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Want Your Own Place? Avoid These 5 Jobs


It’s a hard world out there for young workers. PayScale’s latest data package, Gen Y on the Job, shows that 24 percent of Millennials have to move home at some point after starting their career. Those numbers are worse if you’re a woman: 28 percent of female Gen Y workers have to move in with Mom and Dad. While the economy is obviously a major factor in whether or not you can afford your own place, job selection also makes a difference.

fast food worker 

(Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr)

For example, if you want to live on your own, you should probably avoid these jobs:

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1. Food and Beverage Serving Workers

Percent of Millennials, With This Job, Who Had to Move Home: 51 percent

Median Annual Pay: $24,338

2. Material Moving Workers

Percent of Millennials, With This Job, Who Had to Move Home: 48 percent

Median Annual Pay: $34,578

3. Retail Salespersons

Percent of Millennials, With This Job, Who Had to Move Home: 43 percent

Median Annual Pay: $36,005

4. Legal Support Staff

Percent of Millennials, With This Job, Who Had to Move Home: 37 percent

Median Annual Pay: $39,504

5. Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Percent of Millennials, With This Job, Who Had to Move Home: 36 percent

Median Annual Pay: $35,629

Why do so many workers in these jobs find themselves unable to afford their own place, at least on a permanent basis? Some of it might have to do with not being able to get enough full-time hours. Retail associates and food service workers ranked high on PayScale’s list of occupations that describe themselves as underemployed, both because of low pay and because these workers are often forced to work part-time, when they’d prefer to work full-time.

Then there’s the lack of opportunity for salary growth afforded by many of these jobs. While the annual salaries for most of these positions hover in the mid-$30,000 range, they don’t offer much in the way of salary potential over time. Administrative assistants, for example, increase their salary by only 15 percent after 20 years, while retail sales associates can hope for a 19 percent boost by late career, but don’t typically stay in the field that long.

Laborers and material movers also tend to leave the field, in part probably because their job is so intensely physical, but they can potentially look forward to a 70 percent boost in wages after 20 years’ experience, if they can do the work. The pay bonus is lower for servers, who see a jump in pay of 35 percent by late career, but like other physically demanding occupations, most servers go on to other careers by that time.

Legal support staff is somewhat of an outlier in our roundup: legal assistants’ and paralegals’ salaries increase 35 percent by late career, and they tend to stay in the field.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that four out of five of the jobs on our list are female-dominated: 95 percent of administrative assistants, 90 percent of legal support staff, 71 percent of sales associates, and 63 percent of servers were female, while only 14 percent of material moving workers were female. This dovetails with PayScale’s earlier report, Women at Work, which found that women made less than men in part because of career choice. Whether that “choice” is 100 percent voluntary is, of course, still up for debate.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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