High school students and even middle school students are often eager to take their first steps toward adulthood by working part-time. If you are a teen who wants to work, understanding the youth employment situation can give you a better picture of what to expect. Knowledge of U.S. labor laws can help you figure out which types of jobs and work shifts you can apply for. Keep reading to find out about these topics and learn practical strategies for working while in school.
The job market is tough for teenagers right now.
Well, the job market is tough for everyone right now, but especially so for teenagers. Jobs for high school students and minors are especially hard to come by. As of August, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 24.5%. That’s the highest of any demographic group.
Basically, it means that about 1 out 4 teenagers who has been actively looking for a job has been unable to find one. So, expect to apply to a lot of jobs before getting your foot in the door!
U.S. labor laws restrict jobs for high school students and teens according to age.
The law limits the types of jobs high school students and middle school students can hold. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Youth Rules website provides examples of jobs teenagers from different age brackets can hold.
Jobs for Middle school students: 13 or younger
As a middle school student, you can’t do most types of work until you turn 14, but you can still start earning money. While walking dogs and mowing lawns might not sound exciting, this type of work will prepare you for bigger jobs later.
Examples of age-appropriate jobs from the Department of Labor:
- Delivering newspapers
- Acting/performing (movies, TV, theater, radio)
- Working for your family-owned business (owned or operated by your parents)
- Helping on a farm (you must have a parent’s permission)
Jobs for high school students or middle school students: at least 14
Now that you are finishing up middle school or starting high school, you can do many more types of work. However, you still can’t do any type of work considered hazardous by the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Still, there are plenty of opportunities.
Examples of age-appropriate jobs from the Department of Labor:
- Office work
- Grocery or retail help
- Restaurant service
- Movie theater employment
- Baseball park positions
- Amusement park positions
- Gas station help
Jobs for high school students: 16 and up
Jobs for high school students open up a lot once you turn 16. You can now hold any job that isn’t considered hazardous. Rather than listing the many types of jobs you can hold, it’s easier to list the jobs you still can’t hold. Keep in mind that the Department of Labor makes some exceptions for apprenticeship opportunities in these hazardous jobs.
Examples of prohibited, hazardous jobs from the Department of Labor:
- Making or storing explosives
- Driving a vehicle or helping a driver
- Forestry services (fire fighting, fire prevention, timber management)
- Logging, sawmilling
- Operating power-driven machines (there are exceptions)
- Meat processing
- Making tile, brick and similar products
- Demolishing and shipbreaking
U.S. labor laws also restrict the kinds of hours teens can work according to age.
Just as the Department of Labor sets the standards for acceptable jobs for high school students and minors in general, they also specify the hours in which teenage employees can work. The following guidelines come from the Department of Labor’s Youth Rules website.
Working hours for middle school students: 13 or younger
Since the jobs that students your age are allowed to hold are positions that regular child labor laws don’t apply to anyway, there are few specific limits on working hours. These are usually part-time jobs, however, and you need a parent’s permission to hold them.
Working hours for teens: 14 to 15
At 14 or 15, you can now hold many potentially full-time jobs, so the Department of Labor gets more specific about the hours you can work.
Outside of normal school hours, you can work after 7 a.m. and until 7 p.m. During the summer, from June 1 to Labor Day, you can work until 9 p.m.
You are not allowed to work more than:
- 3 hours during a school day
- 18 hours during a school week
- 8 hours during a non-school day
- 40 hours during a non-school week
You can’t work during school hours, unless you take part in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program. Then, in addition to being able to work during school hours, you can also work up to 23 hours per week during a school week.
Working hours for high school students: 16 and up
Jobs for high school students 16 and up can involve any hours. You can now work during normal school hours, too.
Finally, if you want to work in high school or middle school, follow 5 pieces of common-sense advice:
1. Keep school your top priority.
Jobs, for high school students and students in general, should always take a back seat to school responsibilities. If your grades start slipping, you come back from work without enough time to study for tests, or you need to rush through your homework, it’s time to cut your hours or find a different job.
2. Start small.
Don’t sign up for lots of hours right away. Start slowly and figure out what you’re comfortable with first. It’s better than possibly disappointing your new boss or coworkers later.
3. Tackle the transportation issue early.
As a teenager, there’s a good chance you don’t have your own car yet. So, you will need to figure out a way to get to work on time. If your city’s public transportation system is decent, look up bus schedules online and plan a route to get to work. You don’t want to take the last bus that can get you there on time—you want to take the one before that. It’s better to be half an hour early than 5 minutes late.
Otherwise, you’ll either have to take your bike, walk, or find a reliable carpool. Try using Google Map’s walking directions or bicycling directions to see how safe and how far the trip is. Joining a carpool with your coworkers can be a good option, but only if they’re dependable.
4. Stay organized.
Make sure you choose classes as early in the semester or year as possible and pick up your work schedule as early in the week as you can. Let your boss know about changes in your availability, such as final exams week, ahead of time. You may want to keep a planner, wall calendar, or to-do list app with your assignment due dates and work hours regularly updated.
5. Budget your study time.
Bring a few assignments, school books, or e-books with you to work. If your boss allows you to do homework or read during downtime, this can be a great opportunity to get caught up. You can also do an assignment while on the bus or listen to an e-book on your headphones while walking or riding your bike to work.
The bottom line on jobs for high school students…
Working can be a great experience for teens. However, tracking down jobs for high school students is hard in this economy, where even experienced workers are unemployed or facing lay-offs. You can improve your chances of being hired by knowing which positions the Department of Labor allows you to hold at your age and which shifts you can work. Once you are hired, following simple guidelines can help you get the most out of your new job and show the world how responsible young people can be.