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20 Jobs You’re Most (and Least) Likely To Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Cynthia Measom

 

Frantically waiting for your next paycheck to hit the bank just so you can pay for food or electricity is no way to live. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a high-paying career, living paycheck to paycheck can become a vicious cycle.

To determine the jobs where you’re most — and least — likely to live paycheck to paycheck, GOBankingRates analyzed the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2018 national occupational employment and wage estimates for all occupations and found the highest- and lowest-paying jobs by median hourly income. GOBankingRates also used BLS data detailing the total estimated annual cost for necessities per person, and then subtracted that cost from the median annual salary of each job to determine the amount of money left over.

The final list of jobs in this study represents the best — and worst — careers for your bank account.

20 Jobs You’re Most Likely To Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Certainly, the jobs in this section aren’t the worst options available — but they are among some of the lowest-paying jobs out there. Find out which jobs fuel the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and make it difficult to live comfortably.

20. Hotel, Motel and Resort Desk Clerks

  • Median hourly wage: $11.39
  • Median annual income: $23,691.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$2,565

Being a hotel, motel or resort desk clerk will yield some of the highest salaries of all the jobs where you’re most likely to live paycheck to paycheck. But don’t plan to finance a vacation on this income — you’ll still have quite a deficit after covering your living expenses.

19. Pressers (Textile, Garment and Related Materials)

  • Median hourly wage: $11.23
  • Median annual income: $23,358.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$2,898

A presser’s main task is pressing or shaping articles by hand or machine — think of the person who presses the clothing at a dry cleaner. Unfortunately, the manual labor involved in this occupation won’t line your pockets with money.

18. Food Servers (Non-Restaurant)

  • Median hourly wage: $11.20
  • Median annual income: $23,296
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$2,960

As a non-restaurant food server, you’ll typically work in settings such as hospitals or residential centers. Unfortunately, this also means you won’t be able to receive tips like restaurant servers do, which will severely cut into your bottom line.

17. Child Care Workers

  • Median hourly wage: $11.17
  • Median annual income: $23,233.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,022

Requirements to be a child care worker could involve the completion of a certification program. The payoff for this job, however, is lacking. Plus, you may not be able to find a full-time job in this field, as part-time hours are common.

16. Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Workers

  • Median hourly wage: $11.16
  • Median annual income: $23,212.80
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,043

Because laundry and dry-cleaning workers perform simple, manual labor tasks, you won’t need any formal training. Instead, an experienced worker can show you the ropes. After all those hours of being on your feet, however, your wages won’t likely have you kicking back and enjoying the good life.

15. Motion Picture Projectionists

  • Median hourly wage: $10.94
  • Median annual income: $22,755.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,501

Knowing how to operate audiovisual equipment and perform basic maintenance is helpful if you want a job as a motion picture projectionist. Enjoy the free movies, however, because you might have a hard time scraping together the funds to buy your own ticket once you pay off your bills each month.

14. Dishwashers

  • Median hourly wage: $10.93
  • Median annual income: $22,734.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,522

If you enjoy cleaning and being on your feet with little social contact, you might like being a dishwasher. What you won’t like, however, is the low hourly wage that will leave your bank account depleted after you pay the bills.

13. Bartenders

  • Median hourly wage: $10.84
  • Median annual income: $22,547.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,709

Although becoming a bartender doesn’t require a formal education program — you can learn what you need to know from an experienced bartender — some states might require you to complete a responsible server course. It’s true that you can meet some interesting people on the job and learn how to make the perfect martini, but the wages you’ll receive won’t have you sipping a mai tai on the beach in your free time.

12. Cashiers

  • Median hourly wage: $10.78
  • Median annual income: $22,422.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,834

Imagine standing on your feet for your whole shift, dealing with customers who are sometimes rude, and going home at the end of the day exhausted — that’s the life of a cashier. Now imagine all that trouble for a meager paycheck that might not even leave you with enough to treat yourself to a nice dinner out.

11. Lifeguards and Ski Patrol

  • Median hourly wage: $10.77
  • Median annual income: $22,401.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,854

A job that allows you to be by the beach or on a mountainside? Yes, please — at least until you find out that you probably won’t have the funds to plan a destination vacation for yourself by the time you pay your bills.

10. Counter Attendants (Cafeterias, Food Concessions and Coffee Shops)

  • Median hourly wage: $10.74
  • Median annual income: $22,339.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,917

Just like non-restaurant food servers, counter attendants often miss out on tips. Translation: You’ll have to depend solely on your wages to pay your expenses, and what you bring home won’t be nearly enough.

9. Fast Food Cooks

  • Median hourly wage: $10.74
  • Median annual income: $22,339.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,917

People who plan to work as fast food cooks won’t have to worry about a job shortage. It’s one of the 20 occupations with the most new jobs projected through 2026, according to the BLS. But when you’re staring at an almost $4,000 deficit in income after paying expenses, these type of jobs aren’t too attractive.

8. Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers

  • Median hourly wage: $10.71
  • Median annual income: $22,276.80
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$3,979

If you think the wages for servers and bartenders are bad, try being a cafeteria attendant or a bartender’s helper. Unfortunately, you’ll make even less. And, in these jobs that will have you struggling paycheck to paycheck, less money earned means more of a deficit when it comes to your bank account.

Related: States Where You’re Most and Least Likely To Live Paycheck to Paycheck

7. Amusement and Recreation Attendants

  • Median hourly wage: $10.70
  • Median annual income: $22,256
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$4,000

While working at an amusement park or recreation center might sound like a fun job, the fun will be over once you receive your paycheck. Your wages won’t be enough to cover your expenses, let alone buy your own ticket to your favorite amusement park.

6. Ushers, Lobby Attendants and Ticket Takers

  • Median hourly wage: $10.70
  • Median annual income: $22,256
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$4,000

Being an usher, lobby attendant or ticket taker isn’t a highly skilled profession, but someone has to do it. Unfortunately, these workers will be living vicariously through other fun-seekers — affording regular entertainment will be a stretch with this type of pay.

5. Hosts and Hostesses (Restaurants, Lounges and Coffee Shops)

  • Median hourly wage: $10.65
  • Median annual income: $22,152
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$4,104

Hosts and hostesses typically don’t receive tips, and on top of that, the median hourly wage they earn just doesn’t cut it. Like fast food cooks and counter attendants, hosts and hostesses will struggle to make ends meet after paying their expenses.

4. Waiters and Waitresses

  • Median hourly wage: $10.47
  • Median annual income: $21,777.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$4,478

Waiters and waitresses are considered among the occupations with a bright outlook, which means that there will be large numbers of new job openings through 2026, according to the Department of Labor’s O-NET OnLine. Unfortunately, that bright outlook doesn’t include a hefty paycheck — or even one that will cover all your expenses.

3. Shampooers

  • Median hourly wage: $10.40
  • Median annual income: $21,632
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$4,624

On the upside, working as a shampooer might allow you to collect tips, which could amount to an extra $3-$5 per customer. On the downside, the income you’ll earn won’t be nearly enough to pay for your living expenses.

2. Food Prep and Serving Workers (Including Fast Food)

  • Median hourly wage: $10.22
  • Median annual income: $21,257.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$4,998

Almost anyone can land a job as a food prep or serving worker — the most education you’ll need is a high school diploma. That’s a good thing, because investing in any sort of education would be a mistake for this job. After paying your expenses, you’ll already be almost $5,000 in the hole.

1. Gaming Dealers

  • Median hourly wage: $9.68
  • Median annual income: $20,134.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: -$6,122

Working in a casino amid the bright lights and charged atmosphere could seem like a fun job. But with a median hourly wage of less than $10, you won’t be able to cover your living expenses, let alone have money for anything else.

20 Jobs You’re Least Likely To Live Paycheck to Paycheck

To never have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck, check out some of the best jobs out there. Granted, some require a substantial investment in education — so get started as early as you can.

20. Natural Sciences Managers

  • Median hourly wage: $59.55
  • Median annual income: $123,864
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $97,608

If you have a bachelor’s degree and five years of related work experience as a scientist, you might be able to land a job as a natural sciences manager. Although you will have to invest time and money into a four-year degree and gain some work experience, the amount of income you’ll have left over after paying expenses should be worth it.

19. Sales Managers

  • Median hourly wage: $59.72
  • Median annual income: $124,217.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $97,962

A bachelor’s degree and less than five years of experience as a sales representative can qualify you as a sales manager. Although travel is often involved — and you may end up working additional evening and weekend hours — the money you reap can allow you to live a nice lifestyle.

