Finding and keeping a part-time job while attending high school can be a daunting task. Balancing work with classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and just hanging out with friends can be tough, but millions of teens are able to manage part-time work along with their other responsibilities.
During my first two years of high school I was a paper delivery boy, leaving at 4 am every morning to deliver newspapers. I also went out once or twice a week in the evening to collect money from my customers. For the last two years of school I had a retail job, behind the counter at a mom and pop drugstore. These jobs taught me how to manage money, how to handle responsibility, and how to deal with the general public. They were invaluable experiences and provided me with some much-needed autonomy and spending money, too.
Should High School Students Work Jobs?
There are different schools of thought on whether teenagers should have part-time jobs, but I find that the pros easily outweigh any cons. A teenager who works long hours every day after school could see his or her schoolwork suffer, but a less-intensive part-time job can be a wonderful learning experience. If kids can get to school on time, maintain solid grades, and participate in school activities, part-time jobs in high school can be beneficial to their success.
Solid GPA and SAT test scores are important to gain entrance to college, but schools look for more than just good test scores. Universities also look for well-rounded students. An application from a high school student who holds a part-time job demonstrates determination, drive, and perseverance.
Before applying for any part-time job, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the child labor laws in your state. Some states require that minors have work permits in order to apply for jobs. In some areas, minors are not permitted to work in certain types of occupations, or cannot work during school hours. Some states also require that students maintain a specific minimum grade point average while they are working.
Part-Time Jobs for High School Students
Some students work in traditional part-time jobs, but many students take a more entrepreneurial approach to earning money. There are a number of side business ideas you can begin that take advantage of your unique skills and abilities. Starting a business appeals to many students because the hours are flexible, the pay is as good as or better than a “real” job, and you’re the boss.
Let’s examine some popular part-time jobs and small business opportunities for high school students, along with some of the advantages and disadvantages of each:
1. Animal Shelter Worker
If you love animals, working at an animal shelter could be a great part-time job while you are in school. Shelters hire minimum-wage employees to spend time with the animals and clean out their cages. If you want to become a veterinarian, this part-time job provides you with hands-on experience, working closely with animals.
As a part-time employee, you will do some unpleasant things, like assisting in the euthanasia of sick animals. It can be a sad, messy, and heart-wrenching job, but for many people, the rewards far outweigh any uncomfortable moments. If animal welfare is something you are truly interested in, this could be the ideal part-time job for you. For more information, check out The Humane Society’s Top Reasons to Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter.
2. Arts and Crafts Production and Sales
If you have artistic skills, there may be a market for items that you create, especially during the winter holidays. Towards the end of the year, schools and churches hold arts and crafts fairs, and eager shoppers line up to buy Christmas ornaments, wreaths, and last-minute gifts.
Summer art festivals can also be an opportunity to sell art and handmade jewelry. Booth and table rental costs vary, but if you partner with a friend or a neighbor who also has items to sell, it won’t cost as much and you can help each other out. Sales can be sporadic, and although the money can be considerable, it likely won’t replace a steady income. In addition, you will have to pay for supplies, and pay rental fees for booth or table space at fairs and festivals. If you’d rather set up shop online, consider selling your arts and crafts on Etsy.
Babysitting a sibling or a younger neighbor is a rite of passage for many teens. Babysitters usually work Friday and Saturday evenings, leaving the week open for completing homework and participating in school-related activities.
Babysitters are paid well for their time. I have friends in Colorado who pay their babysitters $12-$15 an hour. Payment varies depending on the sitter’s age, and my friends have been known to pay even more, when they are crunched for time.
CPR-certified babysitters are always in high demand. The Red Cross offers an intensive course of training for babysitters. The one-day class includes first aid training, diapering and feeding techniques, and interview tips.
Word of mouth referrals, references, and recommendations are critical to obtaining new babysitting jobs. Babysitters have to be on their best behavior if they ever want to be hired again. Managing small children can be a challenge, but babysitters make their own hours and set their own pay, making this a great part-time job for students who like kids. Check out Care.com or Babysitters4hire.com to find your next babysitting gig.
