America's 15 Most Popular Jobs

teacherThe following is a list of jobs with little in common. Annual salaries for these jobs range from just over $18,000 to more than $110,000. Some don't require workers to graduate high school, while others require a master's degree or higher. The reason they all appear here? They are the most popular jobs in America.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following 15 jobs account for more than 25 percent of total U.S. employment. For comparison purposes, the largest job -- retail sales -- employs 4,209,500 people, or 3.2 percent of the total American work force. By contrast, there are a mere the 660 people employed as prosthodontists, 1,170 who work as geographers and 870 radio operators nationally.

So what are these mega-professions that employ so many people?

According to the BLS, the following jobs are America's most popular:

1. Retail salespeople

Perhaps a testament to consumerism, retail salespeople rank No. 1 in job popularity. Besides great communication and customer service skills, retails salespeople also have to know how to close a deal -- many of these jobs are commission-based.

Total employment: 4,209,500

Salary: $24,630*

Requirements: A high school diploma is preferred for entry-level positions. For those who hope to move on to retail management, a bachelor's degree is helpful.

2. Cashiers

Cashiers are responsible for working registers, monitoring cash drawers and taking payments at establishments that range from supermarkets and gas stations to retail stores and theme parks. Like retail salespeople, cashiers must have good customer-service and people skills, since they spend their day dealing with the public.

Total employment: 3,439,380

Salary: $19,030

Requirements: On-the-job training

3. Office clerks

Workers spend their days filling a variety of roles in an office environment, from entering data to preparing mailings. An office clerk's duties may vary daily, according to the needs of the company.

Total employment: 2,815,240

Salary: $27,700

Requirements: A high school diploma and a combination of word processing, computer and proofreading skills.

4. Combined food preparation and service workers

This category primarily encompasses those who work in fast food establishments as counter attendants and food prep workers. Duties often include taking orders and accepting payment, filling beverage cups, assembling food items and providing customer service.

Total employment: 2,695,740

Salary: $18,120

Requirements: On-the-job training. Employers look for workers with excellent customer-service skills, a neat appearance and the ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment.

5. Registered nurses

Nursing is the most common profession in the health care field. RNs provide treatment to patients in hospitals, outpatient facilities and doctors' offices. Some provide home care to patients.

Total employment: 2,583,770

Salary: $66,530

Requirements: RNs are required to have a bachelor's degree in nursing. Many hold master's degrees or an advanced practice nursing license (APRN).

6. Waiters and waitresses

Waiters and waitresses take food orders, accept payment and provide menu information to restaurant customers.

Total employment: 2,302,070

Salary: $20,380

Requirements: There are no minimal education requirements, though many establishments prefer staff to have high school diplomas.

7. Customer service representatives

Customer service workers answer questions, provide information, fulfill customer requests and handle customer complaints. While many work in call centers, others are employed in retail stores or at banks.

Total employment: 2,195,860

Salary: $32,410

Requirements: High school diploma, on the job training.

8. Material movers

This broad job category encompasses laborers that literally move materials. Think truck loaders, loading dock workers and baggage handlers.

Total employment: 2,135,790

Salary: $25,290

Requirements: On-the-job training

9. Janitors

Janitors are responsible for maintaining cleanliness in places like office buildings, museums, schools and hospitals.

Total employment: 2,090,400

Salary: $24,120

Requirements: On-the-job training, ability to perform physical work for extended periods.

10. Stock clerks and order fillers

Stock clerks and order fillers work in storage facilities, warehouses, and shipping and receiving departments, ensuring that orders are properly filled, stocked, priced and accounted for.

Total employment: 1,864,410

Salary: $23,460

Requirements: High school diploma, on-the-job training, ability to perform physically strenuous work.

11. Secretaries

Secretaries (not including medical, legal and executive secretaries) provide administrative assistance to an office in the form of answering phones, greeting visitors, ordering catering services, proofreading, entering data, scanning and faxing documents, and more.

