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10 Surprising Minimum-Wage Jobs

The U.S. federal minimum wage recently increased 70 cents from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour. Who will be affected by this boost? Cashiers and fast food workers? Yes, but some minimum wage jobs also come with surprisingly hefty responsibilities.

From preschool teachers to hospitals aides, there are many people in critical roles whose salaries don't necessarily reflect the importance of their professional contributions. You may be surprised to find out who's making the bare minimum.

1. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

Bottom 10% earn: $8.79 per hour
U.S. median salary: $11.41 per hour
Job description: Assess injuries, administer emergency medical care, and extricate trapped individuals. Transport injured or sick persons to medical facilities.

An EMT may pull you from a car wreck and keep you alive on your way to the hospital -- and maybe for as little as $9 an hour? New EMTs must be brave, decisive, compassionate, and knowledgeable. Fortunately, their salaries go up after they get some experience under their belts.

2. Pharmacy Technician

Bottom 10% earn: $7.88 per hour
U.S. median salary: $9.93 per hour
Job description: Assist pharmacist in preparing and dispensing medication. Prepare dosage medications for dispensing into bottles and unit dose packaging. Collect patient information for prescription and billing. Select, prepare and stock medications.

Do you find all of those little pills confusing when you have more than one to take? Your local pharmacy technician processes hundreds of prescriptions a day and absolutely must keep the blue ones separate from the green ones. The wrong dose or medication can have possibly fatal consequences. These folks deserve a big thank-you for the work they do, but they'd likely settle for a raise.

3. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Bottom 10% earn: $8.12 per hour
U.S. median salary: $9.81 per hour
Job description: Provide basic patient care under direction of nursing staff. Perform duties, such as feed, bathe, dress, groom, or move patients, or change linens.

When grandpa or grandma requires full-time care in a facility, or you end up in the hospital for surgery or an extended stay, a CNA might be the person you interact with most and rely upon for your essential needs. Plus, these dedicated individuals also often provide a little human interaction when the hours in the hospital seem too long.

4. Preschool Teacher

Bottom 10% earn: $8.19 per hour
U.S. median salary: $10.50 per hour
Job description: Instruct children in activities designed to promote social, physical, and intellectual growth needed for primary school in preschool, daycare center, or other child development facility. May be required to hold state certification.

Have you ever been at a preschool or daycare facility and thought, "Wow, that teacher is so patient and caring." That's because preschool teachers are responsible for a group of active, inquisitive kids who get hungry, have occasional meltdowns, or don't feel like sitting down -- all day long. These folks are critical to your child's development and education. And, they may not make enough to support themselves without a second job or income.

5. Amusement Park Ride Operator

Bottom 10% earn: $7.49 per hour
U.S. median salary: $8.74 per hour
Job description: Perform variety of attending duties at amusement facility. May operate amusement concessions and rides.

You wouldn't be surprised to buy a hot dog at the fair from a young person making close to minimum wage, but what about the person running your favorite ride -- the one with all the loop-dee-loops, drops and spins? It's surprising that these workers don't make much more than their concession-stand counterparts considering the complexity of some of the rides they're operating.

6. Line Cook

Bottom 10% earn: $7.25 per hour
U.S. median salary: $8.98 per hour
Job description: Prepare and cook food in a restaurant. Duties of the cooks are limited to preparation of a few basic items and normally involve operating large-volume single-purpose cooking equipment.

In the fast-paced work environment of a restaurant kitchen, line cooks ensure that meals are prepared to the chefs' exacting standards. Often these folks have completed pricey degrees at culinary schools and this is their first job after graduation. They're skilled with knives and the finer points of making a cream sauce. Yet, their wage is sometimes better suited to heating up a frozen dinner.

7. Lifeguard

Bottom 10% earn: $6.89 per hour
U.S. median salary: $8.18 per hour
Job description: Monitor recreational areas, such as pools, beaches, or ski slopes to provide assistance and protection to participants.

Do you have the strength and skill to pull a drowning person from a crowded lake and resuscitate them? Lifeguards must be able to perform this important task, plus spend long hours getting kids to stop running on the edge of the pool and make sure lap swimmers share their lanes properly. Lifeguards literally help everyone stay alive.

8. Nanny

Bottom 10% earn: $7.51 per hour
U.S. median salary: $10.31 per hour
Job description: Attend to children at schools, businesses, private households, and child-care institutions. Perform a variety of tasks, such as dressing, feeding, bathing, and overseeing play.

Most people agree that you can't put a price tag on a parent's work because it takes full focus and energy to do well. So why is it that nannies often earn so little for taking care of those same children? From getting kids up, dressed and fed in the morning to making sure they arrive on time to piano lessons and soccer practice, nannies often exhibit the exceptional patience and resourcefulness needed to keep a family running.

9. Automobile Mechanic

Bottom 10% earn: $7.78 per hour
U.S. median salary: $10.95 per hour
Job description: Repair automobiles, trucks, buses, and other vehicles. Master mechanics repair virtually any part on the vehicle or specialize in the transmission system.

When you take your car in to be repaired, you expect the mechanic -- whether brand new or a seasoned pro -- to quickly identify the problem and get your car back on the road again. It's complicated work that requires a great deal of knowledge, skill, and attention to detail. In time, most mechanics earn more for their toil.

10. Tax Preparer

Bottom 10% earn: $7.16 per hour
U.S. median salary: $9.15 per hour
Job description: Prepare tax returns for individuals or small businesses without the background or responsibilities of an accredited or certified public accountant.

What you do or do not tell Uncle Sam during tax season is very important for your bank account and your peace of mind. Maybe you do your own taxes, but many people trust their tax returns to someone else. A tax preparer enters all of your data into your forms before an accountant double-checks their work. It's an important job that needs to be done right.

by Bridget Quigg
NOTE: While pay rates vary from state to state, the jobs listed generally pay at or near minimum wage. Included, as well, is a job description from www.PayScale.com that lists job duties and the national median hourly rate a person makes in their first year on the job, according to PayScale.com. Some people earn less than this rate.

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