The Best Part Time Jobs for Teens

Teenage girl working as a barista in a cafe

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Although an after-school job seems like a time-honored tradition, the number of teens who work has actually fallen in recent years. This decline may be due to the difficulty many teens have finding work. Other teens may be opting out of working because their schedules are already overflowing with after-school activities and long hours studying.

While there are some potential perks to working while in high school, research shows there are some drawbacks as well. For instance, teens who work longer hours may have lower grades and are at greater risk for problem behaviors such as drinking and smoking.

Clearly, an after-school job isn't going to work for all teens. If you're thinking of letting your teen enter the workforce, you should consider the potential risks as well as the benefits.

Good Part-Time Jobs for Teens

Consider what your teen's goals are. Do they want to gain experience for or try out a future career path, do something they enjoy, or simply make money for future college expenses?

With their goal or goals in mind, your teen can look for part-time employment that will help them reach those goals. You also should consider your specific state's labor laws. This will help you determine age limits as well as the number of hours your teen can expect to work per week.

It's also important to consider the requirements or experience needed for the position as well as the location and schedule. Aside from typical part-time jobs like working as a barista, delivering pizzas, serving in a restaurant, or working for a fast-food chain, here are some other part-time job ideas for teens.

  • Babysitter: Many teens like to make extra money babysitting. In most cases, they can control when they work and parents often pay well, especially if your teen has a first-aid and CPR certification. Additionally, this type of part-time job helps teens who plan to go into education learn how to work with children, especially if they are helping with homework and planning activities.
  • Catering staff: Teens with an interest in the culinary arts may want to look into working for a catering company. Although they will likely help with set up, serving, and clean-up and not much cooking, they will get a feel for what the industry is like.
  • Dietary aide: Some nursing homes will hire teens to work in their kitchens serving food or washing dishes, while other facilities will have teens do minor housekeeping duties. If your teen is interested in becoming a nurse or a doctor, positions in these facilities can be great learning experiences.
  • Grocery store stocker or cashier: Grocery stores very often hire teens to stock shelves as well as check out or carry out groceries. Some stores even hire teens as young as 14 years old.
  • Lawn care or landscaping assistant: Cutting lawns is a time-honored teen job. If your teen doesn't want to try to drum up business in your neighborhood, they also can look into working for lawn care and landscaping companies where they will do everything from weed and put down mulch to cut grass and trim.
  • Lifeguard: Many teens enjoy working as a lifeguard at their local pool or beach. Although they must go through a special training program to be certified, many teens find this position rewarding, especially if they enjoy being outdoors (of course, indoor pools also hire lifeguards, if your teen is looking for work beyond the outdoor swimming season).
  • Receptionist or customer service representative: Teens looking for consistent employment in an office setting may want to search for receptionist or customer service representative positions. Rates vary depending on the employer, but most teens can expect to make at least minimum wage.
  • Referee: For kids who love sports, they may want to look into becoming a referee. For instance, in Ohio the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows teens to become licensed referees. They can officiate for recreational sports leagues as well as at middle school contests and can expect to be paid about $11 to $25 per hour.
  • Retail sales associate: Many kids enjoy working in retail, especially if they have an interest in marketing, retail planning, or fashion design. Although they may start out at minimum wage, they often get an employee discount, which can add up if they tend to shop in the store a lot.
  • Tutor: If your teen is particularly gifted in math or science and taking advanced courses, they may want to start a tutoring business. Parents of younger children, and even some high school parents, like to hire students to tutor their children because it's not as expensive as hiring a teacher or a professional tutor. As with lawn care, if your child doesn't want to be their own boss, they can apply to work at a tutoring center.
  • Veterinary assistant: For teens who love animals, they may want to check with local veterinarians to see if they hire teens. Often, these doctors will hire teens to clean kennels or walk dogs. They may also ask teens to assist them by calming pets while they evaluate them.

Statistics on Teen Employment

Each year, teen and young adult employment increases between April and July as teens and recent graduates begin looking for employment. However, the number of 16- to 24-year-olds employed in July 2020 was down 56.2% compared to July 2019, reflecting heightened unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were fewer teens employed in July 2020 (peak teen working season) than in February 2020 before the pandemic officially began to take its toll in the United States. Employment rates were lower across the board for different races, with Whites experiencing 49.5% lower rates, Hispanics at 42.6%, Blacks at 39.2%, and Asians at 32.0%.

As the economy improved in 2021, however, more teens were able to find jobs. One study found that 32.4%, or 5.3 million, 16- to 19-year-olds were employed in May 2021. This number reflected an encouraging drop in the unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds. Whereas 30.7% teens in this age range were out of work in May 2020, only 9.5% were unemployed in May 2021.

