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Pros and Cons of Having a Job in High School (Are they Worth it?)

These pros and cons of having a job in high school will help you and your teen decide if working right now is the right fit for them.

Not quite sure if working while in high school is the right fit for your teenager?

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Looking through the pros and cons of having a job in high school can help you and your teenager get off the fence and make a decision.

First up is a summary of why I think a high school job IS worth it, and then we’ll look at all the pros and cons to your teenager working.

Are High School Jobs Worth it?

Before we dive into the pros and cons of a teenager getting a job, I want to give you my own opinion on this subject.

After holding several teen jobs myself – from mucking horse stalls for a veterinarian, to helping translate immigration applications for residency at the Chester County Migrant Ministry – I can say without hesitation that high school jobs are worth it.  

They’re worth it because of the growth in independence and feeling of capability your teen will have as a result, they’re worth it for the money management lessons your teen will learn, and they’re worth it for the time management skills.

They might even be worth it in higher earnings as an adult.

But does that mean that getting one will be right for YOUR teenager?

Let me help you decide by giving the specific pros and cons of working while in high school.

pink, orange, bright box, text overlay "get the teen job lab - list of online/offline teen job search hotspots, teach your teen how to job search, etc."

Pros and Cons of Having a Job in High School

You now know my own opinion on this. But I want you to make a solid opinion, for yourself.

That’s why I’m listing both the pros AND cons to having a job while in high school.

We’ll start with the pros.

Pros of Having a Job in High School

Whether it’s learning solid time management skills, becoming better stewards of their money, or building up their Network Machine, there are many benefits to working while in high school.

1. It Gives them their Own Money to Manage

Of course, this is one of my favorite benefits of high school students working part time (you are on a site that teaches kids and teens about money, after all).

When a teenager gets money in their hands, a couple of things can happen.

  • They make the connection between working and earning money.
  • They might want to take on more hours, to earn more money.
  • It’s easier for them to plan their spending, which is just a hop, skip, and jump away from actually saving it.
  • They start to see the potential for saving up for something bigger, like a car, or college.
  • They can take on more money responsibilities.

2. It Increases their Money Stewardship

Spending Mom and Dad’s money? Is much easier than spending your own.

We all know this to be true – just think to the last time you were gifted money, and how much more fun and easier it was to spend than your own.

When you have to earn your money, and then you spend from that pool, things change.

Suddenly, your teen will become aware of:

  • Transportation costs (to get to work)
  • Taxes being taken out of their pay
  • Banking logistics (how to deposit checks, atm machines, debit cards, etc.)
  • Keeping track of a checking account balance and transactions
  • Etc.

Not only that, but they may increase their financial responsibility – becoming better stewards of their money – since they had to work so hard to earn it.

Psst: Is your teen not showing an increase in money stewardship? No worries. check out a few of these eye-opening calculations that can help your teen grow in financial responsibility. Also, here are 7 money conversations to have with your teen after they get their first paycheck.

3. It Forces them to Learn Time Management Skills

Juggling a job with homework, with afterschool activities, and with a social life can get messy in the beginning (and maybe even the middle parts).

But, it can be a great way for your teenager to learn how to prioritize their time and how to manage it.

Psst: you might want to check out my free after school routine printable for teenagers, and my article on how to help a teenager get organized.

4. It Increases Social Interactions and Social Intelligence

Let’s be honest: we’re in an age that allows each of us to have far fewer social interactions than before.

If we want to make friends, or keep friends, we can do so from home either by phone, text, or Facebook.

Some teens are growing up without even understanding “normal” social cues – which is a bit frightening.

Going to a job each week means they’ll be forced to interact with others, and learn through those social interactions.

Through their time there, they’ll pick up more Social Intelligence, which Psychology Today says involves:

  • Verbal Fluency and Conversational Skills
  • Knowledge of Social Roles, Rules, and Scripts
  • Effective Listening Skills
  • Understanding What Makes Other People Tick
  • Role Playing and Social Self-Efficacy
  • Impression Management Skills

5. It Can be a Source of Self-Esteem, and a Confidence-Builder

Anytime you put your teenager into a position where they have to learn something, and then give them the opportunity to master it through repetition (i.e. doing it over, over, and over again at their job), you’re really giving them the opportunity to build their self-esteem and confidence.

True – it might not feel that way in the beginning, when they’re fumbling with the job functions, or with coworkers, or with their new boss.

And we mothers love to protect our kids from this, right?

But as they mature through the position, you’ll likely see them grow in confidence with it. Since we can’t come do it for them (nor should we), this will increase their ability to see themselves as being capable of independence.

That is a powerful thing!

6. Helps Build their Resume

The longer your teen goes without relevant experience, the more difficult it becomes to get a job with no experience.

In other words, a hiring manager who sees a 16-year-old or 17-year-old with no work experience is going to be a lot more forgiving of that than if they see a 21-year-old, or 24-year-old with no work experience.

Psst: here are 5 free teen resume templates, plus how to make a resume for first job high school students

7. Helps Build their Network Machine

Your teenager has a lot of things coming up that they’ll need referrals for, or people willing to write recommendations and put their neck out for them.

