High school is a busy time for most students. You’re likely to be juggling your commitments to school, home, and extracurriculars already. Would it be crazy to add another responsibility to the mix?

For some students, getting a job is a choice made in order to earn extra spending money or to gain experience in the real world. For other students, the money earned is an essential part of their family’s income or college savings. Whatever the case may be for you, getting a job is not something to take lightly. If you’re considering getting a job, there are a number of factors you’ll need to think about in advance.

In this post, we’ll outline some of the reasons that you might get a job, some things to consider when choosing one, and some great jobs you should consider. Read on for our guide to jobs you can work in high school.

Why is it good to have a job in high school?

Holding down a job in addition to the rest of your responsibilities might be a risk, but it isn’t without benefits, both financial and otherwise. From the most practical standpoint, having a job means having an income. That might mean spending money for some students, or the ability to help with family finances for others. Either way, earning money is usually one of the primary motivations behind getting a job.

In addition, a job can provide you with some real world experience that you otherwise wouldn’t get at such a young age. You will gain perspective on managing multiple commitments, be held responsible in a professional capacity, and even learn more about your future aspirations. Many students find that a high school job lends insight into what they do, or do not, want to do professionally after high school.

Finally, getting a job is one way to strengthen your college application. Working while still in high school speaks to your time management skills, work ethic, and level of responsibility. It can also contribute to your overall academic profile if your type of work relates to your academic interests or extracurricular pursuits.

No matter your reason for getting a job, there are many options out there to suit almost any priority.

Factors to consider when choosing a high school job

Finding a job in high school isn’t necessarily an easy process. There are many angles that you’ll need to consider.

First and foremost, know what your priority is when job searching. Do you absolutely need to make a certain amount of money? Is scheduling around sports practice or other responsibilities the most important consideration? Are you getting a job primarily to strengthen your college applications or to gain experience in a particular career field?

Think carefully before you begin your job search. Know what your non-negotiable requirements are, and know what considerations can be more flexible. If you going into the job search with a clear idea of your goals, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions should you get multiple job offers.   

Self-employment in High School

One of the first choices you’ll make in choosing a job in high school is whether you’ll apply for jobs with traditional employers or instead pursue self-employment. You are probably used to hearing the term self-employment applied to small business owners and entrepreneurs, but you can get started on a much smaller scale.     

Some common opportunities for self-employment as a high school student are babysitting, pet-sitting, or tutoring. All of these options are generally pretty profitable when you compare the hourly compensation with other jobs you might hold as a high school student.

While precise rates will vary based on your region and experience, pet-sitters can usually charge around $20 per day with your responsibilities probably totaling no more than 2 hours. Babysitting pays similarly, again varying according to region and experience, but you can usually expect to be paid $10-15 per hour.

You’ll need to remember, of course, that these jobs pay well because your responsibilities are important. Taking care of children or pets shouldn’t be done half-heartedly and you will need to be vigilant and safety-minded. A babysitting course, usually available at your local YMCA or community center, will make you more qualified and a more desirable candidate for parents.

Tutoring is another option. Tutors can generally charge $15-25 per hour, depending on region, experience, and level of expertise.

It’s important to realize that self-employment, while generally more profitable at the hourly rate, is also less reliable than being an employee of a larger company. There is no guarantee of hours worked each week and your schedule will depend on the needs of others.

There will be some weeks when you earn nothing at all and others when you earn a lot. If you need a steady cash flow, this may not be the best option for you.

Jobs for nights and weekends 

Since you are still in school, you’ll need to find a position that allows you to work outside of regular school hours. This can be done most easily if you consider industries that conduct a higher proportion of their business during these off hours.

  • Restaurant jobs are a great option. Most restaurants are busiest at dinnertime and during the weekends so additional employees or shifts are available during those hours. Entry level positions at a restaurant usually include dishwasher, host/hostess, or busser.
  • Other service industry jobs also have more business on the weekends. You could consider talking to local hotels where you might be a valet, work at the information desk, or clean rooms.
  • Fitness or recreational centers also usually have additional paid staff on the weekends. There, you could work in the childcare room or be on the janitorial staff. 