It seems likely that the downward trend of teen summer employment will continue, though: while the nation had more teens of working age in May 2021 (16.4 million) than in May 2020 (15.9 million), fewer of them held a job. Researchers suggest that fewer entry-level jobs, more teens doing volunteer service, and more summer classes are among the possible reasons for this trend.

In July 2020, 24% of employed teens worked in the leisure and hospitality industry, which also includes food services. However, employment in this industry was down 21% or 1.1 million when compared to July 2019. Teens also were employed in the retail industry (20%) and in educational and health services (11%).

Pros and Cons of Part-Time Jobs for Teens

When determining whether or not a part-time job is right for your teen, it can help to weigh the pros and cons before making a final decision. You also should consider your teen's temperament as well as their existing time commitments.

Pros
  • Learn to manage money

  • Gain experience

  • Have less time for risk-taking

  • Build life skills

  • Acquire work skills

Cons
  • Have less time for studying

  • View workplace negatively

  • Interfere with activities

  • Might create stress

  • May lead to substance abuse

Pros of Part-Time Jobs

An after-school job can be good for young people. Here are some of the biggest benefits your teen might gain:

  • Financial skills: With support from you, a paycheck can be an opportunity for your teen to learn how to effectively manage finances. Teach your teen to establish a budget so they can practice saving for big-ticket items. 
  • Insight into a future job: A good job can give your teen valuable insight into what they may want to do after high school. They may discover they enjoy working with people or they might decide that they want to own a business. If nothing else, a part-time job gives your teen valuable work experience that they can list on future job applications.
  • Less time to get into trouble: If your teen heads straight from school to a job, it shortens the amount of free time they have to engage in risky behaviors. They'll be less likely to be bored when a job keeps them busy.
  • Life skills: A job could instill confidence and independence in your teen. If they work with customers, it can teach them how to handle difficult situations and improve their communication skills. 
  • Work skills: An after-school job will help your teenager gain work skills—such as how to complete a job application, how to do well in an interview, and how to work for a supervisor.

Cons of Part-Time Jobs

There are definitely some risks teens face when becoming employed. Weigh these drawbacks against the benefits and your teen's particular needs and other risk factors.

  • Less time to study: Research shows that students who work more than 20 hours a week have lower grade point averages than students who work 10 hours or less a week. Your teen may have to stay up late to finish their homework or they might put less effort into school when they're employed. 
  • Negative impression of work: Working for a disorganized employer or an untrained supervisor could give your teen a negative impression of employment. Unfortunately, studies show teens may become victims of sexual harassment when they become employed. 
  • Missed opportunities: Being obligated to work a shift could take away from the high school experience. It could be difficult for your teen to participate in a sports team, drama production, or volunteer opportunity if they have a part-time job.
  • More stress: Working too many hours could cause your teen to become stressed out. The purpose of a job is to give your child a little more freedom by earning their own money. If they never have time to spend that money having fun, what’s the point?
  • Increased risk of substance abuse: Studies show kids who work are actually at increased risk of drinking alcohol or using drugs. The extra spending money and the added responsibilities may lead some teens to make poorer choices.

Signs a Teen Is Ready for a Job

Aside from having the time and the drive to find part-time employment, there are some additional characteristics that may indicate that your teen is ready for a job.

  • Good time management skills: If your teen consistently arrives to school or after-school activities on time, budgets their time effectively, and consistently stays on top of school assignments, then they may be able to handle the added commitment of a part-time job.
  • Strong communication skills: Entering the workforce requires the ability to be assertive when necessary. If your teen is confident in communicating with others, they may be ready for part-time employment.
  • Sense of commitment and good follow through: Holding down a job requires that your teen be responsible and committed. If they struggle to follow through on projects or honor their commitments, they may not be ready for part-time employment.
  • Willingness to be a team player: Having a job requires that your teen know how to get along with other people and complete tasks that they may not want to do at times. If your teen is able to work alongside others with minimal conflict or complaint, they may be ready for a part-time job.

A Word From Verywell

Deciding whether to let your teen get a job isn't a decision you should make lightly. Having a job while in high school is not right for every teen. You will need to determine if your child has the time, the maturity, and the responsibility to juggle a job along with their other commitments.

If you're on the fence, encourage your teen to start with a summer job. Summer employment won’t interfere with school and it can keep your teen busy during the summer months. If a summer job goes well, your teen may be ready to work during the school year. 

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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