As the first school bell rings, families are busy figuring out how to arrange homework, sports and extracurricular clubs into a coherent schedule. Parents may also be lobbying to add one more burden to their teenagers' shoulders: a part-time job.
For some families this may be a financial necessity, while others want to round out a teenager’s life experience and instill a sense of responsibility. Whatever the reason, teenagers have fewer choices than other workers when it comes to jobs because their working hours are limited. Besides their already crowded schedules, federal labor laws prohibit 14 and 15-year-olds from working more than three hours on a school day or 18 hours in a week during the school year. Also, no child under 18 may work in jobs deemed hazardous, which includes many machine operation jobs. Here are five of the best types of jobs for high school students, based on a combination of experience and compensation.
While most tutoring programs hire college rather than high school students, this is an area that’s wide open for highly skilled students with an entrepreneurial spirit. If your child is a math wiz, foreign language expert or all-around great student, tutoring offers flexibility and a great opportunity to do meaningful work. In smaller communities, word of mouth may be all your child needs to land several tutoring clients; in metropolitan areas an online listing on a site like tutor-pages.com or craigslist.org are the best bet.
Former babysitters with references may have an edge here, as parents will gravitate toward a tutor with proven skills working with kids. Although your child may have to hustle a little to find enough clients, they will essentially be starting their own business, which is great life experience. And most colleges have well-paid peer tutoring programs, or arrangements with nearby elementary or secondary schools, which could be your teen’s next job.
Retail jobs can be slow, but have major advantages for teens. Peak shopping times (weekends, evenings, holidays) coincide with school breaks. Also, many stores offer short shifts, making scheduling easier for kids who need to puzzle-piece together dozens of school activities with work. Retail work offers a real education in diplomacy, and people skills are an asset that will only help your child later in life, or in their next job.
To make the whole experience more positive, encourage your teen to choose a job that reflects their interests. If they're a movie buff, a video store might be the place. If they're way into fashion, a clothing store is a natural choice.
Restaurant work can be one of the highest-paying jobs, with the least amount of time required, available to a high school student. Tips add up quicker than hourly pay, especially when you’re pulling in minimum wage. Like retail, restaurant work offers lessons in people skills, and it’s a great way to learn how to multi-task.
However, parents should be aware that restaurants sometimes function as after-hours clubhouses for employees, which presents an underage drinking risk. Laws vary from state to state, but in many places servers only have to be 18 to handle alcohol. So, if your teen finds work in a restaurant, communication is essential to ensure work doesn’t become synonymous with play.
Working at a coffee shop combines the best elements of retail and restaurant work. Short shifts designed to cover rush times provide plenty of job openings, although many of these are early morning shifts, which may not be viable for students. Cafes benefit by employing students because they don’t have to pay benefits to part-time workers, or workers still covered by their parents’ health insurance. Most coffee shops and cafes pay at least the regular minimum wage, and their employees receive tips as well. Your teenager may not make quite as much money as working as a server in a restaurant, but the hours are usually more flexible and the environment is likely to be more wholesome.
If your child is looking for a resume building experience more than a paycheck, consider an internship or a volunteer job. Websites like idealist.org and internshipprograms.com can help locate internships in specific areas. Your teenager can also identify local businesses or non-profit organizations and write a letter of introduction, identifying their skills and offering their services. Non-profits always need another set of helping hands. Internships won't bring in the dough, but they’re great experience and often lead to other, paying jobs down the road.