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The Pros and Cons of Teenage Jobs

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

Preparing for Adult Life

Most parents and primary caregivers agree that one of the primary goals of raising a child is preparing him or her for life out in the real world. Every family has its own set of values: some value empathy, some value respect, and some value strength. Regardless of what the family’s moral and ethical code is, after these fundamental building blocks, almost all parents and primary caregivers strive to instill some sort of work ethic into their children.After all, just about everyone on earth has to work for a living, and no one wants this to come as a total surprise to their children. 

So, the question is: how do you teach your children about work and instill a solid work ethic? There are many answers to this question and there are many paths to personal responsibility. Once kids are old enough, one way to teach them about what working is like is to let them really do it: allow them to get out there and get a job. There are pros and cons of teenage jobs, but many teens thrive as young employees. 

Teenage Jobs

Work Permits and Restrictions for Teens

Specific laws vary from state to state, but most places in the U.S. allow young people to start working for wages (i.e., filling out tax paperwork and reporting income) during the early teenage years. The United States Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes the minimum age for employment at age 14 and limits the number of hours and type of work for young people under age 16.

Teenagers face restrictions on working hours during the school year: usually no more than 3 hours on a school day and 18 hours per week. On weekends and during school breaks, they can work up to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. Jobs involving hazardous tasks or working with heavy machinery are usually off-limits. Teens aged 16 and 17 generally face fewer restrictions but still require work permits in some states. The reason behind these regulations is to ensure a safe and legal work environment that benefits both employers and teen employees. 

The Pros and Cons of Teenage Jobs

The Pros and Cons of Allowing a Teenager to Work

Every teenager is different and will respond to new and unique life experiences in their own way. When considering whether or not to allow your teenager to get a job, the main thing to think about is whether or not the job will negatively affect academic performance. If the answer is no and you feel your child can handle it, the next step is to talk it over, check the laws of your state, and let your teenager go see what’s out there.

The following list of the pros and cons of teenage jobs is meant to help both parents and teenagers start thinking seriously about the reality of teenage jobs:

Pros

Cons

  • Jobs can add stress to a child’s life.
  • Jobs can expose kids to people and situations they might not be ready for.
  • A teen working a job might feel like childhood is ending too soon.
  • Teens who work too much—more than 15 hours a week—get lower grades than kids who don’t work at all.
  • Teenagers who work have money that could possibly be spent on things that aren’t good for them, such as alcohol or tobacco.

Benefits of Having a Job as a Teenager

Research shows that, in general, working a job has positive developmental effects on the life of a teenager. There’s a catch, however: too much work is not good, and too little work doesn’t show positive results. Moderate, steady work proves the most beneficial route for teens who do work. That said, it’s extremely important for parents to be involved in the process: they need to visit the place of employment to make sure it has a good feel, and they need to monitor the number of hours worked to make sure their teenager is not working too many nights or weekends. In addition, parents need to be certain that their teenager is not doing hazardous work. The best guidelines for teenage work hours and teenage workplace safety can be found at the websites of the United States Department of Labor and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Best Part-Time Jobs for Teenagers

Best Part-Time Jobs for Teenagers

There are plenty of reasons why teens should work. Taking on a part-time job as a teenager builds independence and teaches responsibility. Some of the benefits of having a job as a teenager include helping teens avoid depression and teaching work ethic and valuable life skills. Working in high school helps teenagers get a head start by building a resume from an early age. A job can be an opportunity for unhappy teens to find a sense of belonging as part of a team and helps all teenagers learn about the value of money and how much — or little —  a paycheck can cover. 

However, finding the right job can be crucial in helping a teen succeed at a part-time job. A teen should consider their natural strengths, as well as how far outside their comfort zone they’re willing to stretch. Dealing with customers can help a shy teen gain confidence, but it can also be a draining experience for one who’s naturally more introverted. Teens looking for a first job should consider aspects like the level of physical labor, interactions with customers, the size of the company, and the types of employees they see working at a potential workplace.

What Are the Best Places for Teenagers to Work?

There’s no shortage of summer jobs for teens. Increased business in the summertime means that many businesses are in desperate need of extra help. Some of the best seasonal part-time jobs for teenagers include: 

  • Coffee shops
  • Ice cream parlors
  • Movie theaters
  • Pools
  • Amusement parks
  • Jump parks
  • Landscaping companies
  • Babysitting
  • Pet sitting

Many places like these want to hire teenagers to handle additional summer business. They’re often flexible with a teen’s schedule, and teenagers often enjoy working with peers of the same age. 

Many businesses also hire part-time workers year-round. When a teen is looking for a part-time job they hope to keep for the full school year, some of the best places for teenagers to work include stores, restaurants, warehouses, and hotels. 

