Working during the summer when school is out of session is a great opportunity for teenagers to make money and assert their independence. Having a summer job can help you earn extra income, reduce your college tuition bill and corresponding reliance on student loans, and gain practical experience for a future career, all while providing opportunities that might not be available during the school year.
Deciding what you want to do is the hard part. Do you want to work outside? Work with others? Work with animals? Once you figure that out, you’ll find there are summer jobs that fit the bill for almost any interests you may have.
As a high schooler, you may feel as though you lack the necessary experience to land a prime gig. But there are plenty of entry-level jobs for high schoolers and college students that pay rather well and tend to be more plentiful during the summer. These are among the best.
Best Summer Jobs & Opportunities for High School Students
Many great summer jobs and employment opportunities for young workers also happen to be excellent year-round part-time jobs for high school students. While some pay little more than minimum wage, others offer surprisingly high pay and may even extend health insurance benefits to part-timers.
Good babysitters don’t grow on trees. As a parent myself, I’ve seen both sides of the coin: uber-dependable babysitters I trust to be available on short notice and more than capable of handling whatever kids throw at them, along with decidedly mediocre sitters I wouldn’t work with again. The dependable ones earn their pay, and then some.
And that pay isn’t half bad. According to data collected by Sittercity, the average U.S. babysitting wage was about $16 per hour in January 2021. In some cities, babysitters clear $20 per hour on average. (Side note: Sittercity is an excellent resource for aspiring sitters to connect with families in their area, as is Care.com.) Sitters with credentials that families find valuable, like CPR certification and driver’s licenses, can ask for more.
2. Camp Counselor
There are summer camps all over the country designated for almost any activity you could imagine, so you can likely find a perfect match for your interests. If you don’t mind spending weeks at a time away from home, sleepaway camps typically offer free room and board, opportunities to socialize with fellow counselors after hours, and ample outdoor recreation opportunities on days off. Otherwise, you can work during the day and sleep in your own bed every night as a day camp counselor.
Being a camp counselor is definitely an entry-level job, but employers may prefer or require candidates with safety certifications like CPR and basic first aid. Considering most camp counselors work just eight to 12 weeks out of the year, the median pay — about $20,300 annually, according to Glassdoor — is quite good.
3. Landscaping and Lawn Care Worker
Few activities shout “summer” louder than mowing the lawn on a beautiful day. If you don’t mind doing laps in your own yard every week, why not offer to cut your neighbors’ grass too? Unlike your parents, who may or may not fold compensation for household chores into your allowance, they’ll pay you a fair wage for the effort.
Lawn care isn’t the only groundskeeping-type job available to high school students. Garden beds need digging, weeding, mulching, watering, and general tending throughout the growing season. Shrubs and trees need trimming. Patios and decks need cleaning.
Plenty of high school students work as one-person shows, prospecting for lawn care clients primarily among homeowners in their neighborhoods. If you can drum up enough business to support 20 hours of weekly work at an average hourly rate of $11.25 (per Payscale), you’ll earn about $225 per week before taxes — not bad for a job that hardly feels like work at all.
Alternatively, look for groundskeeping jobs with institutional clients, like school systems or office parks. This work is likely to be steadier and might have full-time potential. The catch is that jobs that involve heavy machinery, such as riding mowers, tend to be off-limits to applicants under age 18.
4. Pool Cleaner
Pool cleaning is another outdoor summer job that can hardly feel like work at all. If you live in a neighborhood where private pools are plentiful, you shouldn’t have trouble finding business through door-to-door prospecting, word of mouth marketing and client references, or advertising on community websites like Craigslist and Nextdoor.
If you prefer a steadier paycheck and a more structured work environment, target deeper-pocketed clients, such as condo complexes and homeowners’ associations with communal pools. Or look for work with a pool cleaning company that hires under-18s. (This may depend on labor laws in your area but should be made clear in the job description.) Either way, pool cleaner pay is a bit better than groundskeeping pay: about $16 per hour nationwide, according to Payscale.
5. Career-Track Intern
Even if you haven’t yet decided what you want your “real” career to be, high school summers offer the perfect opportunity to test a job you think you’ll like and want to continue longer-term. If you do a great job and are still interested in the line of work once summer is over, you’ll have some much-needed experience that leads to more work the following summer, a part-time job while you attend school, and perhaps even a full-time job offer after you graduate.
Summer internships are often unpaid, forcing students to consider whether the opportunity is worth the cost. That’s likely to come down to the value of the experience and the connections you might make on the job — connections that could land you a higher-paying, career-track job down the road.
To find an internship that’s a good fit for your skills and interests, set up a meeting with your high school guidance counselor, ask your parents and friends’ parents for leads, and check out websites like Internships.com (a Chegg subsidiary that focuses solely on internships).
Many middle and high school students use summer break to continue or enhance their education. If you’re adept at any particular subject, such as calculus or physics, or you’ve already taken and done well on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT, you can help these students and earn decent pay as a tutor.
