The 10 lowest paying jobs in the U.S. for college graduates
The health of the job market certainly has an impact on starting salaries of students, but some people willingly choose careers that generally do not pay well. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) database to identify the ten occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree and pay the least.
Having a degree typically improves the earnings prospects of graduates, yet many of these occupations paid little more, if not less, than the median for all jobs in 2013.
While the typical American worker earned $35,080 in 2013, only one of the lowest-paying jobs for college graduates, museum technicians and conservators, paid a median wage of more than $40,000 last year. Legislators, whose occupation was the lowestpaying for college graduates, had a median pay of just $20,620.
Many workers in these relatively low-paying jobs may be motivated by factors other than pay. Museum technicians likely choose their profession because they have some interest in preserving items. Similarly, religious directors, rehabilitation counselors and recreation workers may be more inclined to help people. According to Martin Kohli, chief regional economist with the BLS, “There are always going to be people who choose careers for reasons other than money.”
Other jobs, such as graduate teaching assistants, are temporary. “Those are things that people typically do for a year or two [before] they will hopefully go on and graduate,” said Kohli.
To identify the jobs that require the most education but pay the least, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed wage and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics database and job descriptions from the Occupational Outlook Handbook. We screened for jobs that require at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. We also looked at job descriptions from the O*Net Online database, an occupational information database developed by the Department of Labor. Figures from the OES do not account for self-employed workers.
These are the jobs that require the most education and pay the least.
1. Museum Technicians and Conservators (median income: $40,020, bottom decile income: $23,440)
Museum technicians, also known as registrars, prepare and care for museum items, while conservators preserve and treat the artifacts and specimens. Nationally, there are only 9,860 people employed in these positions. While both require at least a bachelor’s degree specific to the type of museum, as well as significant experience, employers often look for conservators with a master’s degree in conservation. Graduate programs in museum conservation, however, are relatively rare in the United States. And yet, technicians and conservators receive low compensation relative to their education.
2. Directors Education $18,780) of Religious Activities and ($38,160, bottom decile:
In addition to creating educational programs and leading activities for a religious congregation, directors of religious activities and education may also provide health, marital and religious counseling. While they were typically paid only $38,000 last year, employers usually look for at least a bachelor’s degree and prior experience. Yet, outside of religious organizations, this position shows more promise. For instance, religious directors working for social advocacy groups earned far more than those employed by religious groups.
3. Reporters and Correspondents ($35,600, bottom decile: $20,710)
The job outlook for reporters and correspondents is not especially optimistic. Traditional media already suffered a severe blow with the dawn of the Internet. Revenue is expected to continue to decline and, combined with consolidation, the number of reporter jobs is expected to considerably drop between 2012 and 2022. Pay is also hardly stellar, with a typical reporter or correspondent earning just $35,600 last year, or only slightly above the median for all occupations. Reporters and correspondents usually have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as journalism or communications, and many employers look for on-campus experience such as working for a college radio station or newspaper. A relatively high number of reporters are also self-employed - 13% as of 2012 - and take on freelance work.
4. Rehabilitation Counselors bottom decile: $21,170)
Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities cope with everyday life. Becoming a rehabilitation counselor often requires a master’s degree and a state license that calls for between 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Additionally, candidates must pass a written exam and complete continuing education credits each year. Becoming a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, a designation some employers require, involves further education and clinical experience. Even after receiving a master’s degree and gaining the necessary experience, rehabilitation counselors earned a median income of $34,230 in 2013, just below the national median income of $35,080.
5. Proofreaders and Copy Markers ($33,130, bottom decile: $19,430)
Proofreaders and copy markers mostly work in the newspaper and book publishing industries. Their jobs require them to identify and correct grammatical, typographical or compositional errors. There were roughly 11,000 proofreaders and copy markers employed in the country in 2013, not counting those who were self-employed. In the same year, median incomes of proofreaders and copy markers were slightly more than $33,000, below the national median earnings for all occupations. The top 10% of earners in this field fared slightly better, making at least $54,620.
6. Graduate Teaching Assistants ($29,950, bottom decile: $17,730)
Graduate teaching assistants help college and university faculty by teaching lower-level classes as well as by preparing and grading exams. Teaching assistants are typically not paid exceptionally well.
The median pay for a teaching assistant was just less than $30,000 in 2013. However, as the BLS’ Kohli said, graduate students do not generally make a career out of being a teaching assistant. Kohli noted that graduates typically find other jobs after they complete their graduate program.
7. Coaches and Scouts ($29,150, bottom decile: $17,340)
Not only are coaches and scouts required to reach a high level of educational attainment, but they also often work long and irregular hours. Many coaches have often played their sport at a high level, such as in college or professionally. A coach or scout will typically work well over 40 hours a week, especially during the sports season. Additionally, coaches also work evenings, weekends and holidays. And yet, coaches earned a median salary of just $29,150 last year. The BLS estimates that more 200,000 people were employed in this field as of 2013, the majority of whom worked for educational institutions.
8. Radio and Television Announcers ($29,020, bottom decile: $17,450)
Radio and television announcers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism, broadcasting or communications and must have significant work experience to develop their on-air personalities. Despite the necessary experience, radio and television announcers earned a median income of a little more than $29,000 in 2013, below the national median of $35,080. Income figures may be skewed by the fact that many announcers work part time, and by the fact that nearly onefourth were self-employed as of 2012.
9. Recreation Workers decile: $16,990)
Recreation workers lead leisure activities for groups in playgrounds, parks, camps and senior centers. The roughly 317,000 recreation workers in the United States earned a median salary of $22,390 in 2013. Only half of all recreation workers were employed full time as of 2012. And while many employers require that recreation workers have a bachelor’s degree, they may also require additional certification for lifeguarding, CPR or first aid. Camp counselors, a subset of recreation workers, oftentimes work irregular hours or are only seasonally employed.
10. Legislators $16,620)
Legislators include all elected officials who develop and pass laws at local, tribal, state and federal levels. Typically, legislators have at least a bachelor’s degree and gain experience on the job. The median salary of a legislator in 2013 was $20,620. The range of pay for legislators varies considerably, with members of Congress earning $174,000 per year, while legislators in New Hampshire earn just $100 each year. There were roughly 56,000 legislators employed in the country as of 2013.
Reporters are paid much less than what they risk their life for