Kids And Finances

Four Things High School Students Should Know About Having a Part-Time Job

part-time job, teenager advice, parenting tips

I’ve spent a lot of time and effort teaching my son basic personal finance concepts such as working hard to earn money, saving for the things you want, and getting the most value out of your hard earned money. I discovered recently that he’s in need of a lesson in how being part of the labor force works, especially as he begins his sophomore year in high school and may be contemplating getting his first part-time job.


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As a fifteen year old, there aren’t a ton of job opportunities. We looked around a little bit at the beginning of summer, and found that most employers require job applicants to be sixteen. We recently revisited the subject of a part-time job when I noticed a big box electronics retailer, which he had expressed interest in working at, had a “now hiring!” sign hanging from the side of it’s building. At some point in the conversation, he mentioned two points that surprised me:

  • He didn’t want to work during the school year
  • He didn’t want to work just a couple hours a day

These two statements made me realize that we needed to sit down and have a father to son talk about how part time jobs work.

  1. You Can Have a Job AND Good Grades: He went on to elaborate that he didn’t want his grades to suffer because he had a job. It was an admirable statement, but it simply does not fit with his use of time over the last few years. What he really meant was that he didn’t want to give up the several hours a day he spends online playing games with his friends. I worked 30 hours a week my junior and senior year and still managed to graduate in the top ten of my class.
  2. Take The Hours You Can Get: I worked at a restaurant and sometimes had to open the kitchen at 6:00am on weekends. There were other times I had to work late and close the restaurant. Sometimes I got 3 hour shifts, other times they were seven hours in length. It was inconvenient, and cut into social time with my friends. But those negative feelings all disappeared when I got my paycheck.
  3. Expect Minimum Wage: There’s a reason why employers hire high school students: They’re cheap labor. The bad news is you’ll be lucky if you earn a rate higher than minimum wage. The good news is it will still give you more money than you’ve ever had in your life.
  4. Having A Job Is Worth It: Look, I know I sound like that crotchety old man that claims to have walked up hill both ways to and from school. But trust me, besides all the great life lessons you don’t care about right now, you’ll be glad you had a job in high school for the following reasons:
  • While many of my friends only got the use of a car when their parents allowed them to, I had my own car I could use whenever I wanted (assuming I wasn’t grounded from it).
  • I always had the money to put gas in that car to be able to go where I wanted to go
  • I went to countless concerts and movies
  • I was able to create a great music collection that I still listen to over twenty years later.

The point is, high school can be some of the best years of your life. You’re old enough to have the freedom to do a lot of things, but young enough to not have a lot of financial responsibilities. It will likely be a long time before you have the kind of discretionary funds that you have during these years if you play your cards right.

Now, what was that about getting some job applications?

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • It’s an admirable trait you are trying to inculcate in your son…something I believe a whole lot more high school kids might benefit from.
    A job in high school exposes you to the realities of life and makes you appreciate hard work and the money thereof. You learn to manage money fast!

  • @Elstad – there’s no better teacher than experience, and having a job in high school opens all kinds of opportunity to learn work ethic, and financial lessons. Thanks for reading!

  • I too worked during HS and I’m so glad that I did! When I went to college, I still worked to pay my living expenses, but I had some money saved up from my HS job too that I could use when things got tight or my class schedule didn’t allow for as many working hours. Getting a job in HS is never a bad thing!

  • Being Asian, our parents always encouraged us to study instead of work during school. However, I believe like you do, that it is possible to still get good grades while learning valuable lessons in work ethic, money management, and responsibility. Thanks for your great post!

  • While I agree that having a job in high school can teach you a lot of life lessons, you also have to make sure your social life doesn’t suffer. Yes it’s fine not to hang out with your friends once in a while, but to avoid them completely because of your job isn’t really worth it, unless you desperately need the money to survive day by day. I worked a lot in high school, and now I wish I could hang out more with my friends so I could have more fun high school memories.

  • @Jay – Exactly, that’s why us parents have to step up and be the teacher. I’m really enjoying this phase of my son’s growth process where I have the opportunity to teach more complex life skills! Thanks for reading!

  • @Kayla – I was able to buy my own car, have a lot of fun, and save up quite a bit of spending money for my first year in college. Learned a lot of great workforce skills AND made quite a bit of dough in the process – nothing wrong with that! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • @PoorStudent – I don’t disagree with you….but I never seemed to be lacking in opportunities to hang out with my friends. There was always time after work even on weekends, and during the summers when essentially worked full time there was always half the day to see my friends. Great point though!

  • @Daisy – My grades also did not suffer…..I made sure of it. Sometimes it was hard, and I had to stay up late doing homework, but that’s life, right??

  • @Deb – Glad you liked the post…..and it certainly is possible to work, have a social life, AND have great grades. where there’s a will, there’s a way – it was all about time management! thanks for stopping by!

  • I think having a job in high school is a good idea, BUT a kids most important goal should be to study hard and get good grades!

    Some folks can handle a job, social life, and get good grades. For others, they may need to cut back on the job aspect so the other two do not suffer.

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