Total employment: 1,797,670

Salary: $31,060

Requirements: High school diploma, though an increasing number hold an associate or bachelor's degree. Secretaries must also have good computer and communication skills.

12. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks

Employees in these positions serve as a corporation's record-keepers. Tasks include maintaining accounts payable and receivable, documenting and tracking budgets and preparing financial statements.

Total employment: 1,757,870

Salary: $34,750

Requirements: High school diploma, though many employers now require workers in these positions to hold an associate or bachelor's degree.

13. General managers

General managers are the top executives of establishments and organizations like restaurants, hotels, amusement parks and sports teams. They are in charge of the businesses day-to-day operations and long-term goals.

Total employment: 1,689,680

Salary: $110,550

Requirements: Most hold a bachelor's or advanced-level degree.

14. Tractor-trailer truck drivers

This category only includes those drivers who operate trucks with a capacity of more than 26,001 pounds. These drivers are responsible for the timely delivery of goods along routes that may cover multiple states.

Total employment: 1,550,930

Salary: $39,260

Requirements: A commercial driver's license is necessary for all drivers. Some states also require a training program.

15. Elementary school teachers

The category includes elementary school teachers except those that teach special education. Elementary school teachers are responsible for instructing students in kindergarten through fifth grade on a variety of subjects.

Total employment: 1,544,300

Salary: $53,150

Requirements: Bachelor's degree, teaching certification.

* Salary information is according to the BLS, and is based on average annual salary from May 2009.

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My only comment is this:
I'm 27, and for as long as I can remember (so 20 plus years now) society has been pushing it down our throats how under paid teachers are. So I find it hard to find sympathy for someone who is complaining that they do not make much money, when they went into it fully knowledgeable of the financial strains they would likely go through. In college I was a tutor, and I loved it. However, I knew I wanted a career where I could be financially comfortable enough to raise a family. So I chose to be an accountant (which I have actually grown to really really like).
If you went into teaching knowing that you would be under paid, then I can't feel sorry for you. If you were somehow unaware of the lack of funding for education, then I don't know where your head when you made or decision (and I still don't feel bad for you). Nevertheless, thank you for the hard work that you do, and keep it up.

November 12 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

My wife taught at a very well known Catholic University in Colombia... she made 300 US dollars per month... when we moved to California, she went to a private University at 80,000 per year... she couldn't believe that the work day was less time here, no extra work at night, and she still bought class supplies in Colombia... I have taught, and will not do it... I volunteer for our 8 year old's class one hour per week... no way would I teach to California's kids... and I am a retired Infantry Officer... I prefer combat to classrooms.

November 12 2010 at 1:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

God bless the teachers. I sure couldn't stand to babysit other people's kids that I couldn't correct or punish.

November 11 2010 at 11:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I am living in China and it seems you American really have a much much more rich life than we have here in China. For a teacher in China, the monthly salary will be around 2K - 3K RMB,and the office clerk in downtown of city is around 3k - 5K,the annual income will be around 25K to 60K plus some bonus.However, we need to spend 10 -12RMB to buy a chinese fastfood and spend almost the same amount for a hamburg (excludes the coke and chips). How much those will cost you in U.S? For the city that I am living in right now (not my hometown),an apartment with around 90 - 110 sq.meters will cost more than 1 mil RMB...