18. Air Traffic Controllers

  • Median hourly wage: $59.87
  • Median annual income: $124,529.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $98,274

The ability to devote maximum concentration to your job is one of the vital keys to success as an air traffic controller. An associate’s degree plus long-term, on-the-job training are required. Because you won’t have to invest thousands of dollars into a four-year degree, the payoff in this job looks even better.

17. Pharmacists

  • Median hourly wage: $60.64
  • Median annual income: $126,131.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $99,875

To become a pharmacist, you’ll need to invest five to eight years into your education for an advanced degree. With this job often comes night and weekend hours, but you might be able to get a part-time job in this field while still making great money.

16. Financial Managers

  • Median hourly wage: $61.53
  • Median annual income: $127,982.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $101,726

After investing in a bachelor’s degree and working for about five years in the financial industry, a financial manager position might be within your reach. You’ll have plenty of income left over to live an enjoyable lifestyle — but you might have to put in some extra long hours to get there.

15. Podiatrists

  • Median hourly wage: $62.28
  • Median annual income: $129,542.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $103,286

To become a podiatrist, you’ll typically have to earn a doctorate in podiatric medicine, which will take four years to complete. Then, you’ll need to complete a three-year residency program. The paycheck is certainly worth it, though, with over $100,000 in income left over after paying expenses.

14. Judges, Magistrate Judges and Magistrates

  • Median hourly wage: $64.39
  • Median annual income: $133,931.20
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $107,765

Plan to earn a bachelor’s degree first, then move on and complete a law degree to meet the educational requirements to become a judge. After jumping through those hoops, you’ll be rewarded handsomely.

13. Marketing Managers

  • Median hourly wage: $64.56
  • Median annual income: $134,284.80
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $108,029

With a bachelor’s degree and related work experience in marketing, advertising or sales, marketing managers can pull down close to $135,000 annually, on average. After paying expenses, that leaves a nice chunk of change to enjoy life.

12. Petroleum Engineers

  • Median hourly wage: $65.95
  • Median annual income: $137,176
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $110,920

Petroleum engineers figure out how to get to gas and oil deposits below the Earth’s surface. To qualify, a bachelor’s degree is required. The outlook for job growth in this field is much faster than average, and the income potential is considerable.

11. Architectural and Engineering Managers

  • Median hourly wage: $67.67
  • Median annual income: $140,753.60
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $114,498

A bachelor’s degree is required to become an architectural or engineering manager. But don’t expect to start earning big bucks right away. About five years of experience in a related occupation is required.

10. Computer and Information Systems Managers

  • Median hourly wage: $68.53
  • Median annual income: $142,542.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $116,286

The job potential in this field is projected to grow faster than average by the BLS. Although the annual salary in this job means you’ll average almost $70 per hour, you won’t be able to step into this type of position without a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience.

9. Dentists (All Other Specialists)

  • Median hourly wage: $70.66
  • Median annual income: $146,972.80
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $120,717

All dentist specialists, such as endodontists and pediatric dentists — but excluding general dentists — must complete a bachelor’s degree, dental school and a two- to four-year residency. It might all be worth it, though, with well over $100,000 left after expenses.

8. Dentists (General)

  • Median hourly wage: $73.00
  • Median annual income: $151,840
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $125,584

General dentists have the potential to make more money than specialists, and they have fewer educational requirements, which seems like a win-win. A general dentist is required to complete a bachelor’s degree and dental school, and become licensed. As an added perk, a job as a dentist is considered a high-paying occupation with less stress, according to a separate GOBankingRates study.

7. Nurse Anesthetists

  • Median hourly wage: $80.75
  • Median annual income: $167,960
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $141,704

Nurse anesthetists must earn a master’s degree in one of the advanced practice registered nurse roles. In addition, they must be licensed in their state and pass a national certification exam, according to the BLS. As a reward, these medical professionals take home an average of over $140,000 after expenses.

6. Pediatricians (General)

  • Median hourly wage: $82.00
  • Median annual income: $170,560
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $144,304

People who choose to be pediatricians have a bright outlook in the job market, according to O-NET OnLine, with plenty of jobs expected to be available in the future. But that hefty earnings potential doesn’t come without some groundwork. At the very least, you’ll need to complete an undergraduate degree, four years of medical school and a residency. Residencies typically last three to seven years.