4. Car Wash Attendant
I worked for a car wash when I was a teenager, and I loved my job. If you live in a warm climate, or only work during the warmer months of the year, you are almost guaranteed to stay busy. There’s nothing worse than being bored at work, so that’s a key perk of working for a car wash.
However, some possible downsides to working for a car wash include getting soaking wet, ruining your clothing, and working for minimum wage. On the plus side, you will make tips and you get to be outside when you are working. You can also keep your car shiny and clean, free of charge!
5. Document and Photograph Archival Services
Many people need documents and photos scanned, stored, and archived, but few people have the time to take on this considerable chore. My family has thousands of photos from the pre-digital camera era. They would love to have all of the photos scanned and safely stored online or saved to a computer file, but no one has the time to tackle this time-consuming task.
Start this part-time business by networking with your parents’ friends to offer scanning, storage, and archival services for their documents and photos. Documents can be archived to Google Docs and photos can be scanned and stored on DVDs, websites, and computers.
Agree on the number of photos or documents that need to be scanned or archived, and then set a price per item based on the length of time it will take to complete the tasks. Pricing for scanning and archival services will vary, but a range might include $0.25 per photo and $0.35 per document page. The work can be tedious, and you’ll have to handle documents and photos carefully, to ensure they aren’t damaged or lost.
6. Grocery Store Employee
Grocery stores hire students throughout the year. There are many different jobs at a grocery store; workers can bag groceries, stock shelves, mop floors, or even operate a cash register. Part-time employees can expect to make minimum wage working at a grocery store. Many grocery stores have unionized cash register operators, so these jobs can pay a bit more than the other options listed here.
Some perks of working for a grocery store include short shifts, merchandise discounts, and schedule flexibility. If you happen to work at Trader Joe’s, you may move to a different area of the store every time you work.
Some students complain about paying union dues when working at a grocery store, which will be required if the store is unionized.
7. Landscaper/Lawn Care
Working as a landscaper or doing lawn care part-time lets you get outside and enjoy the sunshine, while also getting paid to work. I mowed lawns during the summer in high school and I was paid well for my efforts. Now, people pay a small fortune to have their lawns mowed and their hedges trimmed each week. A friend of mine pays $175 per month for 4 visits from a lawn care service; line up five customers, one for each day of the week, and you will “rake” in the dough.
If you happen to live in a cold weather climate, you can transition to shoveling snow from driveways and sidewalks during the winter months. I made good money borrowing my dad’s lawnmower and cutting grass when I was in high school. If your family has a lawnmower, this can be a real money-making opportunity for you.
Doing lawn care can be hot, boring, and buggy work, but making your schedule, choosing your clients, being outdoors, and setting your own rates makes running a lawn care service the ideal part-time business. Who knows where it could take you?
8. Pizza Delivery
If you have a car and a good driving record, you can get a job delivering pizzas. Delivery drivers don’t get paid very much, but they do receive tips. Work typically entails driving back and forth to the pizza place, picking up pizzas and delivering them to customers.
Students with pizza delivery jobs have a sense of autonomy, and they can listen to their own music while they are working. Delivering pizzas on time and collecting money teaches responsibility, and teenagers love the freedom of driving their own vehicle. It may not be glamorous, but with the right attitude, and a good pizza, delivery drivers can have a good time at work, while making decent money.
There is an element of danger in this job, however. Pizza delivery drivers are occasionally robbed or assaulted.
9. Packing and Moving Services
A la carte packing and moving services provide assistance to people who cannot afford to hire a full-service moving company for their personal possessions. Professional movers can quickly pack boxes and load furniture and boxes into a truck. Movers are bonded and insured, which is likely not an expense you’ll want to take on yourself. Instead, see if any of these locally based packing and moving services can use some extra help, especially on the weekends.
