Guest Posts

At What Age Should Your Teen Get a Job?

At What Age Should Your Teen Get a Job?

What are your teenagers doing this summer? Are they working or are they sleeping till noon and hanging out with friends? Up until I was 14 my summers were pretty quiet around our house. But one of my girl friends wasn’t so lucky. Both her parents and my parents were gone all day, everyday, so we were pretty much on our own. To make sure she stayed out of trouble, my friend’s mom would leave a huge list of chores for her to do everyday. And if we wanted to hang out, it meant both of us spending the day at her house doing those chores. We would try to rush through them each morning so that we could at least spend the afternoon out in the sun.

But once I turned 14 those summer days of doing whatever, were over. It was time to find a part-time job. And I am so glad I did. I worked part-time as a cashier all through high school and college and I loved it. In fact I earned enough to pay for my college tuition and my books. No student loans required.

Why Should a Teen Get a Job?

There are so many reasons why a teen should get a job as soon as they are legally able to. It teaches them how to stand on their own two feet and how to work at becoming independent. And not encouraging them to do this is only setting them up for potential failure. Getting a job while they are young prepares them for the future. Work experience will look good on their college applications, as well as future job applications.

Responsibility

Working one or more part-time jobs is a great way for your teen to learn that there is more to life then what happens at home or at school. When they have a job they have to be at work at a certain time and they are expected to complete their job duties well. They will learn that if they do not show up for work because they don’t feel like it they will not get paid, and may in fact get fired. Depending on the type of job they do, such as being a cashier, they may even deal with money. Dealing with money and making sure your cash is not short at the end of the day is a huge responsibility, at any age.

Manage Their Finances

Once your teen starts working they will begin receiving pay checks. They will need to open their own bank account and they will need to learn how to manage that money well. As a parent you could consider making them a deal that they need to save a certain amount, say 75% of what they earn, and they can spend the rest on something they want. This would be another perfect time to talk about their goals and what they want to spend their money on now and in the future.

Develop People Skills

Getting a job allows your teen to expand their people skills. Sure they had to deal with teachers and fellow students at school, but working is different. They will most likely have a manager to report to, and customers to keep happy. Not only will they have to work at their job but they will also have to work on managing their relationships with all of the new people that they are now working with.

Develop Communication Skills

Whenever you read a job posting one of the first requirements you typically see is “excellent communication skills”. Going to work each summer will help your teen develop their communication skills. Sitting at home, will not.

When your teen is working they will need to learn how to do new things and most likely they will get to a point where they are asked to train newer employees how to do certain things. At that point their communications skills will be more important than ever. They also need to learn how to communicate well with their manager, and to always make sure that their manager knows if they need a day off or if they are unable to work due to an illness.

Develop Survival Skills

When a person starts working as a teenager they have the opportunity to develop survival skills that they will come in very handy when they graduate from high school and either get a full-time job or go away to college. In essence, it helps them grow up. Now you might be thinking, that the above skills are all pretty basic things that anyone can do. They are only basic skills to you now because once upon a time you were taught those skills. Never assume that your teens have developed any of the above skills until you see them practice those skills.

Employment Options?

There are so many different jobs your teens can do. Some examples are:

Babysitting
They can sign up for a babysitting course and get their certification to babysit

Lifeguard
Again they can become certified to work as a lifeguard at a local community pool or at the beach.

Dog Walker
Does your teen like pets? Many people work all day and need a person that can take their dog out for a walk each afternoon.

Lawn Mowing
This is a great way for a teenager to make money, especially once they have their driver’s license and they can travel from one house to another.

Cashier
Pretty straightforward work, especially when you consider that most items are simply scanned in at the register.

Fast Food
I am probably the only person I know from my group of high school friends that didn’t work in the fast food industry. One of the things I like about this industry is that quite often teens are promoted to assistant managers, which teaches them a whole new set of responsibilities.

Your Turn

How do you feel about this? Do you think teens should get a job or should they wait until they are finished high school? Please share in the comments below.

Editor’s Note:
Sicorra and I met on Twitter, and she has been instrumental in the growth of The Heavy Purse. She was the first person I wanted to guest post here as our friendship has been the catalyst for so many good things.

About Sicorra
SicorraConnect with me on Twitter: @TacklingOurDebt and please visit me on my blog, Tackling Our Debt where I write about ways to pay off debt and live a frugal lifestyle, as well as ways to make more money. Please understand that anything I write about is based on personal experience and is not meant to be taken as professional advice. If you require specific advice, please contact a professional in that field.
July 15, 2013  •  47 Comments  •  Guest Posts

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Comments

  1. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I completely agree with all of the reasons listed above. To me, what's most important is that they are doing something constructive with their time. I doubt that I would require my child to get a job if they had other interests that they were pursuing, such as sports, music, drama, etc. It's certainly not necessarily an either-or proposition, but I would be concerned about over-taxing them. I also think that the summer is a great chance to get away to camp, which can really be a life-changing positive experience (see the following article, written by a former co-counselor at my summer camp: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/06/in-praise-of-summer-camp/257336/).
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      That is a very good point Matt. Teens that participate in those other activities will learn many of these skills too, which will help them in the future.
  2. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    Getting a job in my teens was not only a great way to make extra money on the side, but I made a hell of a lot of really good friends who I am still friends with now.
    I think it is important for kids to go out and earn their own money when they are able to so that they can see exactly what they are in for when they become adults.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      Yes, earning their own money opens other doors for them down the road. Now they have money and they can decide how they will spend it which will definitely help to teach them the value of a dollar.
  3. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I have had a job since I was 15....I learned a lot from those early ones! I mostly learned that I didn't want to work in fast food into adulthood. I'm glad that I had those jobs but I wish I wouldn't have worked so much in high school and that I would've focused more on my friends and school.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      Good point. Working as a teen allows a person to test out different job options so that when the time comes for them to look for long term work they already have an idea of what they do and do not enjoy. Similar to you, I knew, after working as a cashier for many years part time, that it was not something I would do for the rest of my life.
  4. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I think teenagers should try to make some sort of money at 14 or 15, even if it's a small amount from mowing grandma or grandpa's lawn once a week. I think that once they hit 16 they should definitely get a part-time job. I started at 16 and I definitely am really happy that I did! I learned a lot about life, jobs, money, and made some lifelong friends (not that you should expect to make lifelong friends, but it's definitely possible).
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      I think it is great that you started working at 16 and made lifelong friends while working. Glen mentioned that above as well.

      A huge part of working as a teen is developing new relationships and the fact that you stayed friends with those people shows that you have great skills in that area.
  5. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    For me, the answer would be as soon as you feel comfortable that they'll be safe getting there and back. Kids pick up so much in terms of responsibility and understanding of how the world works when they have a job
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      Safety is a big concern for sure especially if they are walking or using public transit. Every location is different, of course, but as a parent that is something that definitely should be taken into consideration.
  6. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    Great options Sicorra and think any of them would be great reasons to start working as a teenager. My first official job was right after I turned 14, though I had been doing odd jobs for several years before that. Once we can legally (which I believe is 7 years old) I think we may even "hire" our daughter to do things for our business.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      Wow...I didn't know that kids could start working legally at 7. But I have seen some pretty bright kids do very well working at that age, especially if it is with something they enjoy.

      Good for your for working as a teen as well. I really think it sets the stage for years to come.
  7. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    There are many positives of teenagers having jobs. I definitely do not regret the ones I had!
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      Good to hear Michelle!
  8. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth
    Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I'm a big proponent of all kids having a job during high school. It just teaches them good work ethics and gives them some money for college. I think a good age to have a set part-time job should be around 16. I wouldn't mind having my kids start babysitting or something similar at age 13, but I wouldn't really want it to be for 15 hours a week or something like that. A kid needs to have time to be a kid and I don't want to force them to grow up too fast.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      13 is a great age to start babysitting. Many of my friends did that.