5. Prosthodontist

  • Median hourly wage: $84.88
  • Median annual income: $176,550.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $150,294

A prosthodontist is responsible for creating oral prostheses to replace missing teeth or otherwise restore or support oral function. Because this type of dentist is considered a dental specialty, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree, plus dental school and a two- to four-year residency.

4. Chief Executives

  • Median hourly wage: $91.15
  • Median annual income: $189,592
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $163,336

A chief executive can wield a lot of power — and the attached salary reflects that. Chief executives develop policies and direct companies and organizations within the guidelines of a board of directors. Required education includes at least a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of related work experience.

3. Internists (General)

  • Median hourly wage: $93.51
  • Median annual income: $194,500.80
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $168,245

Internists are physicians who mainly diagnose and provide care for adults who have internal issues. To command a salary close to $200,000 a year, you’ll typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree, a medical school degree and an internship/residency that will last at least three years.

2. Physicians and Surgeons

  • Median hourly wage: $96.58
  • Median annual income: $200,886.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $174,630

As one of the highest-paying jobs, even after expenses, physicians and surgeons have enough left over to live a very comfortable lifestyle. To make this type of annual salary, you’ll typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree, a medical school degree and an internship that will last three to seven years.

Don’t Miss: Here’s the Highest-Paid Job in Each State

1. Family and General Practitioners

  • Median hourly wage: $96.68
  • Median annual income: $201,094.40
  • Income left over after paying for expenses: $174,838

Family and general practitioners qualify as physicians and make more than enough money to live comfortably. In fact, these careers are among the highest-paying jobs in healthcare. Educational requirements include a bachelor’s degree, a medical school degree and an internship that will last three to seven years.

How To Break the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle

Unfortunately, living paycheck to paycheck is not uncommon. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 78% of U.S. workers lead this type of frustrating financial lifestyle. The good news is that with some planning and perseverance, you can break the cycle and maybe even land a better-paying job. Here are some helpful tips to help you figure out how to stop living paycheck to paycheck:

  • Track your spending: If you don’t know where your money is going each month, you won’t know what’s eating away your paycheck.
  • Decide where you can cut expenses: Are you spending money on things that are nonessential or excessive? Rethink eating out several times a week, subscribing to an expensive entertainment package or overpaying for a cell phone plan that you don’t need.
  • Shop around for better rates: You could be paying too much for monthly expenses, like car or homeowners insurance, so shop around to see if you can get a lower rate. Consider raising the deductible on your policy to get a lower rate.
  • Reduce withholding: If you routinely get a sizable tax refund each year, you might have your withholding set too high. Get advice from a tax professional to be sure. You can fill out a new W-4 with your employer to have less withheld from each paycheck, which means you’ll have more money in your pocket every two weeks.
  • Build an emergency fund: Open a high-yield savings account, and start depositing a little each month to build up an emergency fund. In as little as six months, you could have enough to save you from spending a big chunk of your paycheck on an unexpected expense.
  • Invest: Although this strategy won’t typically produce quick results, investing can pay off in the long run, especially if you take advantage of your employer’s 401(k) match.
  • Take advantage of your employer’s education funding or reimbursement program: Some employers offer to pick up the tab for employees who want to take their education to the next level and get a better-paying job within the company.
  • Consider these high-paying, entry-level jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or less: Who knows? You might already be qualified to step into one of these jobs and start making more money than you do now.

Keep reading to discover high-paying jobs that let you see the world.

More on Money

Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed the “May 2018 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates” for all occupations from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to pinpoint the lowest- and highest-paying jobs in terms of median hourly income. GOBankingRates then used the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Table 1502: Composition of consumer unit: Annual expenditure means, shares, standard errors, and coefficients of variation” from the 2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey to find the total estimated annual cost of necessities for a single-person consumer unit: (1) housing, (2) groceries, (3) transportation, (4) healthcare, (5) utilities and (6) apparel and services. GOBankingRates then subtracted the total annual cost of necessities — $26,256 — from the median annual salary of the lowest- and highest-paying jobs to determine how much of a shortfall or surplus there would be.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 20 Jobs You’re Most (and Least) Likely To Live Paycheck to Paycheck