Life Skills

Getting a Real Job

Before high school, your child might already have earned their own money in one way or another—maybe babysitting or doing yard work, that kind of thing. Once they’re over 14, they can start to work at a “real job.” Here’s what you need to know about your minor on the job.

Working as a teen has a ton of benefits: Kids can learn to save and manage their own money, shoulder new responsibilities, and answer to a boss (who isn’t you, of course). Working during high school also adds challenges to your child’s life: They’ll be juggling more and have less time for schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

Here are some things to consider as your high schooler starts goes on the job hunt:


Where, when, and how often is my kid allowed to work? The US Department of Labor regulates all of these things for children under 18. Fourteen and 15 year olds have more restrictions on when and how much they can work, while teens 16 and older have more work options available to them. (Agricultural jobs are treated differently from non-agricultural jobs.) It’s a good idea to get familiar with these rules so you can make sure your child is being treated fairly and safely on the job.


What kind of job makes sense right now? Your high schooler’s job choices are going to depend on how much time they can commit to working, what’s available in your area, and other logistical things like how they’ll get to work. You can also nudge them to brainstorm how they might do paid work that is connected to their long-term goals. A high schooler with an interest in early childhood education might look for nannying or summer camp jobs, for example; one who wants to be a chef might look at restaurant jobs. Of course, they might not know yet what they want to be when they grow up, and that’s fine. There’s plenty of value in experiencing different industries and working at different types of jobs.


How will my child balance school and work? It can certainly be a challenge for teens to balance school, a job, and other activities like sports or extracurriculars. How does your teen see themselves managing all of those things? Will they work during the school week or just on weekends or vacations? What’s the plan if their grades start to slip as a result of the time they’re spending at work? When will they fit in other important stuff… like sleep?

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