12 Worst Jobs in America

Car assembly plant
Monty Rakusen / Cultura / Getty Images

Which are the worst jobs to work at? The answer, as with best jobs lists, is that it depends. What might sound like a horrible job to one person might not seem so bad to someone else. Everyone has a different experience, but in general, there are some occupations with a high risk of injuries, jobs with low pay and others with a declining number of jobs.

There are factors besides the job responsibilities to consider when you’re evaluating occupations.

What Makes Some Jobs The Worst Jobs in America

Some jobs don’t pay well. There are also jobs where the projected hiring of new employees is expected to decline. Health and safety are also factors to consider. Some occupations are much more stressful than others.

The risk of getting hurt or even killed is much higher in occupations designated as dangerous. A high-stress job combined with low pay or a poor safety rating isn’t a good option for most people.

There are some industries where the job outlook is worse than others and wage growth is low. Everyone’s experience differs, of course, but these are some of the jobs you may not want to consider if you’re exploring career options or a change in your career path.

Here’s a list of some of the worst jobs in the United States, in alphabetical order, based on salary, benefits, job opportunities, and worker health and safety concerns.

1. Assembly Worker

Assembly workers fit the parts of a product or segment of a product together using tools, machines, and hands. 

Factors Impacting Rating: Accidents and injuries are relatively common in production facilities. Tasks can be very repetitive, adding to the stress level of workers. Jobs are expected to decline by 14% from 2016 through 2026 due to increased automation and outsourcing of production to countries with lower labor costs and environmental standards. Median pay is low at $15.78 per hour.

About the JobAssembly Worker Job Description  

2. Bank Teller

Bank tellers assist patrons with deposits and withdrawals, cash checks, reconcile balances and communicate information about fees, policies and bank services.

Factors Impacting Rating: Bank teller jobs are projected to decline by 8% from 2016 through 2026 due to the increase in mobile and online banking and the use of ATMs. Wages are low, averaging about $14.16 per hour and many jobs are part-time without benefits.

About the Job: Bank Teller Job Description

3. Coal Miner

Coal miners extract coal from underground mines or participate in strip mining activities. They dig tunnels, operate machinery, transport coal out of the mines, and secure the mines.

Factors Impacting Rating: A shift to cleaner fuels due to climate change and pollution concerns has limited mining industry opportunities. Health and safety risks due to exposure to fumes, mine collapses, and other accidents diminish this occupation's appeal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mineworkers are more likely to be killed or to incur a non-fatal injury or illness; their injuries are likely to be more severe than workers in the private industry as a whole.

About the Job: What to Know About Mining Jobs

4. Farm Worker

Farmworkers cultivate and fertilize fields, plant and harvest crops, and operate farm machinery. They convey harvested crops to storage areas.

Factors Impacting Rating: Many farm jobs are seasonal and carry limited benefits and low pay ($11.84 per hour). Consolidation of farms into large, automated operations has limited opportunities with no projected increase in jobs from 2016-2026. Long hours in often unpleasant weather conditions are negative factors for farmworkers.

About the JobFarm Worker Job Description   

5. Fast Food and Short Order Cook

Fast food and short-order cooks prepare meals for patrons of fast-food establishments, diners, and other non-premium eateries.

Factors Impacting Rating: Cooks often work long hours and have frequent evening and weekend shifts. Kitchens can be overheated; burns, cuts, and minor accidents are common. Wages are low, averaging $10.74 per hour for fast-food cooks and job growth is expected to be only 6% from 2016-2026.

About the Job: Fast Food Worker Job Description

6. Fishing Worker

Fishing workers prepare and maintain poles, nets, and other fishing gear. They catch, extract, and store fish. Fishers unload their catch upon return to the docks.

Factors Impacting Rating: Fishers experience one of the highest rates of fatalities among all classes of workers. They remain at sea, away from loved ones for extended periods, and withstand adverse weather and sea conditions. Depleted supplies of fish in many waters add an element of uncertainty regarding the success of expeditions. Low pay, averaging $25,380 per year for fishing and hunting workers as a group, does little to offset the risk factors associated with this line of work.

About the Job: Commercial Fisherman Job Description

7. Logger

Logging workers cut down trees, operate machinery to transport logs, cut logs into desired lengths, and maintain equipment.

Factors Impacting Rating: Logging jobs are expected to decrease by 13% from 2016 through 2026 due to international competition, lands designated for conservation and depleted forest lands. Accidents and job-related injuries are constant threats to worker health and safety. Loggers often work in isolated locations and adverse weather conditions.

About the Job: Logger Job Description

8. Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists convert recordings of patient interactions by physicians and other healthcare professionals to written documents. They interpret medical terms and abbreviations.

Factors Impacting Rating: Opportunities are expected to decline by 3% from 2016 through 2026 due to productivity gains and increased direct recording of case notes by physicians. Salaries are relatively low, averaging $16.72 per hour.

About the Job: Medical Transcriptionist Job Description

9. Newspaper Reporter

Newspaper reporters research and write stories about local, regional, and national events. 

Factors Impacting Rating: Print media opportunities are expected to decline by 10% from 2016 through 2026 due to a shift to online media. Salaries are relatively low, averaging $35,860 per year. Deadline pressure and depleted staffing add to job stress. Opportunities often require relocation to areas that may not be appealing to candidates.

 About the JobNewspaper Reporter Job Description

10. Postal Service Worker

Postal workers sort and deliver mail and assist post office patrons with their mailing needs.

Factors Impacting Rating: Automated bill pay and the increase in electronic mail have reduced opportunities to work with the postal service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 13% decline in jobs from 2016 to 2026. Delivery workers must cope with adverse weather conditions, expanded territories, and close monitoring of productivity.  

About the Job: Post Office Jobs

11. Retail Sales Associate

Retail sales associates stock and display merchandise, advise customers, promote products, and process transactions.

Factors Impacting Rating: Retail employees are often asked to work evenings, weekends and holidays. Many positions are part-time and do not carry benefits. Pay is low, averaging $11.70 per hour. Job growth is expected to be lower than average from 2016-2026, at only 2%. The rise in online shopping has reduced the number of jobs available at some stores.

About the JobRetail Sales Associate Job Description

12. Taxi Driver

Taxi drivers transport customers to airports and other destinations. They collect fares and conduct conversations with passengers.

Factors Impacting Rating: Taxi drivers must cope with traffic stress and are confronted with the potential danger of accidents. The emergence of driving services like Uber and Lyft has made it more challenging for full-time taxi drivers to earn a good living. Pay averaged only $26,780 per year in May 2018. 

About the JobTaxi Driver Job Description

Projected growth and occupational data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.