November 11 2010 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

WOW!!!! To all of you that are 'amazed' at how much teachers make....ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! First, let me start with 'JO'..... maybe you should have attended, or taken the time to actually study what you were taught in school.... new is something that isn't used - something you'd buy at a store, etc.... knew is something 'you obviously don't know'!!!!! Wow! Anyway - my view is this - teachers are the future of our country!! They're the ones that (should) take pride in what they do and not really look at it for the money. (In reality, they don't make much money - yes, cost of living, classroom supplies, treats/snacks, etc!!!!!) They're the ones that are teaching YOUR kids (because in today's society, education ISN'T starting in the home like it used to.) Many of you are probably the same ones that will pay the professional athlete's salaries by attending the overpriced games and actors salaries by attending movies at $10+ a pop.... AND COMPLAINING THAT TEACHERS MAKE A LOT OF MONEY!?!?!? PLEASE!!!!! The athletes are (WAY) OVERPAID.... ACTORS are (WAY) OVEPAID!!!! And we're the reason for that! So PLEASE, take a long hard look at what each of you (all of us) are doing in the home with teaching (or NOT teaching) your children - - - THEN YOU CAN COMPLAIN!!!!!! (Sure, there are useless teachers - just like useless congressmen, police, CEOs, waiters, etc, but that's the minority, not the majority.) (Okay, I'm off my high horse)

November 11 2010 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I feel proud to read this from a student. Maybe our future is not that dimm after all.

November 11 2010 at 9:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Like you said if you don't like the pay don't be a teacher. You also have to remember they volunteered to go in the service. They knew what their job would in-tale, they had to know the possibility of getting shot at, ect.

November 11 2010 at 9:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Al's comment

"in-tale" and "ect."??? WOW! Speaking of needing teachers! Maybe someone should have listened to their teacher a little bit more.

March 30 2011 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Super Sub.

I am not a teacher by trade, but for over three years as a Substitute Teacher, I have seen firsthand what teacher’s go through day in and day out. I totally agree that their earnings are not equal to their overseen qualifications, which are by the way; attached with the multiple roles and responsibility they are continuously subject too. I strongly believe that they are seriously under paid and unappreciated. I can deeply say that at least our educators are educating our children professionally and passionately, as if it were their own children. As like veterans and emergency responders’ alike, teacher across this great land we so graciously love and call the United States, should receive raises according to their tenure, their own academic achievements, and for their patience in accepting and dealing with all type of unique character’s, personalities and parents. Thank God, for our teachers because I now have the educational background and ability to write and express my opinion. Teachers…, please feel free to correct me!

November 11 2010 at 8:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First off, I’m a high school student. I attended public school in south Florida (one of the worst school districts in America) for elementary and middle school and am currently a senior enrolled in a Massachusetts public school (one of the best public school districts in America). I have seen it all, the good, bad and the ugly, from students to admin. to teachers. Yes, there may be a few sour apples in the bunch but I must say I am truly grateful to each of my teachers. Even the less skilled ones cause they taught me how valuable a good teacher really is. Perhaps everyone on here who thinks teachers don’t do enough or get paid to much, maybe their problem is just that they never really had a bad teacher to make them appreciate the good ones. To any teacher that reads this, thank you. The future of my generation and the generations after me lay in your hands. I recently saw a bumper sticker that said "if you can read this, thank a teacher."

And just some numbers for the folk’s complaining that teachers make to much here is how it breaks down:

On average a teacher spends about 7 hours a day in the class teaching.
On average a teacher spends about 3 hours a day preparing lessons
On average a teacher will spend about 2,500 dollars on supplies for a class each year.

So even if they did make 53 k a year that would mean they would make 28 dollars an hour.

Decent salary. Not great but livable. And that is what we give our teachers, the people who help raise our kids and shape their future. A livable salary, really? That’s what we think they are worth? I’m sorry, as a student, as an American, and as a woman I am not ok with paying our teachers just enough to get by. It’s really shameful. And people want to complain they are making too much?!?!? Sorry, but pull your heads out of your asses and get a clue! What have u done to change the world today? Probably nothing and you probably make more then a teacher and they wake up every day and change the world.