How to Balance Work and School as a Teenager

How to Balance Work and School as a Teenager

Balancing work and school is the central consideration when it comes to the question: Should teenagers have jobs? Every teen is different; some achieve academic goals with apparent ease, while others have a harder time making good grades. Some teens have few commitments outside of class, while others have a heavy load of extracurriculars on top of their regular school hours. 

Successfully balancing work and school requires considering a teen’s needs and how much time they have to allocate to a job — without studies, homework, and downtime taking a hit. A teen can calculate the time they spend on homework and extracurriculars, identifying how much extra time they have in a given week to spare for work. They can use that target number to find a job with a manageable number of hours. 

Parents sometimes ask: At what age should a teenager get a job? As with other considerations, it depends on a teen’s maturity level, grades, and other responsibilities. If a teen wants to earn their own money and they’re doing well in school, they’re probably ready to take on a job at whatever age is legal in their state. 

What Are the Highest-Paying Teen Jobs?

Many teen jobs pay minimum wage, especially if a teen has no work experience. However, sometimes teens can find higher-paying positions, even if it’s their first job. Many employers in the food industry, like restaurants, coffee shops, and food trucks, allow teens to accept tips on top of their hourly wage, and tipped positions can pay handsomely. 

Jobs that provide a personalized service, like babysitting, pet-sitting, or house cleaning, can also pay significantly over minimum wage. The same is true of positions that require manual labor, like warehouse positions. Finally, a paid internship is another teen job option that can pay generously. 

Final Thoughts

Some parents are hesitant to let teens take on real-world responsibilities too quickly. But when it comes to the question of “What is the value of work for teenagers?” it’s clear that allowing a teen to take on the responsibility of a part-time job can bring lifelong benefits. Parents can support teens by guiding them to find a job that fits their personality and schedule. Teens who work learn valuable skills — including recognizing when they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Allowing a teenager to work while still in high school allows parents to help guide a teen to make smart adult choices before they’re out in the world on their own. 

Finally, when teenagers work it’s vital for everyone involved to remember that adolescence is about many things, and learning about work, developing a work ethic, and growing into adulthood are parts of a bigger picture. With that in mind, it’s best for a teenager to find a healthy balance between work, extracurricular activities, and school.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Pros and Cons of Teenage Jobs

What are some suitable jobs for teenagers?

Teenagers can find employment in various industries, including retail, food service, babysitting, tutoring, pet sitting, lawn care, and lifeguarding, among others. These industries are often more accessible to teens and can give them a great foundation for their adult working life. 

How old do you have to be to get a job as a teenager?

The minimum age to work varies depending on the national, state, and local labor laws. In many places, teenagers can start working part-time jobs around the age of 14 or 15, but some restrictions may apply to the types of work and hours they can work.

How do I find a job as a teenager?

Teens can search for job opportunities through online job boards, local newspapers, community bulletin boards, social media, and networking with friends and family. They can also inquire directly at businesses in their area and submit job applications.

What should teenagers include on their resume when applying for jobs?

Teenagers should include relevant information such as their education, any volunteer work or extracurricular activities, skills or certifications (e.g., CPR certification for lifeguarding), and any previous work experience, even if it’s unpaid or informal.

How can teenagers balance work and school responsibilities? 

Time management is key to balancing work and school responsibilities. Teenagers should prioritize their schoolwork and extracurricular activities while scheduling work hours around their school schedule. It’s important to communicate with employers about availability and any scheduling conflicts in advance.

What is the value of work for teenagers?

Getting a job as a teenager is often a valuable experience, particularly if a teen is working less than 15 hours per week. Working can help teens prepare for adulthood, develop a sense of responsibility, and learn to manage their money.

Can teenagers work during school hours?

In most cases, teenagers are not allowed to work during school hours due to labor laws and educational requirements. However, they may be able to work part-time hours after school, on weekends, or during school holidays, depending on local regulations.

What rights do teenagers have in the workplace?

Teenagers have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, fair pay, breaks and rest periods as required by law, and protection from discrimination or harassment. It’s essential for teenagers to know their rights and responsibilities as employees.

How can teenagers prepare for job interviews?

Teenagers can prepare for job interviews by researching the company, practicing common interview questions, dressing appropriately, and showcasing their skills and experiences confidently. They should also bring a copy of their resume and any required documents, such as work permits or identification.

Are there any restrictions on the types of jobs teenagers can do?

Yes, there are restrictions on the types of jobs teenagers can do, particularly in hazardous or dangerous industries such as mining, manufacturing, construction, and handling certain chemicals or equipment. Additionally, there may be limitations on the hours teenagers can work and the types of equipment they can operate, depending on their age and local regulations.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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