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10 Jobs Americans Can’t Live Without

Updated: Jun. 06, 2022

Sometimes the most important workers are the ones behind the scenes. These are the jobs Americans can't live without—the crucial professions that keep our country functional, safe, and healthy.

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wooden gavel

10. Lawmakers

Number Employed: 3.68 million

Average Income: $93,738/year

Though lawmakers and politicians may not have the best reputation, they are essential to our country’s function. They ensure that our voices are represented in the government, and in an ideal world, they make decisions that they believe will positively affect their constituents. Across the USA, there are 3.68 million people employed in the political sector, with an average income of $93,738 per year.  

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Cell tower antennas mounted on steel power poles close up. Lattice structure tower in blurred background. Blue sky.
Rhonda Roth/Shutterstock

9. Telecommunications workers 

Number Employed: ~721,300  

Average Income: $58,030 

With an unemployment rate of 0.8 percent, telecommunications is not only a lucrative field, but it provides a crucial service to people living in the United States. Telecommunications work is necessary for the facilitation of business, personal texts, emails, and phone calls, the Internet, radio, and much more. There are about 721,300 telecommunications workers in the United States. Still annoyed with your phone or cable company? See if you’re using the least reliable cell phone company in the country.

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subway line 7 arriving at Quensboro Plaza station.
Pawel Mazur/shutterstock

8. Transportation professionals 

Number Employed: 5.6 million   

Average Income:  $43,504  

These workers are responsible for our day-to-day commutes, vacations, and explorations of new places. This umbrella “transportation” profession includes workers who drive buses, operate trains, drive trucks, and fly planes. Transportation drivers and related professionals are essential to the easy movement of people across the country, and the facilitation of trade and shipping. There are about 5.6 million people employed in the transportation industry. If you’re planning travel, stay away from this airport. 

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Old and worn colorful construction helmets

7. Construction workers 

Number Employed: 6.71 million  

Average Income: $51,097  

Construction workers build our cities, homes, and roads, and there are nearly 7 million of them, according to a 2016 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Construction workers include not only builders and maintenance workers, but carpenters, electricians, roofers, and more. 

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Firefighters in yellow fire-proof uniform

6. Firefighters

Number Employed: ~296,000
Average Income: $67,903 

Firefighters protect us from harm, ensure our safety, and of course, put out blazes. Fire departments can perform emergency medical care, report to the scenes of car accidents, and rescue potential fire victims from burning buildings. There are approximately 296,000 firefighters nationwide whose bravery is essential to our safety. Firefighting puts one’s health in danger, like these other professions that can increase your risk for cancer. 

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red apple resting on the book with chalk board as background
Bartek Zyczynski/Shutterstock

5. Teachers

Number Employed: ~4.47 million

Average Income: $50,547/year (average of elementary and secondary school salaries) 

Where would any of us be without teachers? They are some of the first adults we learn to trust and listen to, and their hard work pushes us to succeed for the rest of our lives. Teachers equip children and teens with the skills to be good citizens and workers, therefore teachers are individuals that Americans cannot live without. 

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Tractor spraying pesticides on soybean field with sprayer at spring

 4. Farmers, ranchers, and farm laborers 

Number Employed: 1.19 million  

Average Income: $34,252  

Food, glorious food! We have it in such abundance that it’s sometimes easy to forget where it comes from. There are about 269,000 farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers in the United States who put in the hard work required to produce our food. In total, there are approximately 1.19 million individuals working in the farming industry. Next time you tuck into a meal, whether it be apple pie, mashed potatoes, or avocado toast, be grateful for the people who produced your ingredients. Looking for a job in the food industry? Try one of these strange culinary jobs.

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healthcare and medical concept. doctor and medical background with copy space.
create jobs 51/shutterstock

3. Home health aides and registered nurses

Number employed, Home Health Aides: 4.11 million

Average income: $74,141/year

Number employed, Registered Nurses: 3.22 million

Average income: $63,947/year

As Americans are living longer and seeking more medical care, registered nurses and home health aides have become more prominent. Americans who work full-time and have older relatives to take care of may turn to home health aides for assistance with their loved ones. Additionally, home health aides often assist people with disabilities and individuals recovering from illness or injury. Registered nurses have become more essential as more Americans get health care coverage, and doctors’ services are in higher demand. To prepare for your next checkup, memorize these medical facts that everyone should know

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Desalination plant in hamburg harbor metallic eggs
Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock

2. Water and wastewater treatment plant operators

Number Employed: ~91,500 
Median Income: $50,463 

Water is one of the building blocks of life, and without workers to purify it, we wouldn’t last long. Water and wastewater treatment professionals ensure that our water is clean and up to federal health standards, while also treating wastewater so it is non-toxic to our environment. Thank these water-workers for keeping you hydrated, but remember that it’s possible to drink too much H2O! 

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Municipal waste disposal. With a special car garbage truck, the garbage from the garbage bin is loaded into the car. Concept: Waste disposal and cleanliness

 1. Sanitation workers

Number Employed: 2,655,020 

Median Income: $64,690 

Garbage and recycling collectors keep our streets clean, our houses smelling fresh, and our neighborhoods looking beautiful. Without garbage and recycling collectors, it would be difficult and unsanitary to deal with our refuse, and their existence makes our lives so much cleaner and easier. Under the umbrella category of sanitation jobs, there are also ~405,000 waste management and remediation service workers in the United States, who make an average salary of $48,967/year. Now, take a look at these 8 weird jobs that actually existed. 

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest