The Most Demanding Jobs with the Lowest Pay

Retail sales managers are among those who get paid the least for working the longest hours.Retail sales managers are among those who get paid the least for working the longest hours.Feel like your job just doesn't pay you enough? Most people in the United States work an average of 2,000 hours per year (about 40 hours a week) and those who are required to put in extra hours are usually compensated well for their time. But according to research by 24/7 Wall Street, seven of the 800 job categories tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics require workers to spend more than 40 hours a week on the job -- yet pay less than the national average of about $40,000 per year.

"These jobs have longer hours because they tend to require prolonged shifts and because the industry does not observe regular working hours," Michael B. Sauter and Charles B. Stockdale report.

None of the jobs require a college degree, and most of them are in male-dominated fields. But a couple of the jobs stand out, especially during the holiday season: emergency medical personnel and retail sales managers.

First-line supervisors and managers are the ones to whom retail salespeople report directly, which means that they often oversee more than one shift and so end up working longer hours than the people they supervise -- and that doesn't count the extra hours spent during the holiday shopping season. They work about 128 hours more per year than the national average, and their median annual salary is $36,972. Their shifts often fall on weekends and holidays, but even so they earn more than the men and women who drive ambulances and respond to emergency medical situations.

Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics top the list in the 24/7 study, working 188 hours more than average and earning just $30,969 per year at a job that's both physically demanding and mentally taxing. "Because many EMT services run 24 hours a day, employees need to be on call all night," Sauter and Stockdale write. "According to EMT Training Spot, EMTs may find themselves working upwards of 10 hours a day, and 45 hours a week."

Also on the list:

  • Automotive parts salesmen (101 more hours than average, $32,769 per year)
  • Set and exhibit designers (136 more hours than average, $39,998 per year)
  • Heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers (193 more hours than average, $38,958 per year)
  • Farm-equipment mechanics (165 more hours than average, $38,139 per year)
  • Motor vehicle electronic equipment installers and repairers (102 more hours than average, $37,440 per year)

"Set designers work overtime to get theater productions ready for the public," Sauter and Stockdale write. "They remain on call while the show is running as well. Truck drivers are paid by miles driven instead of hours worked. While the number of hours drivers work is heavily regulated, the pay-per-distance compensation increases the number of hours the average driver is willing to be on the road."

Some of the jobs that didn't make the list are Certified Nursing Assistants, teachers, farm workers, and food service industry workers -- all notorious for demanding plenty of hours and effort in return for a low salary. Why didn't they make the cut?

It could be because the survey used compensation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which designates particular work levels and calculates the mean hourly earnings. Some industries, like nursing and teaching, are unionized, so those wages are grouped together in the calculations. "To determine the jobs that worked the longest hours for the least pay, we took positions that require at least 2,100 hours each year and excluded those with a pay of $40,000 or more annually," the writers explained.

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