The Pros and Cons of Teenage Employment

The number of high-school age kids who have jobs is dwindling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the last 18 years the percent of teens in the workforce
has dropped from 50% to 35%.

This is not to say that today’s younger generation is less busy than previous generations of teens. According to U.S. News and World Report, today’s high schoolers have schedules packed with extracurricular activities and homework. The competition for low-paying, entry level jobs in the service industry has also been higher in recent years as more and more adults occupy service roles.

Parents, educators, and future employers alike might worry that unemployed teens lose out on valuable experiences. However, sometimes not working can benefit younger crowds. Here are some of the positives and negatives of working from a young age:


  1. Learning Financial Skills
    One of the clearest benefits of part-time work is that teens learn to manage their own income and expenses. Receiving a paycheck grants youths some freedom to spend as they please without parental limitations. It also teaches them that if they want to maintain a specific lifestyle, like frequent trips with friends or shopping for brand-name clothes, they’ll have to spend their money wisely. Teens can also learn to save for upcoming big expenses as they transition to adulthood, such as their first car or first apartment.
  2. Exploring Future Careers
    Part-time work also gives teens the chance to explore skills and job activities to get a sense of what they enjoy. Learning to like helping customers might lead youths to a path in sales, for example. Learning whether teens prefer fast-paced work or tackling slow, big projects are all important lessons for a young worker.
  3. Getting Valuable Experience
    From college applications to scholarship opportunities, to future employment prospects, getting started working at a young age means that teens can start building valuable work experience. Future mentors will see their record of achievement and dedication, and know that a teen is willing to work and ready to learn (and earn). Youths with employment records stand out in any application.


  1. Potential Lack of Sleep
    Though a handful of work hours on weekends and nights can teach adolescents good time management, overscheduling can lead teens to sacrifice other important parts of their health, like sleep. According to The Conversation, teens who work over 33 hours a week no longer benefit from the experience.
  2. Distraction from Coursework and Hobbies
    Though work is a great learning experience, other parts of high school are important to developing a well-rounded adult. If work cuts into the sport a teen loves, or encourages them to rush their homework and studying, a job might actually be detrimental to their growth.
  3. Counterintuitive Impact on Financial Aid
    Finally, young workers who earn too much might actually be putting themselves at a financial disadvantage. According to U.S. News and World Report, students who earn more than $6,420 will be expected by financial aid offices to contribute towards their tuition and fees, which lessens their overall financial aid package. Rather than trying to save up an impossibly large amount for ever-increasing college costs, it might be a smarter money move to cut back on work hours.

Adolescence itself is a lot of work. Though teens today can benefit from a part-time job experience, they can also benefit from learning to construct a well-balanced life that does not center around earning money. Be sure to weigh pros and cons carefully with any young adult before helping them make early career decisions for a happy transition to adulthood.

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