Should Teens Have Jobs?

Michele Meleen
Teenage Girl Searching for Jobs

As the economy, job market, and parental beliefs change, so do the arguments about whether adolescent employment is helpful or harmful. Today, statistics indicate the high school employment rate sits at around 20 percent, which shows where the current general attitude lies on the topic.

Benefits of Teen Jobs

Many parents, educators, and teens will say working during high school better prepares kids for their futures. While many of these benefits haven't been thoroughly researched, they are backed by experience and history.

  • Helps build confidence
  • Strengthens job skills
  • Creates networking opportunities
  • Adds income to the individual or family
  • Teaches the value of money

Reduces Violence

Based on a study of over 1,500 disadvantaged youth, a summer job or related work program can reduce violent behavior by these teens by over 40 percent. Youth who are busy, feel purposeful and respected, and can see a brighter future have more reasons to disengage from detrimental behaviors. While there's no guarantee a job will totally keep teens out of trouble, there is evidence it can help.

Predicts Future Job Success

Youth with disabilities face added difficulties in gaining successful employment as adults, but employment during high school can help. High school work experiences are one of the top predictors of gaining competitive employment after graduation for kids in special education programs. Presumably, these professional experiences give youth confidence and job skills while also showing future employers what they are capable of.

Improves School Attendance

It may seem counterintuitive, but having a summer job has been shown to increase school attendance slightly among teens ages 16 and older. Skills learned from employment like time management and understanding the importance of education as it relates to work could help teens view school as more of a priority.

Drawbacks of Teen Jobs

For some youth, caregivers, and teachers, teen jobs come with more drawbacks than benefits. These negative consequences are often most apparent when teens:

  • Work too many hours
  • Accept demanding jobs
  • Have schedules full of other extra-curricular activities
  • Take on other adult responsibilities such as caring for children

Takes Time Away From Education

Today's young adults will need at least a four-year college degree to get an adequate job, and that means more focus on education. The teen employment rate has been on the decline for decades. Youth today cite school as the top reason why they don't have a job. With advanced classes, college courses, and summer homework, teens just don't have as much free time for after-school or summer jobs as they used to.

Might Hinder Financial Aid Awards

While you might be saving up to help pay for college, earning too much could actually hurt you financially. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, takes into account your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) when calculating financial aid awards. If you make more than $6,420, about half the amount you make over that benchmark counts toward your family's EFC. If you've got high earnings or savings, it could take away from the financial aid you receive.

Puts Added Pressure On Teens

Summer or part-time jobs can contribute to a teen's anxiety level. The process of reaching out to strangers, opening themselves up to rejection, and the fear of failure are all real concerns for many adolescents considering employment. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent psychiatric disorders for teens, affecting about 40 percent of this population.

Choose What Works for You

Some teens have no choice but to work while others don't have any need for a job. Consider your life and your goals for the future then see how a job fits into your teenage years.

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Should Teens Have Jobs?