Your teenager continually begs you for money, and here they are again. You’re starting to feel like an ATM. But this time you pause, ignore their outstretched hand and say no. It's time to set some limits here.
Frustrated, your teen asks if they can get a part-time job to earn their own money.
You hesitate—you’re just not sure if it’s a great idea.
Like anything else, there are pros and cons to letting your teenager take on a job. Let’s think this through.
Pros of a Part-Time Job for Your Teenager
Some proponents of high school students working say the early work experience paves the way for successful adulthood.
The two biggest perks of teenage employment are:
- It facilitates learning more about money
- Provides opportunities for skill/character development
We’ll look at each separately.
Teens Can Learn About Money
Any money philosophies you've discussed with your teenager will come to life when they can put them into practice.
You can show your teen how to open up a bank account and how to budget. And how to save for the future.
You can also help them prioritize their spending, so they see money for what it really is – a tool to help them live their best life.
Since earning their own money will give them a greater appreciation for it, getting that first paycheck could be an appropriate moment to have a conversation about poverty and other socio-economic crises.
Helping your teenager reflect on their own advantages in life will foster empathy towards the less fortunate, giving you an opportunity to encourage them to use some of their newfound resources to help others.
Gain Valuable Skills & Build Character
Your teen will get so much more than a paycheck from their part-time job.
They’ll develop abilities and attitudes they can carry with them throughout their entire career. Establishing connections and references will also help your teenager in the future when applying for college or future opportunities.
They’ll learn about specific job functions and industries. They may learn how to operate a cash register, stock shelves, wait tables, work a multiline phone system or provide customer service.
While they may not find their professional calling, they may be able to rule in or rule out certain types of jobs or industries based on these early employment experiences. They will undoubtedly pick up some transferable skills to help them land their next opportunity.
Soft skills like conflict resolution, communication and organization are particularly transferable from job to job.
Holding down a job will also promote:
- Increased maturity
- Good work ethic
- Sense of responsibility
- Ability to handle multiple priorities
- Being goal-oriented
Your teenager will see the connection between earning each dollar and attaining what they want.
Job Search Skills
Perhaps most importantly, they’ll gain an understanding of how to look for and land a job.
Before they leave the security of home, they will have created a resume, completed job applications, attended interviews, filled out new hire paperwork, etc.
Although seasoned professionals consider those activities as par for the job search course, they can be very daunting to someone who has never gone through them before.
You will be able to guide your teen through the process, and they'll certainly have a leg up on their peers who have never held a job.
Additional pros of your high school student working a part-time job:
- They can contribute to their college fund
- Help pay for their portion of car insurance
- Great way to productively occupy their free time
- Help them learn time management skills and life balance
- Improve their self-esteem
Cons of Teens Working Part-time Jobs
Some opponents of teenage employment say teens will have plenty of time to worry about earning a living when they’re an adult.
To that end, the biggest downside to teens working is it can be a distraction from their education and other important elements of their lives.
Distraction from Education (& Everything Else!)
Incorporating a part-time job into your teen’s schedule will leave less time for studying, extracurricular activities, family outings and, well, just being a kid.
It’s important for your student to maintain good grades. Getting their education is their primary job. For that reason, many parents only allow their teens to work during the summer.
But, if you’re seriously considering letting your teen work during the school year, you’ll have to envision what their current schedule looks like and determine if there is even room for part-time work.
If there’s not, you’ll have to decide if there’s anything that can (and should) be cut to free up some hours.
Student-athletes will likely have the toughest time fitting a job into their already busy lives.
Part-time jobs can enhance a college application but so can participation in sports, the school newspaper, etc.
You’ll have to consider if cutting out certain extracurricular activities could negatively impact your teen’s scholarship opportunities.
Additionally, if they do work, you’ll need to monitor your teen’s earnings to ensure they don’t affect their financial aid eligibility.
It’s also critical for your teen to maintain their health—both physically and mentally.
Adding a part-time job to the mix likely isn’t a good idea if they currently stress out over their current academic/activity load—even if there are hours in the week available.
Your teen should be in a position where they can comfortably commit to working. And, having the time for part-time work is only one part of the equation.
Your teenager will need to get to and from the job.
If they have their license and access to a spare car, then transportation is a non-issue. However, if your teen would be reliant on you or some other adult to get around, you need to consider if that is truly workable.
Weighing Things Out
This article discusses some of the most common reasons for and against teenagers having part-time jobs.
Every family’s situation is different, and you may have other factors in play to consider. Every teenager is different, too. This is a very individualized decision.
If you have reservations but have not committed either way, you may want to consult your teen.
Let them know you appreciate their desire to earn their own money, but there are some things you would like for them to consider before making a decision.
For example: perhaps your teen could accommodate a part-time job if they quit an extracurricular activity they really love. You would support their decision, but you want to help them conclude what’s most important to them.
Once you have decided, you’ll want to be prepared to have a conversation with your teen to explain yourself and to lay out the next steps.
Laying Ground Rules
If you decide to allow your teen to get a part-time job, you’ll want to clearly spell out some ground rules.
At a minimum, be ready to tell your teen:
- How many hours per week they can work
- The Department of Labor imposes limits of 3 hours per school day/18 hours per school week and 8 hours per non-school day /40 hours per non-school week
- What schedule they can have (i.e., weekends only, summer only, etc.)
- What types of jobs they're allowed to do (also limited by labor laws)
- How they will be getting to and from work
- What support you will provide to them in finding and maintaining a job
- What happens if their grades start to slip
- Any expectations you have about their money management
Showing support and excitement for them while ensuring they understand the seriousness of what they are getting themselves into will go far.
Alternatives to Part-Time Work for Your Teen
If you decide you're not ready for your teen to get a part-time job, you’ll want to clearly explain the reasons why. They’ll need to see the decision has been made with their best interests in mind.
You’ll also want to show them you are supportive of their wanting to earn their own money and you are prepared to discuss some alternatives to part-time work.
Could they do additional duties around the home or for a neighbor to earn extra spending money?
While W-2 employment might not be the right fit at the moment, there are many ways you can encourage your teen to be entrepreneurial.
Pursuing work in a more freelance way will still allow them to learn valuable skills. And they'll earn the desired cash—with the added benefit of scheduling flexibility.
Or would you consider compensating them for good grades, to keep their focus on school while giving them some additional money to spend?
What do you think? Would you/have you let your teen get a part-time job? What alternatives would you implement/have you implemented instead?
Article written by Laura