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Teen Jobs

Get details on teen jobs, from common teen jobs to labor laws for teens.

A job may help a teen feel autonomous. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
A job may help a teen feel autonomous.

Teen jobs can help teenagers advance their future careers, determine what their true interests and learn the value of an honest dollar earned. While the benefits of working are numerous, it can be hard for teens to get started alone, so parents should be prepared to help their children land a job and develop effective time management skills.

Benefits of Teen Jobs

Although teens may not realize it, the work experience they gain during their teenage years can be instrumental in landing them good jobs as adults. Many employers look for steady work experience and low turn-over, meaning that teens who can get a job and keep it may have a better chance of getting hired than those who change jobs frequently. Changing jobs often may signal bad relationships with supervisors or issues with poor customer service.

Since teens tend to be unsure of what interests them vocationally, they tend to hold a few different types of jobs before settling into the right one. This process is completely normal and may help teens become better-rounded, both personally and professionally. A wide range of skills may entice employers to hire them, since diverse experience often decreases the amount of training they need to perform well on the job. Furthermore, holding different types of jobs may help teens narrow down their academic interests and choose a satisfying college major or minor.

Common Teen Jobs

Although there are limits as to what types of jobs teens can perform, there are still plenty of options available. Teens may choose to work for a few reasons, and this will affect which type of jobs they seek. For example, a teen who wants a career in business or management may wish to gain experience as a cashier at a supermarket or retail store. On the other hand, some teens may work solely to earn spending money or supplement their allowances. For these teens, finding a job they enjoy or that gives them relevant work experience is less important than finding one that pays well or that fits with their schedules.

Some common teen jobs include:

  • Cashiers, greeters or waiters at full-service or fast-food restaurants
  • Receptionists at salons or professional offices
  • Cashiers or baggers at supermarkets
  • Staff at local non-profit organizations, like Boys and Girls Clubs
  • Sales associates at retail stores
  • Camp counselors at summer camps

Teen jobs may be attained through career exploration programs which are often available through high school career centers.

Labor Laws for Young Teens

There are various laws in effect designed to protect teenagers from hazards in the workplace. These laws also strive to ensure that school remains a priority, without interference from a part- or full-time job.

Teens who are 14 or 15 years old have the most stringent laws protecting them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prohibits teens of these ages from working in manufacturing jobs, mining jobs or other jobs deemed hazardous. "Hazardous" jobs may include occupations dealing with power-driven machinery, office machines, construction, warehousing and loading/unloading transportation vehicles. Activities like driving forklifts or operating electric meat slicers are also disallowed .

Fourteen- and 15-year-olds are also limited to working during non-school hours (unless enrolled in a career exploration program). They also are restricted to working no more than the following amounts of time:

  • Three hours per day on schools days
  • 18 hours per week during school weeks
  • Eight hours per day on non-school days
  • 40 hours per week during non-school weeks

Teens of these ages are prohibited from working before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., with the exception of the summer months (June 1 to Labor Day), in which case they may not work past 9:00 p.m. These hours are subject to change, so parents should stay up-to-date with changes in the law.

Labor Laws for Older Teens

Teens aged 16 or 17 do not have restrictions on hours or how often they can work, but they are still prevented from working hazardous jobs . Once a teen reaches the age of 18, there are no restrictions.

Because each state may have different child labor laws, parents should check with their state's labor agency to find out what jobs their children are eligible to hold. The Web sites of the state bureaus of labor are listed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Safety and Teen Jobs

Even if a position is not on the list of "hazardous" jobs, parents and teens should be aware that even the most mundane jobs can carry the risk of injury. For example, common dangers in retail stores include merchandise that may fall from high shelves or unsteady displays. Jobs located in areas with high rates of crime can also expose teen workers to burglary, assault, rape and theft. According to the Nemours Foundation, even repetitive stress injuries (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome) can occur. Parents should look out for signs that their teens may have been injured on the job and encourage their kids to report these injuries to the appropriate authority. In some cases, the child may need to file an incident report in order to claim a disability benefit like worker's compensation.

Despite these dangers, teen jobs provide a wealth of experience for kids as well as enhance social skills. Many teens enjoy a sense of pride when earning their own money, which can strengthen their work ethics and make them more generous, caring people. For the best results, parents should work with their teens to encourage maturity, responsibility and accountability.

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