Jobs for 14- and 15-Year-Olds

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 4, 2020

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How old is old enough to have a job? According to the Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act, the minimum age for having a job is 14. That doesn’t mean that once you are 14 you can turn in your school uniform for a business suit or a hardhat and begin your professional career.

There are also some rules regarding how many hours a person under the age of 16 may work. Minors are also banned from working in some professions that are deemed too hazardous. There are also some exceptions to the rules and requirements for certain types of jobs.

To make it even more confusing, each state has its own laws regarding employing minors. If your state labor laws and the federal laws have conflicting rules, the one that is the most protective of the child is the one that you should go by.

There are also some specific rules for agricultural jobs and minors. We’re going to be discussing non-agricultural jobs and general rules in this article. Remember to check your state laws and to look into the particular job you want to make sure it’s allowed where you live.

How Much Are 14- and 15-Year-Olds Allowed to Work?

At 16, the federal laws change for working minors, and they’re no longer restricted in the hours they can work. For 14- and 15-year-olds, the federal law has the following guidelines:

  • You cannot work more than eight hours a day.

  • On school days, you can’t work for more than three hours.

  • On a school week, you can only work a maximum of 18 hours.

  • On a week where there isn’t any public school, you can work up to 40 hours, no more.

  • You cannot be hired to work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m.

These are the federal guidelines; because there are also state guidelines, you need to check your state’s rules. As mentioned above, if there is a conflict between state and federal rules, the more restrictive one applies.

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For example, in Florida, child labor laws say that a 14- or 15-year-old can only work 15 hours a week when public school is in session. You’ll notice that the federal law says they can work 18 hours. Because Florida is more restrictive or protective, you can only work 15 hours during a school week if you live in Florida.

It’s good to know the federal guidelines, but you must check out your state rules as well. This can make a big difference in your employment.

Are Work Permits Required?

Only some states require a work permit for a minor to work; the federal government does not. That means you don’t need one unless your state requires it, or you might find an employer that requires it.

Work permits are designed to protect an employer from hiring someone who is underage. Without a legitimate work permit, a 13-year-old can easily claim to be 14 and get a job, and then the employer can get in trouble for hiring someone who legally isn’t allowed to work.

Work permits typically are available at your school and require your parents to fill out some paperwork, and often the employer has a little paperwork to do too. Employers who often hire teens can guide you in how to get your work permit. Your school is also an excellent resource for information related specifically to your state and teen employment.

What Sort of Work Can 14- and 15-Year-Olds Do?

There is a long list of jobs teens aren’t allowed to do; don’t get discouraged. There are still many jobs for high school students. The following are some areas where you might want to begin a job-search when you’re 14 or 15.

  • Entrepreneur. You can create your own business and do odd jobs for people, such as babysitting, yard work, pet sitting and dog walking, cleaning houses, teaching people how to use social media, etc. It’s true; you can be your own boss and a business owner at 14. How awesome is that?

  • Retail. One of the biggest employers of young people is the retail industry. Companies like Aeropostale, Target, Wal-Mart – you get the idea. All of these retail stores love to hire teens and give them a chance at their first job.

  • Food service. There are a lot of opportunities as a food service worker. You can cook food, serve it, work on a line, prepare food, clean and sanitize public areas, and take orders over the phone or online. This is not just a wonderful place for young adults to get a taste of a professional working environment; it can be a lifelong career.

  • Work with kids. There are tons of jobs where kids get to work with younger kids. This is ideal for many young people who want to earn a little extra income. Babysitting is a very popular first job. You can get certified and work for a service, or you can start your own business. Other jobs working with children include soccer coach, camp counselor, tutor, lifeguard or swim instructor, and daycare assistant

More Employment Opportunities

Need even more ideas of jobs you can have when you’re 14 or 15? How about one of these:

  • Barista. Learn how to make a great cup of coffee, and you’ll always be able to get a job.

  • Retail clerk. Selling anything can be a good start to a career or just give you that real-world experience.

  • Stocker. Stocking shelves can take a lot of physical effort, but you don’t need a degree to do it.

  • Cashier. This is a good starting job for anyone who wants to work in finance or with people. Consider it an occupational stepping stone.