      And working part time at 16 is definitely beneficial. I know many kids that worked as teens and are doing well now that they are in their 20s. I also know kids that didn't work, and now at 19, they do not have a clue about what they want to do with their life and they are happy to just kill time at home. Unfortunately my niece is one of those kids that, at 19, has never worked.
  9. Greg@Thriftgenuity
    Monday, July 15th, 2013
    Without a doubt, yes they should. I think that by 16 for sure, and possibly things like babysitting or cutting grass before then. All the benefits you mention are true. I would add that if they also have responsibility for at least some amount of their college tuition, they will know how hard they worked at these jobs and know that they need to do well in school so they don't squander the hard earned tuition money.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      That is such a very important point Greg! When a teen is responsible to pay some or all of their college tuition I believe that they tend to do better in school then those who's parents paid it in full. I witnessed that first hand when I was in college.
  10. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I will definitely encourage my children to get jobs as soon as humanly possible!
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      Sounds like a good plan Nick!
  11. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I worked throughout high school at a sandwich shop and baby-sitting - I agree it gives people a strong sense of responsibility and work ethic to start early. Plus, I took care of the things I bought since I know how many hours I put into buying that pair of jeans or dress!
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      A sandwich shop is a great place for a teen to work. And I know what you mean about taking better care of things when you know how hard you worked and how long it took for you to save up for those things.
  12. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I see nothing wrong with a teen having a job in high school. My first one came at 16 working in the concession stand of our community swimming pool. I learned many of the lessons you mentioned. Maybe most importantly I learned how to respect and deal with other adults who were not my parents.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      What an awesome point Brian! Learning how to deal with adults outside of the home is so important, and teens need to learn how to develop those relationships too.
  13. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    I started working at 15 and that was as early as I could get a work permit, unless I worked on a farm. I think it was instrumental in how I was brought up and what I learned. Many of my friends that never had jobs in high school are either dead, in jail, drug addicts, or just never amounted to anything. While it sounds harsh, it is true. Learning work ethic early is such a good thing.
    • Monday, July 15th, 2013
      I completely agree Grayson! Many times it is true, which is so unfortunate. I wonder if not working leads teens to believe that since they got away without working while they were young they can continue on without a job even as they get older. Now if they have a trust fund waiting for them then they probably won't have to work. But how many have that?
  14. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    Hey you guys! Thanks for asking me to guest post. I really appreciate it :-)
  15. Monday, July 15th, 2013
    Thank you for your guest post, Sicorra. It was fantastic! Both Shannon and I are incredibly grateful for your friendship and support.
  16. Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
    Wonderful post, Sicorra! I think a job for teens is so important! It teaches them so much about responsibility, and about what they're capable of too. When I started working at 15, it changed my life, because it gave me a new sense of confidence, and a new sense of maturity.
    • Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
      Those are awesome points Laurie! It definitely does help teens grow up and building their self confidence is incredibly important.
  17. Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
    I don't have kids but I do think teenagers should work! It's best not to overload them though if they have school and other activities that are important to their future and development though. It does seems kids are more stressed out these days. But I can't be sure...
    • Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
      Priorities need to be set for sure, and I agree that school work should always come first.
  18. Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
    Nice post Sicorra! Having a p/t job really is important. I originally started at 15 at the local pizzeria. I know I learned quite a bit from all my early jobs. And looking back to some of my friends who didn't start till years later are still having trouble understanding money and responsibility. Ha! Having a p/t job also helps to build confidence.
    • Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
      Hey Anthony! Thanks very much! And a pizzeria? Sounds like a wonderful place to work. I would have loved that.
  19. Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
    That's awesome you were able to pay for your college with money from that job!! My mom left me big chore lists too!
    • Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
      Thanks Cat! It was definitely nice to be able to pay my own way.
  20. Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
    I think its never to early to get your kids to start working and learning the value of money. My daughter who is 10 helps me online already...its great to teach the value of work for money and also passive income.

    Alex
    • Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
      Alex, that is excellent for your daughter. Especially since she is growing up in the age of the Internet and chances are good she will do some sort of work via that Internet throughout her life.
  21. Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
    Another thing: it teaches some teens to work a lot harder in college because they quickly realize that entry level jobs that don't require a degree are NOT FUN. It might even spur some youngsters to think of a business on their own and become entrepreneurs!
    • Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
      Very good point Vanessa! The teens that have a taste of what it is like to work in the real world do have a better understanding of what they need to do to get a better job. When I was in college I remember there was one guy that was about 5 years older then the rest of us. He had already worked for about 6 years full-time and he took his college courses a lot more seriously then some of us because he knew what it was like out there and knew he needed a degree to get the job he really wanted.
  22. Rita P @ Digital Spikes
    Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
    Very good options Sicorra, Well I would like to have the kids groomed in different skills including earning so let them work part time as well as pursue other hobbies / activities such as sports, plays etc etc. Even if they work part time they will learn to earn and realize the value of money.
  23. Corina Ramos
    Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
    Hi Sicorra!
    Having two teens myself, I think it depends on what they're doing in school. If they weren't doing anything after school and just hanging around the house I would definitely encourage them to get a job.

    But if they're involved in extra curricular activities, I would rather them focus on school first. Marisa and Adrian are both involved in school activities and there are times rehearsals will end in the evening.

    I do like the idea of cutting the yard and babysitting as a part time weekend thing. :) These are all great ideas!
  24. Wolfy
    Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
    I'm turning 16 soon, and got my first job as a stable hand at 15. Murphy's Law is constantly proven true. I work weekend nights alone at the stable (one of my parents comes with me for safety reasons), so I don't really deal with anyone but my boss. There's been theft, a horse that had to be euthanized, and EVERYTHING freezing with the cold weather. I've already had my hours cut in half (which I later got back). I've been kicked, stepped on, shoved over, and bitten by horses (before I finally learned all the ropes).
    ...but I love my job. I learn a lot every time I go and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
    • Shannon Ryan
      Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
      That's fantastic! Thank you for sharing your experience. Work isn't always easy but can be an incredibly rewarding experience, which it sounds like you're getting.
Shannon Ryan SHANNON RYAN, CFP®
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan
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