people make sure that our walls stay up and don’t crumble within an hour of being put up. A good piece of property can last for years and be worth millions if it’s sitting on a desirable piece of land. Shouldn’t the people who put the thing up be compensated for giving your family walls to live in?
7 Pipe Layers, Pipe Fitters and Steam Fitters
Once upon a time, the median annual wage for pipe layers was $28,000, but luckily that number is rising like it is for brick and stone masons. These people lay the pipes for sanitation and storm sewers, water mains and drains. The pipes bring us water and oil and all the other good things in life. The layers and fitters have to possess good math skills to grade trenches and position pipe angles. They have to be able to operate heavy machinery, and everything they touch while working is expensive. When a pipe leaks or breaks, it causes huge disasters that disrupt business and nature. Let’s pay these people properly to make sure our pipes don’t explode!
6 Ambulance Drivers and Attendants
Not all Emergency Medical Technicians are created equal. Whereas the median wage for an EMT or a paramedic is about $34,000 (which is still ridiculously low for what they have to do to become one, and for what they do on the job), an ambulance driver makes, on average, ten grand less. This is another job that saves lives. It’s stressful, constant – with long shifts – and you have to be a damn good driver. An ambulance driver or attendant has to deal with traumatic situations on a daily basis, and they are responsible for the lives of all the other, higher-paid EMTs they’re driving. Given the stress of the job and the $24,000 they get compensated annually, you have to be a real hero to be one of these guys.
5 Non-farm Animal Caretakers
These people make about $22,000 a year. They groom, bathe, feed and exercise the animals that we all know and love: dogs, cats, fish, birds and zoo animals. They work in animal shelters doing heart-wrenching work, veterinary clinics, zoos, aquariums, or circuses (doing the opposite of heart-wrenching work). Either way, these people are passionate about animals and they should get paid more. Anyone that has to deal with something or someone’s life, should get paid top dollar.
4 Lifeguards and Ski Patrols
Another job that is paid poorly (about $21,000/year), considering what they do. Protective services like life guarding and ski patrolling are responsible with saving people from dangerous situations. The job requirements – knowing CPR and rescue techniques, proper schooling and certifications, threatening their own safety to help save someone else – are time-consuming and stressful. These people do a very dangerous job and endanger themselves to protect you. They deserve real money.
3 Personal Care Aides
Personal Care Aides help the elderly or disabled people with daily activities, either at a person’s home or in a care facility. When your mom sends grandma to an “old folks home” or “retirement community,” these are the people that are going to help her. They spend all their time with the elderly and disabled, dealing with death and other soul-sapping issues, and they do it all for about $20,000 annually. For all the work they have to do – the housekeeping, preparing meals, providing assistance, advising families – personal care aides should be heavily compensated.
2 Child Care Workers
These people are similar to the personal care aides, but they deal with young people instead of old people, and they get paid about the same for it. They work in private houses, child care institutions and schools, performing many tasks and tending to the needs of your loved ones. Teaching Assistants get paid more, and they only have to deal with a group of kids for hours at a time. Child care workers practically live with the children they help.
1 Farm Workers and Laborers
One of the least-paying jobs in America is that of the farm worker. While ranchers and farmers might make $40,000 or more a year, the people they hire to do the individual, daily tasks are paid an average of $18,000 per year. These laborers perform back-breaking work, often times in scorching heat, and 7 out of 10 of them aren’t Americans. Two thirds of the farm work in the U.S. happens in California, and these people make sure that our crops are watered and our earth is tilled. For how close to growth and life that these people work, it’s a shame that they’re treated like they aren’t worth having one.
Overall, these are ten jobs that are important to our world, but aren’t compensated as such. Low-paying jobs will always remain, it’s one of the cornerstones of economics – not everyone can be wealthy – but anyone working with life or saving people’s lives deserves to be paid more.