  • Amusement park game operator. What could be more fun than a job in an amusement park?

  • Ticket taker/usher at the theater. You’ll smell like popcorn at the end of the day but probably get a good discount on movies.

  • Baggers at a grocery store. This is a job that’s often done by young people, so you’ll fit right in.

  • Ice cream shop server. These shops have a fun atmosphere, and the work isn’t too hard.

  • Babysitter/nanny. If you love kids, then this might be the job for you.

  • Pet sitter/dog walker. Dog lovers won’t even think of this as work, and you get paid.

  • Car washer. It’s a wet job, but it’s something just about anyone can do without a lot of training.

  • Mini-golf attendant. Once you get the swing of it, this can be a fun job filled with happy people.

  • Janitor/cleaner. Just about every business needs someone to clean, and it can get you in the door of a company you want to work at after graduation.

  • Newspaper delivery. This has been a job that kids have been doing since the newspaper business began.

  • Landscaper/lawn mowing and raking. You can start your own business or get a job with a local landscaping company.

  • Lifeguard. If you’re a gifted swimmer and have passed some certifications, being a lifeguard is a fun job.

  • Golf caddy. Spending time outside and getting tips, this is a great job for teens.

  • Tutor. If you’re an excellent student, being a tutor can be an easy and fun way to share your knowledge. It’s also the first step for future teachers.

  • Coach/sport assistant. Take your sports talent to the next level and teach others.

  • Order taker. There are a lot of businesses that need people who can reliably take an order. It’s not too tricky, but you need to be a good listener.

  • Waiter/waitress. Start at a fast-food restaurant and work your way up to a table waiting job that pays tips.

  • Customer service. Are you good with people? Working in customer service can be a great way to improve your people skills.

  • Website design. Graphic design skills can get you your first job when you’re still in high school.

  • Freelance writer. Are you a great writer? There might be a job out there for you, or you can start your own freelance business.

  • Restaurant busser. Pick up a few hours and a little extra cash by being a busser at a restaurant.

  • Dishwasher. Just about every restaurant needs dishwashers, and they’re often willing to hire teens.

  • Host/hostess. Greet customers and make people feel welcome. It’s a great starting job.

  • Concession stands. Whether you’re at a ball field or an amusement park, working concessions is a job that teens can do.

  • Painter. Local painting companies might be willing to hire you if you’ve got an eye for detail and are a hard worker.

  • Shopping cart attendee. All of those carts need to come in from the parking lot. It doesn’t require a lot of skill and is a great first job.

If you know what you want to do for your career or what field you want to go into in college, it’s a great idea to contact someone who works in that industry or a company in that field and ask if someone in their human-resources department will speak to you.

If you explain that you’re looking for work, what you’d like to do when you grow up, and ask them if they have any job listings for people your age or suggestions, you’re bound to get some great ideas. This is an excellent way to get ahead in your profession before you even leave high school.

How to Get a Job as a Teenager

Now that you have some ideas about jobs you might want to get, the next big question is how to get a job.

  1. Learn how to apply. The good news is that many entry-level jobs don’t have professional requirements, so you won’t need to create a resume. It’s a great idea to call the business and ask them how they prefer to get job applications. Some will have you stop in to pick up an application and then drop it off when you’ve completed it. Other jobs would rather have you complete an online application.

    If a business requires a resume, don’t be discouraged. It’s good practice to make one when you’re in high school. Of course, you won’t have a lot to put on it, but you’ll be better prepared for it the next time around.

  2. Clean up social media. A lot of employers will check out the social media accounts of people before they hire them. This gives them information on what your personality is. Do your accounts show that you’d be a good hire, or are they something an employer wouldn’t want to see?

  3. Get references. Find three people (who aren’t your family members) to vouch for your character and work habits. Teachers are usually a great place to start looking.

  4. Prepare for an interview. Ask your parents or friends to help you do a mock interview to have an idea of the questions they might ask. Think about what your answers might be beforehand so you feel confident and well-prepared when you go in.

  5. Send a thank you. After you’ve been interviewed, send a thank-you email or letter. This always leaves a good impression.

Remember, if your state requires a work permit, you’re going to need that to start working.

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Chris Kolmar

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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