The one question parents and teens may find themselves asking is whether their teen should get a job during high school, or if their time could be better spent pursuing a different extracurricular or academic pursuit. In some cases, there may be a financial need for a teen to get a job, but in other cases, a job may simply be a productive way for a teen to spend their excess time…if they have any. In recent years, high school student employment rates have been plummeting, and this is inversely correlated with the amount of time students are spending on their studies and on extracurriculars. So, with the limited time teens are given outside of their required academic responsibilities, should your teen work during high school? Read on to help make the best decision with and for your teen.
Related: How to Be Successful in High School
Reasons They Should Work During High School
There are countless valuable skills teens can get from working a job during high school, far beyond the money they make. For teens who are able to balance work, school, extracurricular, and social life, a job can be a valuable addition to a well-rounded schedule. That said, many of these skills can also be learned and developed through other means, such as volunteering, an apprenticeship, and various extracurricular opportunities.
Reason 1: Mastering Time Management
Working a job puts immediate structure into a teen’s life, which requires successful time management skills on the part of the teen. Teens will be held accountable for their work schedule by their boss, and they will be held accountable for their schoolwork by their teachers.
This requires the teen to step up to the plate and take ownership of their time and plan to use it wisely. Some teens thrive with these additional responsibilities, especially since they feel a sense of purpose in having a place to show up to and people who count on them.
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Reason 2: Developing Valuable Interpersonal and Professional Skills
Working a job puts teens in a very real-world, adult environment, and they’re expected to adapt to that level of maturity and professionalism. This is a great experience for teens who otherwise would only take cues from the social environment of their peers and school classrooms.
Teens working jobs can begin to understand how to respect a boss, be professional on the job and interact with customers, and how to develop a confident demeanor that will serve them well in college and in future jobs. If they can master this, they will be much better prepared for future interviews and jobs, as well, and their maturity and professional experience will likely be evident.
Reason 3: Financial Independence and Learning Money Management
One obvious benefit for high school students working a job is their ability to earn an income and either help support their families financially or save up to help defray the costs of their future higher education. However, that isn’t the only benefit to teens earning money through a job.
They also begin to learn the value of a dollar, and understanding how many hours it took them to earn their paycheck may make them rethink how they choose to spend it. Early exposure to personal finance is a great way to begin sound money management, which many young adults still have yet to master. Starting a small business is great for learning entrepreneurship and key to financial independence.
Reason 4: Building Up a Work History and Reference List
The thing about jobs is it seems that it takes one to get one, and having zero work experience can be the biggest obstacle to landing your first job. One way to overcome this is by starting early and building up that work history, network, and reference list from a young age. Whether a teen is applying to college, an internship, or a future job, having that prior work experience under their belt and a positive reference from a former employer is going to stand out.
Reasons They Shouldn’t Work During High School
While there are many pros to teens working during high school, there are also some potential drawbacks, which may be deal-breakers for some teens. It’s important that teens (and their parents) consider all the cons before jumping at a job, especially since some of those cons may be longer-lasting than just one semester.
In fact, the decision of whether or not a teen should get a job could have a significant impact on their current success and wellbeing, as well as on their future and future opportunities, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Reason 1: Unnecessary Stress and Time Pressure
A job can definitely teach teens time management skills, but for some, it may simply create unnecessary stress, and they may buckle under the added time pressure. Teens these days have a lot on their plate, and school hours and outside studies (homework, projects, test prep, standardized test prep, etc.) already take up the majority of their time, not to mention extracurriculars, socializing, and ideally some downtime.
If a teen adds a job on top of all of that, they may find that their other responsibilities and activities suffer or disappear altogether. For those who are able to make it work, but just barely, they may experience a negative impact on their mental health by bottling up all the stress and eliminating any socializing and downtime from their schedule.
Reason 2: A Distraction from their Studies
As we alluded to in reason 1 above, a job can pose a problematic distraction from a teen’s studies, which most feel should be at the center of their high school career and priority list. If a teen is too busy focusing on their job, or simply spends too much time at their job to have enough left over for their studies, this can be hugely detrimental.
A job should not be an impediment to a student’s academic progress, and if it does result in declining grades, it will do more harm than good. It’s up to you and your teen to determine if they will be able to juggle both a job and their studies, as well as to put safeguards in place to ensure the student does put enough time and attention towards their studies, first and foremost.
Reason 3: Unrelated to their Passions, Hobbies, and Interests
We discussed the various benefits a job may have for teens, but in some cases, their time may be better spent elsewhere, and that doesn’t just mean on homework. If a teen already has a specific hobby, passion, or interest that they want to pursue outside of school, and even possibly in college or in a career, any time devoted to that passion is time well-spent.
Prolonged dedication to anyone’s hobby or activity is going to be impressive to college admissions officers, and an unrelated job may actually be a less impressive use of time. That said, if your teen is able to secure a job, internship, or apprenticeship that is somehow related to their interest, passion, or hobby, this could be one of the most valuable work opportunities a teen could pursue and would likely be a huge advantage to their application.
Reason 4: Interruption to their Academic Planning and College Prep
The time spent at a job may not interfere with a teen’s study schedule or extracurriculars, but if it interrupts their academic planning or college preparation work, it’s just as detrimental. Even though it isn’t part of a required class assignment, college-bound teens should allot a portion of their time to academic planning, as in college research, and standardized test preparation, such as PSATs, SAT and/or ACT classes, and subject tests.
Additionally, high school juniors should be thinking about and planning for their application essays, as well as seeking out potential scholarship opportunities. It’s important that college-bound students prioritize all of this above a miscellaneous job since this will all greatly impact their future.
Related: The 5 Most Productive Things Teens Can Do from Home Now and Through the Summer
Questions to Ask Before Your Teen Starts Working During High School
If your teen is planning on or considering getting a job during high school, there are a few questions you should ask upfront to ensure they get off to a good start and don’t jeopardize any of their current responsibilities:
- How will you make sure your schoolwork comes before your job?
- Do you feel that you have adequate free time right now to add another 10+ hours of work per week to your schedule?
- Why are you interested in pursuing this job and will it help you reach your goals?
- What will you be giving up, in terms of activities or free time, to make room for the job?
- What will you do if there is ever a conflict between the job and an academic requirement?
Beta Bowl can teach your teen valuable life lessons in the workforce that will make their college application stand out from the rest.
In high school, teens are beginning to gain more independence and for the first time, take responsibility for managing a busy schedule of diverse classes and activities. Ambitious teens may seek to take on many extracurricular and outside-the-classroom activities, and for those who can manage their time and priorities well, this can be a great experience.
However, when teens do choose to add another time-intensive responsibility to their priority list, especially if it’s a part-time job, they need to be thoughtful about whether this addition will do more harm or good.
A job can be a valuable learning and earning opportunity for some teens, but for others, it can hinder their academic career and extracurricular involvement, so teens and their parents should think long and hard before adding a job into the mix of responsibilities.