The work can be grueling, especially on a hot day. Movers have to stay hydrated, and take breaks occasionally to avoid overexertion. The pay will be minimum wage, or slightly more than minimum wage, and tips will be split amongst the staff.
10. Personal Assistant Services
Running errands, walking dogs, and wrapping gifts are just a few of the tasks performed by a personal assistant. Let the adults in your life know that you’re providing personal assistant services at a reasonable price. A simple flyer, with a list of services you can provide, can be passed out to the neighbors. The services might be sporadic at first, but as you gain the trust of your customers, they will give you more and more responsibilities, which will lead to more money, too.
The amounts to charge will vary according to the services offered. Calculate the time it takes complete the tasks, and make your rates competitive; $10 an hour would be an acceptable pay rate for a personal assistant. Disadvantages include uptight clients, and being responsible for things that are sometimes out of your control, like an unruly dog that runs away.
11. Restaurant Wait Staff
The pay for professional wait staff at a restaurant will likely be well below minimum wage. In Rhode Island, for example, the law states that wait staff must be paid at least $2.89 per hour. The customers can be a pain, and shifts can run late into the evening, but restaurant employees also have a lot of fun at work. There is a lot of camaraderie with fellow employees, the tips can be good, and employees typically receive discounted or free meals during their shifts.
Being a member of a wait staff teaches patience, customer service, money management, food handling, food preparation, and multi-tasking skills that can pay off after high school. Being a waiter is a very popular job for teenagers both during the school year, and in the summer. It’s a good job that offers scheduling flexibility and a solid number of shifts each week.
12. Retail Job
My retail job in high school entailed standing behind a counter and ringing up pharmaceuticals and magazines. It was an easy job, and I enjoyed working with the customers. Stores often hire students looking for after-school employment.
Retail jobs offer all sorts of perks, including merchandise discounts, relatively light schedules, working alongside other students, and a fun, fast-paced work environment. The downsides include earning minimum wage, working on weekends, and dealing with unhappy customers. In general, the retail or mall job is a good first job for students in high school. Students will learn responsibility, money management, and how to effectively deal with customers.
Parents pay good money to have their kids tutored, so take advantage of your know-how to help their kids succeed. Whether it’s tutoring an elementary school student with his or her reading, or helping a fellow classmate get those calculus questions right, tutoring is big business right now. There are a number of corporate tutoring entities, like Sylvan Learning Center, but you can offer your services as a tutor for less money, and with a more personal experience.
Private tutors can expect to earn at least as much as babysitters, and can set their own schedule with their clients. You have to really enjoy helping others learn, in order to be a tutor, however. Any job where you earn good money, and set your own hours, is a win-win for a high school student.
14. Warehouse and Distribution Job
If you don’t mind using some muscle, there are part-time jobs available loading and unloading inventory in warehouses and distribution centers. The evening hours for these part-time jobs fit neatly into a student’s schedule.
Expect to earn minimum wage, with some possibility of pay raises after some time has elapsed. The work can be monotonous, but it goes quickly if you stay focused and keep moving.
15. Web Designer
Do you have technical skills in web design or web development? If so, you might find work designing or creating websites for customers. After all, almost every entrepreneur needs a website.
Web designers working full-time in Burbank, California make an average of $68,000 per year. By working part-time out of your home you might be able to assemble a list of clients to keep you busy while you’re attending school. Sure, you will be spending long hours stuck in front of a computer, but you will be setting your own schedule, earning great money for part-time work, and possibly setting up a business that continues beyond high school.
Teenagers have different motivations for finding a part-time job while in high school. Some of these jobs may not bring in much money, but the work experiences are valuable in other ways, too. In just a few hours a day, teenagers learn about responsibility, money management, people skills, working as a team, and professionalism, while also building self-esteem, and learning how to succeed in the real world after high school graduation. If working students can make time for homework, extracurricular school activities, and for socializing with friends, having a part-time job can be a solid learning experience.
What kind of job, if any, did you have in high school? Do you think it’s a good idea for teenagers to hold part-time jobs while in school?