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Future Jobs 2020: The lowest-paid careers in the U.S.

The waitstaff poses at Andy's Diner in Seattle. This photo was taken in 1956.

See your job future with Marketplace's all-new Future Jobs-O-Matic, updated with career forecasts and salary information for hundreds of careers.

Waiters, bartenders and other service industry careers topped the list for lowest median pay, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The good news is that most of these jobs are fairly easy to get, especially if you’re interested in part-time work.

These career forecasts and hundreds more are featured in Marketplace's new Future Jobs-O-Matic career forecasting tool. Here are the top 9 from that list:

1. Food and Beverage Server
You’ll have work if you want it, but the median yearly income for someone working as a food and beverage server in 2010 was only $18,130, topping the list of lowest-paid careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. Waiter, Waitress
Similar to food and beverage servers, you’re looking at a median yearly wage of $18,330. Competition will be tight for the jobs in high-end establishments, where the tips are better. In some states where tips are considered part of wages, waiters and waitresses might make as little as $2.13 an hour in direct wages. We explored tipping trends in a piece last year.

3. Cashier
The median hourly wage for cashier was $8.89 in 2010. Many start at the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Good luck getting winter holidays off. There might be some pressure on employment, though, especially as competition from robots kicks up.

4. Bartender
Median hourly wages for bartenders were $8.98 in 2010. About 40 percent work full-time. Opportunities are good overall.

5. Agricultural Worker
The pay is low – about $18,970 median annual income. Also, the field is expected to shrink 3 percent this decade as farms consolidate.

6. Food Preparation Worker
The median annual wage is $19,100. Expect some early mornings, late evenings, weekends and holidays.

7. Child Care Worker
There’s plenty of growth in this field, with employment looking to increase 20% from 2010 to 2020. The annual median wage is $19,300. Somewhat ironically, as Marketplace has reported, child care can be very expensive.

8. Maid, Housecleaning Worker

$19,300 is the median annual wage. Those who work at hospitals tend to make more.

9. Laundry and Dry-cleaning Worker

Yearly median pay is about $19,540, or $9.40 an hour.

About the author

Ryan Faughnder is a web contributor for Marketplace. Most recently, he was a business reporting intern for the Los Angeles Times and a senior editor at Neon Tommy.

See your job future with Marketplace's all-new Future Jobs-O-Matic, updated with career forecasts and salary information for hundreds of careers.

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