November 11 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ariel's comment


If you are truly a high school student???...give yourself a few years and you will probably realize that there are thousands of people out there who go about their jobs daily and (do) "change the world"...maybe it's you who should get your, as you put it, "head out of your ass" and realize this. The old adage of teachers change the world is correct....BUT THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF OTHERS, IN ALL WALKS OF LIFE, THAT ALSO CHANGE THE WORLD...TEACHERS DO NOT HAVE EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TO THIS. (MOST OF THOSE THAT TRULY CHANGE THE DAILY LIVES OF OTHERS...NEVER GET CREDIT FOR IT AND THEY DO IT ANONOMOUSLY). YES, TEACHERS CHANGE THE WORLD, BUT SO DO; FIREFIGHTERS, NURSES, DR'S, JANITORS, PREACHERS, AND EVEN THE OLD INSURANCE SALESMAN.

November 11 2010 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find it very interesting that so many people complain about teacher salaries who are not teachers. I find it interesting that teachers complain about their salaries, when none of this is a secret. Teacher salaries for most states can be found online. So those who engage in this SERVICE ORIENTED career should not be surprised when they learn how much they will earn. I think it is much publicized how hard a career this can be and how bad we are compared to other industrialized nations insofar as how our students score in comparative tests. So let's put this aside.

I do very much love the saying "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If it is in English, thank a soldier," and "Freedom is not free." How very appropriate for this Veteran's Day.

As Americans we are spoiled. We are not willing to have civil discourse. We believe there can be no point of view more correct than our own. The fact is, teachers will never be paid what they are worth to society. And if they live in a capitalist society such as ours, then the market will always determine who gets paid what. The fact is if we did not buy sporting event tickets and clothing or if we did not watch it on tv or buy it from cable or satellite, owners could not afford to pay athletes the kind of salaries that they do. If we valued our teachers, caretakers, and service workers, then they would be paid better. And as we can see by all the back and forth in these posts, better is relative.

Fact is, we live in a society where the American dream has been warped. Because we have allowed ourselves to be sold into a system that says we must make more money and spend more money, we base our choices around this type of thinking. There are many reasons why we are where we are as a nation. We have had to learn many lessons as a young country to become so blessed a nation. And we will have many more lessons to learn before our problems are solved. To make my point, it seems that we will strike in this country for better wages, while the Europeans will strike for a lower retirement age. Who do you think really has the better idea of quality of life? In this country with hard work you can aspire to anything. You can fail and start over. That is freedom. But we can't all be Like the Buffets and Gates of the world, but we can still have a good life and contribute to society IF we live within our means.

If we took everyone at their word for how much teachers are paid in their states, we would also have to compare like economies to like economies. For example, teachers at starting, middle, and near retirement salaries in California, Massachusetts, and Georgia could not have the same salaries because even this would vary within each state depending on where and what systems they teach in, meaning public or private. Also, the cost of living in California would dwindle a lot of what seems like a lot of money to a teacher in South Carolina. There are lots of factors involved.

I think we can all agree that teachers play a VERY important role in society. For those who point out that the education curriculum in college is a joke, I would agree that it could be shored up. But they can never give a person enough skill to do all that a teacher has to do today for most classroom audiences. They have to be cognizant of so much and do so many things that in yesteryear was not needed as much. Counseling, parenting, discipling, and the list goes on.

My suggestions to teachers, especially those who are part of unions, would be to challenge your unions to find the best way forward. I don't mean in just making grounds in gaining benefits and raises in salaries. I mean maybe they should be seeking ways that could change how schools are funded. If the Education Department were to be abolished, if schools were not funded through property taxes, (as it is in many states), but was funded through some other means such as corporate taxes, maybe money for resources would be more readily available. This is just an idea. Do businesses not benefit from having a workforce that has a decent secondary education? If we are creating citizens for the job market, shouldn't corporations have a responsibility to help in this effort? We could reduce corporate taxes to a rate that the federal government would normally use to pay for a bloated and underperforming Education Department. Just a thought. I think State governments have to start thinking about this to figure out how to equip districts where property taxes may not bring in the money that is needed to help with the resources needed, (this includes more money to help get our teachers up to a level of success that we need them to be),to aid in providing the education that we need our children to receive to keep America competitive.

I applaud all of your teachers who have made this your career despite a society that continually underappreciates you.
November 11 2010 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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