Should Your Teen Work During High School?

There are many reasons for a teen to get a job in high school. Some teens get jobs to contribute to their family’s finances. Other teens get jobs to save up for college or to fund other personal expenses. Some teens get jobs to gain valuable work experience. Yet with the increasing demands of high school and the increasing selectivity of the nation’s top colleges, many parents wonder, should my teen have a job?

 

In 2017, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that teen summer employment rates were plummeting. In fact, recent labor data confirmed that even during the school year, fewer than one in four high school students has a job. Many wonder if this is because teens are getting lazy. Far from it. Instead, today’s teens are staying in school longer, spending more time on school work, enrolling in more summer classes, and pursuing higher education.

 

Is there still value in a job during high school? Absolutely. Should your teen have one? Keep reading to find out how you and your teen can make a smart decision about employment together.

 

Pros of Working During High School

There are certainly undeniable advantages to having a job during high school. Teens who work gain important skills—not just vocationally, but also interpersonally. Teens who hold a job have the opportunity to develop communication and interpersonal skills specific to being a part of a professional community. Your teen will learn to communicate with a boss about things like compensation, scheduling, and other concerns. These are difficult to learn outside of a work setting.

 

Of course, working teens also gain important work experience. Building a resume early on can be beneficial over the long-term, as teens who’ve already had one job are more likely to win out over their less experienced peers when looking for a subsequent job.

 

In addition, teens who work are more likely to develop time management skills. Balancing a work schedule on top of other commitments like school work or extracurriculars can naturally lead to better organization and necessitate planning ahead.

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Finally, your teen will learn about finances and money management. By having some income, your teen will be able to create a budget, save money, and even contribute to certain expenses. Your teen is likely to have more appreciation for things he or she has saved to buy personally, which may also lead to more appreciation for your family’s expenses and purchases.

 

There’s no doubt that having a job can be a great benefit to your teen, providing many valuable skills and experiences that are difficult to replicate outside of a job. Yet still, having a job isn’t easy and there are definitely some disadvantages you should consider as well.

 

Cons of Working During High School

Like any other time-consuming commitment, having a job during high school requires serious dedication and it’s not the right choice for everyone. Specifically, having a job can add to your teen’s stress. It is represents another commitment that demands not just time and planning, but also mental energy to navigate a professional environment and relate to a different community of peers. For some teens, this can be especially difficult.

 

In addition, holding down a job during high school can be a distraction for some teens. Your high schooler might find that he or she has trouble juggling so many time commitments and that academics unintentionally suffer. A few academic stumbling points while your teen is adjusting to the new schedule might be expected, but if you notice a significant and prolonged decline in your teen’s grades when he or she starts working, this could be cause for concern.

 

Finally, getting a job might mean that your teen doesn’t have time for the other things that he or she enjoys doing. In a climate where college admissions are becoming more and more rigorous, there is a definite push to get serious earlier about academics and certain extracurriculars. Sometimes this means that your teen has to give up hobbies from childhood that are less worthwhile when it comes to college applications. Having a job can hasten this process, and your teen might feel rushed to give up certain things that have made him or her happy in the past.

 

While getting a job in high school can be a smart choice by many high school students, it isn’t for everyone and it’s not without its drawbacks as well. Before you and your teen make the decision, be sure to have a conversation about both sides of the coin.

 

What Questions to Ask Before Deciding on Whether Your Teen Will Have a High School Job

  1. Does your teen manage time well and thrive when challenged with multiple commitments?
  2. Does your teen have good communication skills and is he or she able to advocate for him or herself in a mature way?
  3. Does your teen make good financial choices?
  4. Can your teen juggle academics with other extracurriculars?
  5. Does your teen have enough time to add another commitment without impacting existing activities and pursuits?

 

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, your teen just might be ready to take on a job during high school. Even if the answer to some of them is no, you are the best gauge of what your teen is ready to take on. He or she just might develop some of these missing skills by taking on a job. You’ll need to have a serious conversation to set up realistic expectations for both of you.

 

Either way, know that getting a job is not a prerequisite to getting into college. Many students pursue worthwhile and valuable activities that are uncompensated, so even if your teen does not get a job, he or she will still be in good company.

 

For more guidance about extracurriculars, college applications, and how to choose activities that best suit your teen, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 

To learn more about jobs for high school students, check out these posts:

 

How to make yourself employable as early as possible — and why it matters

4 Ways to Build Real-World Job Skills While You’re in High School

High Schoolers: Here’s How You Can Shadow A Professional in Your Target Career

How to Start Your Internship Search

Preparing Your LinkedIn, Facebook, & Twitter for Your Summer Job Search

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business In High School

5 Ways to Spin Quirky, Non-Traditional Work Experience to Land Your First Job

A Guide to Jobs You Can Work as a High School Student

How To Navigate Your Job Search in High School

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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

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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
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.