College applications, post-graduation jobs, summer jobs, internships, etc. come to mind.

The more people your teen can brush shoulders with and show that they are referrable and trustworthy, the better. A job gives your teen yet another opportunity to build their network, something they’ll be needing in the not-too-distant future.

8. It Can Take Pressure off of Household Finances

I recommend changing the money responsibilities and money boundaries in your household once your teenager starts earning their own paycheck.

By giving your teenager a purchase responsibility, such as their cell data plan, gas for their car, their car insurance cost, etc. – it can take pressure off of household finances. That’s money you can then dedicate to younger kids or other priorities in your budget.

9. It Helps Keep them “Out of Trouble”

Let’s face it: a busy teen is a teen who has less time to get into trouble. In fact, I had a childhood friend whose mother told me this once. Her goal was to keep her kids as busy as possible, because that would keep them from getting into trouble elsewhere.

I thought it was a pretty good idea back then, and still today!

10. They Can Try on a Vocation

Your teen will likely get a bit of a better idea of something they want to pursue, or something they do NOT want to pursue, by working a job or two throughout high school. And since they’re teens, there is no pressure if they want to switch things up and try out different industries at this age.

It’s time to move onto the disadvantages of working while in high school.

pink, orange, bright box, text overlay "get the teen job lab - list of online/offline teen job search hotspots, teach your teen how to job search, etc."

Cons of Having a Job in High School

What are the cons of having a job in high school?

There are a few potential cons to consider. Let’s take a look.

1. Interference with Activities + Social Life

This is probably one of the biggest disadvantages of having a job in high school. Your teenager will learn that by saying “yes” to a job, they are actually saying “no” to other things. They’re prioritizing work.

Does that mean they’ll never see friends or socialize? Absolutely not. Though it could depend on how flexible their boss and schedules are.

Many teen bosses are willing to work around schedules, as they know that social events, sports, and after-school academic activities are an important part of a teenager’s life.

But it could also mean being willing to commit during other times so that other teens that work at the same job can enjoy these things, too.

It should also be noted that many teen jobs are busiest during the weekends, such as restaurants, movie theaters, etc. This can be in direct conflict with a teen’s social life, and they’ll have to learn how to manage this.

2. Increased Time Pressure

Speaking of time…your teen will likely feel some time pressure between trying to juggle school and activities and a social life and a part-time job.

How they will handle this time pressure remains to be seen.

Some will excel, and some could see their grades drop. In fact, some studies show that teens who work long hours (around 20 per week) have lower grades than teens who work less than 15 hours/week.

Others may shy away from signing up for afterschool activities that can also help them build social skills and their resumes.

This is also why many teens only work seasonally – during the summer season (obviously, this is not an option for schools that run year-round, or if your teenager has to attend summer school), and during the rush of the holiday season.

3. Loss of Interest in Things that aren’t Paid

It happens that some teenagers are so enamored by earning money, that they would prefer to just work more and worry about school less.

If yours feels this way, or becomes this way as they get into their early working years, then they may devote less and less time to schoolwork and try to work too many hours.

4. Missing Family Vacations

It’s possible that your teenager will have to miss a family vacation in the summer or over Spring Break, or whenever, if they can’t find someone to cover them at work.

This one can be hard to come to grips with, especially since your teenager is almost a young adult anyway, and you’re likely wondering just how many more family vacations you’ve got left with them.

5. You Might Not Agree with How they Spend their Money

It’s worth noting that you and your teenager may disagree a lot with how they spend their money. And since they’re earning it, they will likely feel more entitled to spend it the way they wish to.

I encourage you to check out my article on teenage money management, as it’s really a partnership between the two of you.

6. They Could Lose Out on Sleep

Some of the available teen jobs out there are more night-oriented positions, such as positions at restaurants and movie theaters and bowling alleys, or restocking shelves at grocery stores.

Couple this with the fact that your teen may only have evenings/nights available to work, and your teen may experience a lack of sleep.

Getting between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night is critical for a developing teen, and this needs to be taken into account with their job schedule.

7. They Could be Exposed to Situations they Can’t Handle

Teens might be put into situations they can’t handle, either because of medical issues, such as social anxiety, or because they have no experience handling them.

For example, this could include:

  • Irate and/or overdemanding customers
  • Not knowing how to deal with adults other than their parents
  • An environment that is fast-paced (like a fast-food restaurant), where they’re still learning the ropes and can’t keep up
  • Friends that hang around and distract them during their shift
  • Etc.
pink, orange, bright box, text overlay "get the teen job lab - list of online/offline teen job search hotspots, teach your teen how to job search, etc."

If you or your teenager are on the fence about getting a job, then I hope that these pros and cons of having a job in high school have helped. The bottom line is that if you feel your teenager is ready, then they should give it a shot. If things don’t work out at their first position, then they can seek a new opportunity after an agreed-upon amount of time that they give it their best, OR, until you see that there are just too many issues with grades or otherwise. You may just find that your teenager flourishes under the added responsibility, and them having a job is just the thing to help build their confidence about transitioning into young adulthood.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here.

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