Job Search Tips and Advice for Teens

Teenage waitress using computer at restaurant counter
••• Inti St. Clair / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Before you start looking for a job, it is important to take some time to decide what you want to do. Even though you may not have experience, there are a variety of positions available for teens.

Explore Job Options

Consider what you would like to do for a job. For example, if you love animals, check with local veterinarians to see if they are hiring. If you'd prefer working with children, check with your local YMCA (many have after-school child care programs and summer camps) or child care centers.

Fast food restaurants and retail establishments rely on workers without experience and are willing to train new employees. Local libraries often hire teens to help put away books. During the summer, amusement parks and summer camps offer a variety of summer jobs for teens.

Take some time to explore options. Keep in mind that your first few jobs will provide a good opportunity to find out what you want to do (and what you don't).

Guidelines for Teen Jobs

There are laws restricting when you can work and what you can do. Teens hired for non-agricultural employment (which is just about everything other than farm work) must be at least fourteen.

In some states, if you're under 18, you may need to obtain working papers (officially called Employment/Age Certificates) in order to legally be able to work. Get them ahead of time, so you will be ready to start work once you're hired.

When You Can Work

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets requirements related to the employment of minors. According to the FLSA, 14 is the minimum age for work in the U.S. (at least in nonagricultural jobs).

While 14- and 15-year-olds can work, there are limits to the hours they can take. They cannot take shifts during school hours and are limited to a total of three hours each school day (18 hours total per school week) or eight hours each non-school day (40 hours per non-school week).

There are also limits to the times of day a 14- or 15-year-old can work. They can work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the school year (Labor Day through May 31) and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer (between June 1 and Labor Day).

When you reach 16 years old, many of these restrictions are removed. You can work as many hours as you would like during any week. The only remaining restriction is that you cannot work in a job considered hazardous by the FLSA.

Once you turn 18 (and are no longer a minor), there are no limits to how many hours you can work, what weeks you work or where you work.

Where You Can Work

14-and 15-year-olds can work in restaurants, stores and other nonmanufacturing, non-mining and nonhazardous jobs.

14-and 15-year-olds cannot work in jobs that the Labor Department considers hazardous. These include (but are not limited to) jobs in excavation, manufacturing explosives, mining, and positions that involve operating power-driven equipment.

Where You Can't Work

Even when teens turn 16, they still cannot work in these hazardous jobs. They must wait until they are 18 to take jobs in these industries. As mentioned above, there are also exceptions to these rules, specifically regarding jobs related to agricultural work.

Exceptions to Limits on Teen Work

There are some exceptions to these limits for working teens. For example, many states have tighter restrictions on the hours a minor can work on a farm. Minors employed by their parents, on the other hand, do not have as many restrictions on times and days worked. Check out the FLSA for more details.

Getting Working Papers

In some states, if you're under eighteen, you may need to obtain working papers (officially called Employment/Age Certificates) in order to legally be able to work. You may be able to get the form at school. Otherwise, you can get one at your state Department of Labor. Check the Employment/Age Certification list to see which guidelines apply to you.

If it's school, check with your Guidance Office. If it's the Department of Labor, check with your state office. Some states, like New York, for example, have special sections of their websites on youth jobs, which will give you the information you need.

Check Out Different Types of Jobs

Once you've got the paperwork in order, consider what you would like to do. Are you interested in working with little kids? Take a look at after-school programs, child care centers, or summer camp jobs. How about working on the beach or the ski slopes, at a park, in the mountains, or at another outdoor job? Consider a job at a museum, a hospital, at a zoo, or at some other organization related to your career aspirations.

The jobs you have during high school will give you some idea of what you might want to do later on. They also might give you an idea about some jobs you absolutely don't want to do!

Common Jobs for 14- and 15-year-olds

  • Amusement Ride Attendant
  • Animal Shelter Volunteer
  • Assistant to Freelance Writer, Designer or Programmer
  • Babysitter/Nanny
  • Baseball Umpire for Little League
  • Blogger
  • Busser
  • Camp Counselor in Training
  • Car Wash Attendant
  • Cashier
  • Childcare Center Volunteer
  • Concession Worker
  • Crop Picker
  • Dishwasher
  • Dog Walker
  • Driveway Sealer
  • eBay Seller (in conjunction with a parent or guardian)
  • Farm Laborer
  • Farm Stand Helper
  • Fast Food Counter Worker
  • Food Prep Worker
  • Food Server
  • Garden/Nursery Center Assistant
  • Greeter
  • Grocery Bagger
  • House Cleaner
  • Ice Cream Scooper
  • Independent Beverage Vendor at Outside Event Sites
  • Kennel Assistant
  • Lawnmower
  • Leaf Remover
  • Lifeguard
  • Marketing Intern
  • Movie Theater Employee
  • Music Teacher for Beginners
  • Nursing Home Volunteer
  • Office Assistant
  • Pet Sitter
  • Receptionist
  • Referee for Beginner Soccer, Basketball or Football
  • Resort Guest Services Assistant
  • Resort Housekeeping Staff
  • Restaurant Host/Hostess
  • Snow Remover
  • Stock Retail Clerk
  • Swim Instructor for Beginners
  • Tutor
  • Video Game Development/Testing Intern
  • YouTube Content Creator

How to Find a Job

Check with your high school Guidance Office and ask how they can assist with your job search. They may have postings for local businesses, for babysitting or for other part-time positions.

Speak with teachers, family, coaches, friends, parents of friends—anyone and everyone you can think of—and ask for help.

Most jobs are found through referrals, and people you know are often happy to assist.

How about starting your own business? Consider your own skills and interests as well as the needs of the local economy where you will be spending your summer. Possible ventures include babysitting, lawn mowing, house painting, designing, and marketing T-shirts, caring for pets while people are on vacation, car detailing, etc.

Online Job Searching

Start your online job search by visiting the sites that focus on teen job opportunities. Searching Snagajob.com, for example, by type of position and location will generate a list of openings. There's also a list of national employers that hire part-time workers.

Employers in fields like retail and hospitality often are very interested in hiring teens and are willing to provide training. Search by the category of employment you're interested in. This will generate some more leads. These types of employers often don't advertise, so check with the stores or restaurants in your town to see if they have openings.

Don't forget to check the Employment Services job listings and the Help Wanted ads in your newspaper. Small local papers like The Pennysaver usually have listings too.

Teen Job Interview Tips

Next, make sure you dress appropriately, are ready to complete an application, and are prepared for an on-the-spot interview.

Before you head out to your interviews, review these student job interview questions and samples answers, so you are ready to respond to the interviewer.

Before Accepting a Job Offer

There are good jobs for teens, and there are not-so-good and even awful jobs for teens. Before you say "yes" to a job offer, make sure the company is legitimate. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints.

Be aware that the Department of Labor has rules and regulations about when teens can, and can't work, as well as what type of job you can do. Make sure the employer is complying with the law.

Decide whether this is a job you really want to do. Don't accept it if you don't feel comfortable with the work, with the environment, or with the boss or other employees. If this doesn't work out, there will be another offer. Consider whether the hours will fit into your school and activity schedule.

Consider volunteering opportunities. They're an excellent way to give back to your community while doing work that is fulfilling and productive.