Tutor pay varies by specialty, experience, and educational attainment. Tutors who themselves are high school students or recent graduates aren’t likely to earn much more than the national average rate (per Payscale) of $18 per hour. But that’s not a bad wage for a job that requires no physical labor and can be done in the comfort of an air-conditioned home office or coffee shop.
Tutors also have some freedom to set their own hours. The biggest downside for student-tutors is that marketplaces like Tutor.com tend to have strict teaching experience and educational attainment requirements — often mandating college degrees — that effectively rule out high schoolers. To find success as a tutor, you’ll need to advertise locally — such as on Craigslist, Facebook, and other social media platforms or on Nextdoor — and work your connections in the community.
7. Barista or Restaurant Server
Food and beverage service jobs are plentiful and easy for young people to get without prior experience. Although average base pay is poor, sometimes below minimum wage, workers who earn tips can do well for themselves. And some national chains have the resources and inclination to pay more: Starbucks baristas earn about $12 per hour on average, according to Glassdoor, and may qualify for a benefits package that includes health insurance.
8. Grocery Store Worker
Grocery store and supermarket jobs are also relatively plentiful in heavily populated areas. Although most grocery employees don’t earn tips, base pay is generally a few ticks above the federal minimum wage — about $12 per hour, according to Payscale. Specialized positions like meat cutting pay the most, although jobs that require workers to operate heavy machinery are typically off-limits to workers under age 18.
Grocery store employees typically work in shifts, with part-timers pulling four to eight hours at a stretch. Peak shopping hours tend to fall on weekends and early evenings, too, so this isn’t the best gig for students who want to keep social conflicts to a minimum come summer. On the bright side, many grocery store employees belong to labor unions, which negotiate pay and benefits while providing some protection against bad managers.
9. Golf Course Caddy
The base pay isn’t great, typically working out to near local minimum wage. The opportunities aren’t super plentiful either, unless you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with more country clubs than grocery stores. But golf caddies do OK for themselves thanks to generous tips that, per the PGA, range up to 50% of the green fee — which can exceed $100 per group on summer weekends. Add in the sunshine and the free exercise, and caddying can be an enjoyable, decent-paying gig.
Caddying is physically demanding, even for able-bodied young people — you’ll need to walk the entire course at least once per day, jog for wayward balls, and carry your clients’ bags. Caddying also requires familiarity with the game of golf, including club selection, although new caddies generally receive basic training before they’re cleared to work the course. On the plus side, where local labor laws permit, caddying is open to applicants as young as 14.
If you’re a strong swimmer and can remain attentive for long periods at a stretch, lifeguarding at your neighborhood beach or pool can provide a solid summer income. Indeed, for people who like to work outside without exerting themselves unless or until an emergency arises, being a lifeguard might be the perfect summer job.
Lifeguarding requires more training and credentialing than the typical high school summer job. No matter where you work, expect to complete CPR certification, basic first aid training, bloodborne pathogens training, and a basic water rescue course. Open-water lifeguards — those supervising ocean beaches, for example — may need additional training. Whether the relatively low pay — about $10 per hour, according to Payscale — justifies the effort comes down to how appealing you find sitting by the pool or on the beach all day.
11. Handyperson or Painter
Summer is high time for home improvement projects, which makes it the perfect time of year to offer a helping hand or two.
Don’t bother with jobs that require extensive training or licensing like plumbing and electrical work, because few homeowners are so set on saving a few bucks that they’ll hire inexperienced high schools for such high-stakes work. Instead, focus on relatively low-skill work that many people don’t have the time, patience, or stamina to do themselves: painting fences or interior rooms (house exteriors have a higher degree of difficulty), laying or edging walkways, installing or patching drywall, installing laminate flooring, or moving furniture.
Advertise your services on Craigslist, Nextdoor, and the like, and draw upon neighborhood and community networks to find clients who need work done. Just know what the market is willing to pay for your services. Payscale’s average handyman pay approaches $24 per hour, but that figure includes seasoned professionals capable of much more than the typical high schooler.
12. Dog Walker or Pet Sitter
Much as they love them, many summer travelers don’t bring their pets along for the journey. That’s where you, a budding dog walker or pet sitter (or both) come in. It’s your job to care for your clients’ pets as if they were your own — feeding, exercising, and loving them while their pet parents are out of town.
Pet sitting, in particular, is a potentially lucrative gig for intrepid high schoolers willing to do the difficult and sometimes tedious work of prospecting for new clients and building referrals to make prospects feel more comfortable entrusting their pets to your care. Platforms like Rover take some of the legwork out of this task in exchange for a modest cut of the proceeds. Even so, pet sitters and dog walkers do fairly well, clearing $25 to $30 per visit on average, according to Thumbtack, and double or triple that for overnight stays.
Working during summer break has long been a rite of passage for high school students — a time when students whose studies or extracurricular activities prevent them from holding part-time jobs during the school year can gain valuable workplace experience.
Make the most of the opportunity. When summer rolls around, focus on your interests and life goals and try to find a job that matches closely with those activities. In other words, find a job that you actually want to spend your summer doing. Hopefully, you’ll look back on it fondly, as a formative experience that sets you up for success in whatever career you ultimately choose to pursue.