In any of these roles you can expect to be paid at minimum wage, or slightly higher, but you will also usually be guaranteed a certain number of hours per week, making your income fairly reliable. Further, you might be able to advance to more highly paid roles if you perform well. Becoming a server at a restaurant or getting a leadership role at a rec center can lead to more pay and more responsibility.

Jobs to gain real world experience

If your priority is to gain experience and explore possible career paths, you should consider entry level positions in professional fields. It can be hard to start at the bottom and work your way up, but by doing so while you’re still in high school you will ultimately have a head start.

  • Jobs as a sale associate or product merchandiser can be good entry points for students interested in business or marketing. As a sales associate, you are employed by the retailer and work in a retail environment, responsible for assisting customers and working the register. As a product merchandiser, on the other hand, you are employed by a large distributor. You are sent to various retail locations to stock shelves or give product demonstrations. 
  • If you are interested in going into medicine, you should consider an entry-level position as a non-medical or pharmacy assistant. Non-medical assistants help the elderly or other patients with non-medical tasks. You might be responsible for changing bed sheets, helping others to get to the bathroom, or assisting with eating or other self-care skills. Pharmacy assistants usually have clerical responsibilities such as answering phone calls, filling out and filing paperwork, or running cash registers.
  • Finally, if you’re interested in a career in a STEM field, consider a role as a research assistant. These positions are usually highly coveted and hard to come by, and some may not even be paid, so be sure to clarify beforehand that you are looking for compensation.

In any of these entry-level professional roles, you can expect to be paid minimum wage or slightly higher and you can expect to have a fairly steady schedule with a guaranteed number of hours per week. Scheduling work outside of school hours may take some planning, through, so make sure to discuss your availability in detail when applying for the job.

Summer jobs

Another option and one that’s very common for high school students is to take seasonal work. Many industries thrive primarily during the summer months and if you are limiting your job search to a seasonal schedule, these are good options.

Jobs like parking lot attendants, lifeguards, or golf course caddies can pay surprisingly well and afford you a good amount of time outside on a flexible, seasonal schedule. Parking lot attendants generally receive minimum wage or slightly higher, while lifeguards can expect to receive more than minimum wage (though you will need a certification that requires significant work beforehand). Golf caddies are usually paid very well, receiving about $50 per bag plus tip, with each round of golf taking around 2-4 hrs.

If you are only going to work during the summer, choosing a seasonal job can be a fun way to make some money while getting outside.

Legal considerations

You should be aware that as a minor, there are a number of legal restrictions about what you’re allowed to do. There are age requirements for handling certain substances, like alcohol or prescription drugs, that might exclude you from certain positions. Also, if you’re under 16, federal law prohibits you from working after 7 PM during the school year and after 9 PM during the summer. You also cannot work more than three hours per day during the school year, or eight hours per day during the summer.

For more information about laws regarding child labor, including more specific laws by state, check the Selected State Child Labor Standards Affecting Minors Under 18 page of the U.S. Department of Labor.

You should also know what your rights are as an employee. In particular, know that it is not okay for anyone to make you feel uncomfortable at your place of work. Speak to a supervisor or someone else you trust if someone at your work is making you feel uncomfortable.

The decision to take a job during high school should be one that’s considered carefully. Think critically about your priorities, whether they’re ones you’ve chosen or ones that are necessitated by outside factors. Know what your options are, and weigh the pros and cons of each before committing to anything.

Finally, even if you end up in a job that drives you crazy, try to stick it out for at least a month. Leaving a job quickly will reflect poorly on you. Sometimes it can take a while to really get into the rhythm at a new job. Other times, there is a steep learning curve and you’ll get more comfortable quickly. Make sure to give it a chance before giving up.

Ultimately, though, if you find yourself in a position that adversely affects your academics, extracurriculars, or other commitments, you might need to consider a change.

For more information about getting a job during high school, see the following CollegeVine posts:

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist