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What Jobs Can a Teenager Apply For?

Updated on April 5, 2015
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Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.

Search For Work - Do What You Love

When looking for a job, always start out with something that you love. You'll probably have to compromise but aim high at the outset.
When looking for a job, always start out with something that you love. You'll probably have to compromise but aim high at the outset. | Source

How to Decide Which Job is Right for You

You might be happy to do any work that will pay you - so long as it's legal! But even if that's the case, it is always worth taking a few moments to think things through and decide which job is right for you.

After all, money is only one of the potential benefits of getting out to work and you should aim to gain from as many of them as possible.

So first up, think about why you want a job - over and above earning a few bucks.

For example, you might have a very specific objective in mind that you need the money for; your parents may be pressuring you; you might have a career in mind and want to test the waters before you commit to a course of study or you might want to help pay for your college fees.

Now there's no guarantee that you'll get your dream job - and you may not have one - but if you do then there's no harm in aiming high at the outset and making compromises when necessary.

In either case, knowing your motivation will not only help you choose a good direction, it will enable you to give a good answer to that sure-to-be-asked interview question, "Why do you want to work with us?"

How to Get a Job as a Teen: Step by Step Instructions.

What Age Do You Have to Be to Get a Job?

There are different laws in different States that determine who can do what at which age. However, there are some general rules that apply across the board.

The key legislation that will affect you is the Fair Labor Standards Act. Among other things, this sets the minimum age at which you can legally work at 14. So if you haven't reached your fourteenth birthday yet, then I'm afraid you'll have to wait.

But can you get hired if you're under eighteen? Well, the answer is yes.

Employers Want Teenagers.

So, whatever your motive for wanting to get a job - to further a career idea and add something useful to your resume or simply boost your spending power, to take your special friend out on swanky dates or buy new music, clothes and so on - you'll need to think about a number of things first.

But before we go into the limitations placed on you by law - which will vary depending on your age, your State (in the US) and the kind of work you're looking for - rest assured that there are plenty of opportunities out there for you.

There are lots of employers who are keen to employ teenagers. And before you think cynically that it's because they can pay you less, the truth is that it's simply that they have jobs that are casual or transient in nature and don't appeal to older people looking for more settled or long-term employment.

They want young, energetic, bright people who are well-motivated. So, if that's you, the world of employment is your oyster.

What Work Can I Do If I'm Under 18?

Labor laws that restrict the types of work teenagers can do are designed to protect your rights and keep you safe.
Labor laws that restrict the types of work teenagers can do are designed to protect your rights and keep you safe. | Source

See the table below for a comprehensive, State by State listing of age requirements for employment.

If you are 14 years old or over, then the employment door is open to you.

If you are under 16, then the number of hours per week that you can legally work is limited. This is for your own protection to ensure on the one hand that you are not exploited and on the other, that your school-work and home-life won't be negatively affected by your job.

The law also protects you from hazardous work involving heavy machinery, excavation, mining, poisonous substances and so on.

So, you can't do the dirty and dangerous stuff. You are limited to the jobs that are clean, safe and fun. So, it's a good thing!

Within that law, there are certain exceptions. So, you can work in the following circumstances even if you are not yet sixteen:

  • if you are working for your parents or guardian
  • if you are delivering newspapers
  • if you are working as an actor in TV, Film or Theatre
  • if you are working as a babysitter or pet minder.

Do remember that the laws governing the employment of persons under 18 years of age can vary quite considerably from one State to another, so if you have any doubts, always check first with your State's Labor Department.

At the end of this article there is a table with a comprehensive list of all the regulations in each US State.

Jobs for Teens in Food and Service Industries.

Many teenagers find work in the food and service industries. Image courtesy of stockphotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Many teenagers find work in the food and service industries. Image courtesy of stockphotos / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who is Hiring Teenagers?

So, you have your motivation clear in your mind and you know the law relating to your State.

In a minute we'll look at some tips and tricks to give you the best chance of landing the job you want. But first, let's be realistic. What kind of companies are actually hiring teenagers? What industry sector is most likely to have an opportunity for you?

In some ways that depends whether you are looking for temporary, part-time work, say through the summer vacation, or something longer-term and career-related.

In the latter case, then you need to find out for yourself what opportunities might be available in the sector that interests you most. The best way to do that is to make a list of the industries, companies and roles that you might be interested in that have a physical presence in your area. Do some research: get names and numbers - you can do that online, searching in your local business directory or asking at the library. You can also show up real live and ask politely for the name and contact details of the person you should approach about the possibility of work.

In this case, only you know what you're looking at. It could be anything from the local TV network to a research agency to the zoo!

You should put together a resume detailing your aims, experience and qualifications to date and any other evidence of your aptitude and enthusiasm. Then make sure you get it sent out to the right people.

If you're not career-driven at this stage, then there are plenty of jobs that hire teenagers and they are some of the easiest jobs to get.

Which Jobs are Easiest for Teenagers to Get?

The short answer to that question is really the job that you will find easiest to get will be the job you are most suited to.

But it is also true that there are certain sectors, particularly for short-term, casual or summer vacation type work that have more opportunities for teens than others.

Job Ideas For Teens

Aside from flipping burgers or stocking shelves, what about these job ideas for teens?

  • Tutoring younger kids in Summer School
  • Offer gardening services or grass cutting
  • Babysitter or private nanny
  • Life Guarding at the pool or the beach
  • Golf Caddy
  • Summer camp Mentor/Counselling
  • Extra in TV or Film
  • Busking (permit may be required)
  • Internet start-up and millionaire in a month...maybe.

Government employment statistics indicate that most teens who get a job are working in one of the following sectors:

  • Accommodation & Hospitality
  • Food Services
  • Retail
  • Education
  • Health
  • Leisure
  • Arts

So, with the right approach and a bit of persistence it should be possible for most teenagers who are motivated to work to find a job that they can be interested in, too.

There are, of course, also opportunities for work abroad if you have well-developed language skills, a passport and can organize your own travel and accommodation - although such jobs are usually carried out on a 'break-even' basis to gain experience rather than for financial gain and are beyond the scope of this article.

But don't be limited by this information - you may know something or have an idea that is a little off-beat but could really work. Many of the most successful people in the world started out that way!

Ashton Kutcher's Inspirational Speech - Teen Choice Awards

How Much Can a Teenager Earn?

Pay rates vary a lot depending on your age, experience, ambition and sector.

However, there are laws that govern minimum wages that employers can pay to any one and that includes you.

Minimum Wage for Teenagers

Pay for teenagers varies depending on age, experience and sector but minimum wages are protected in law. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Pay for teenagers varies depending on age, experience and sector but minimum wages are protected in law. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is no national minimum wage - figures vary from about $5 to about $10 per hour - but I won't give a fixed figure as these things are frequently adjusted under different economic and political circumstances.

The important thing- aside from your personal satisfaction that the pay you are offered seems reasonable to you - is always make sure that you know what the legal minimum wage for your State is before you accept any offer.

You should never be tempted to work for less on an offer of 'cash in hand.' Not only will you be breaking the law but you will be undermining the protection of vulnerable people.

Having said that - most employers are honest and some are even generous, so don't worry about it too much!

How to Get a Job: Top Ten Tips for Teenagers

Great. Now you know why you want a job and have a clear idea of your motivation. You also know the law regarding which jobs you can and can't get. You have an idea of how much you can expect to be paid and you have decided on which kind of job you'd like to do.

Now it's time to get that job. Here are my top ten tips to help you have the best chance of success:

  • Aim high but be prepared to make realistic compromises.
  • Spread your net wide and get the word out. Don't just look in all the obvious places for vacancy announcements - tell everyone you know from friends and relatives to school staff and storekeepers. A job won't come to you so use all the available resources - including everything from the internet and your own feet - to hunt that job down.
  • Write a stellar (but honest) resume. Even if your prospective employer doesn't ask you for it, it is still a good idea for yourself: you will know what your qualifications are, what your interests are, what relevant experience you have. and what your expectations are for the job.

Positive thinking, good research and preparation and reasonable goals are the key to getting a job. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Positive thinking, good research and preparation and reasonable goals are the key to getting a job. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • If you have to fill in an application form make rough copies of your answers first and maybe get someone else to look over them before you write up a neat copy. Double check that you have included all the required information.
  • Limit your search. I know this might seem to contradict number 2 but what I mean is think carefully about which jobs you will realistically be able to do in terms of the costs and practicalities of getting there, the hours you'll be asked to work and any other responsibilities that might go along with it.

  • If you get an interview, make sure that you go dressed appropriately. For some jobs that might mean suit and tie. For others, it could be smart casual. Either way, do your research and then look, act and sound the part.
  • When face-to-face with your prospective employer be bright, communicate clearly and be honest. Never be tempted to 'big yourself up' or even lie - you will only set yourself up for embarrassment. On the flip-side, be confident and positive about yourself.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions - either in the interview or by email or telephone afterwards. It's a two-way process and an employer will respect someone who knows what they don't know and takes steps to inform themselves rather than someone who fakes it.
  • When you get a job be sure to thank your employer and then turn up on time and properly prepared for your first day's work.
  • Finally, believe in yourself, get help when you need it, be determined as hardly anyone gets the first job they apply for. And above all - enjoy it!

Here's the table I promised you - but the story doesn't end here. If you don't want or need to check this out right now, scroll down for a final awesome and funny hint...

Minimum Ages for Employment in the USA

STATE
AGE
Legal Requirements
Alabama
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate - available from schools
Alaska
14 to 19
Mandatory Employment Certificate if under 17 or 19 if premises sell alcohol. Avialable from the Labor Dept.
Arizona
14
No certification required
Arkansas
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Age Certificate age 16 and 17. Available from the Labor Dept.
California
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from school.
Colorado
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from school. Non-mandatory Age Certificate available from school for under 18.
Conneticut
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Available from school. Age Certificate 16 to 18. Available from school.
Delaware
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate 18 and under. Available from both labor Dept. and school.
District of Columbia
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate 18 and under. Available from school.
Florida
14 to 18
Non-mandatory Age Certificate. Available from school. Employer's responsibility to provide proof of age.
Georgia
14 to 18
Mandatory Age Certificate. Available from school.
Guam
14 to 18
Mandatory Age Certificate under 16. Available from Labor Dept.
Hawaii
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate and Age Certificate 17 and under. Available from Labor Dept.
Idaho
14 to 18
No certification required.
Illinois
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from Labor Dept. Non-mandatory Age Certificate up to 20. Available from school.
Indiana
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 18. Available from school. Optional Age Certiciate for 18 to 21 available from school.
Iowa
14 to 16
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Available from school. Mandatory Age Certicicate for 16 and 17, optional for 18. Available from school.
Kansas
14 to 18
No requirements.
Kentucky
14 to 18
No requirements. Age Certificate issued by school on request.
Lousiana
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from school. No Age Certificate.
Maine
14 to 16
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Available from school. Optional Age Certificate for 16 and 17. Available from school.
Maryland
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from Labor Dept. No Age Certificate.
Massachusetts
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from school. Age Certificate under 16. Available from school.
Michigan
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from school. No Age Certificate.
Minnesota
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from school. Mandatory Age Certificate 16 and 17. Also from school. Employer's responsibility to verify and keep records of age of under 16s.
Mississippi
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 18 working in the following: factories, workshops, mills and canneries. Available from the school. No Age Certificate.
Missouri
14 to 16
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Available from school. Optional Age Certificate 16 and above, also available from school
Montana
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate if under 16. Available from school. Mandatory Age Certificate 16 and above if the work is deemed hazardous. Otherwise, optional. Available from the Labor Dept.
Nebraska
14 to 16
Mandatory Employment Certificate for 14 to 16. Available from school. 16 and over, optional Age Certificate. Also from school.
Nevada
14 and under
Mandatory Employment Certificate for 14 and under. Apply to District Judge. No Age Certificate.
New Hampshire
14 to 16
Mandatory Employment Certificate 16 and under. Available from school. No Age Certificate. Employer must obtain and retain written authorizatioin from the legal parent or guardian.
New Jersey
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate for all under 18. Available from school. Optional Age Certificate for 18 to 21. Also from school.
New Mexico
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from Labor Dept. Mandatory Age Certificate for 16 and 17. Also from Labor Dept.
New York
14 to 18+
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 18. Mandatory Age Certificate over 18. Both available from school.
North Carolina
.14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 18. Available from Labor Dept. or County DSS. No Age Certificate
North Dakota
14 to 16+
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Avaialable from Labor Dept. Mandatory Age Certificate for 16+. Also from Labor Dept.
Ohio
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Ages 16 and 17, mandatory during school term. Available from the school. No Age Certificate. Proof of age required for vacation work. Certain exemptions at the Superintendent of Schools' discretion.
Oklahoma
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate. under 16. Available from school. Age Certificate for 16 and 17, also from school.
Oregon
14+
No regulation.
Pennsylvania
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from school. No Age Certificate.
Puerto Rico
14 to 21
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from Labor Dept. Optional Age Certificate for 18 to 21, also from Labor Dept.
Rhode Island
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 16. Available from school. Mandatory Age Certificate for 16 and 17, also from school.
South Carolina
14 to 18
No Employment Certificate. Age Certificate option for under 18. Available from Labor Dept.
South Dakota
14+
No regulation.
Tenessee
No Certificated Regulation
Employer must obtain and retain proof of the age of the employed child.
Texas
14 to 18
No Employment Certificate. Mandatory Age Certificate under 18. Available from Labor Dept.
Utah
14 to 18
No Employment Certificate. Optional Age Certificate under 18. Available from school.
Vermont
14 to 16
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16 working during school hours. Available from the labor Dept. No Age Certificate.
Virgin Islands
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 18. Available from Labor Dept. No Age Certificate.
Virginia
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Available from school. Optional Age Certificate for 16 and 17, also from school.
Washington
14 to 18
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from the Labor Dept. No Age Certificate.
West Virginia
14 to 17
Mandatory Employment Certificate for under 16. Available from school. Optional Age Certificate for 16 and 17, also from school.
Wisconsin
14 to 18+
Mandatory Employment Certificate under 18. Available from the Labor Dept. or authorized permit officers in school. Age Certificate for over 18 optional, also available from Labor Dept. and permit officers.
Wyoming
14 to 16
No certificated regulation. Employer must obtain and retain proof of child's age.
A table showing a comprehensive listing of the minimum ages and legal requirements for employment in all States of the USA. Data from Department of Labor.

A Last Word

Good luck with your job search and I hope you never give an interview like this.....or maybe?

Original, unique articles for kids, parents and teachers, written by expert author, Amanda Littlejohn.
Original, unique articles for kids, parents and teachers, written by expert author, Amanda Littlejohn.

About the Author...

Articles at stuff4kids are written exclusively by expert author, Amanda Littlejohn. Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of professional and informal settings. She now specializes in writing and publishing valuable resources for use in educational contexts.

You are welcome to refer to these pages on your own site so long as you include a live link and the copyright attribution. Copying and pasting the article content itself, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited. All articles on this subdomain (http://stuff4kids.hubpages.com) are original, unique content and all rights remain with the author.

Read more here.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Solid information my friend. Looking back, I was very fortunate during my teen years. Got my first job when I was fifteen working in a bowling alley..all the free bowling I wanted plus pay....then my first serious job was a Teamster warehouse job making ten bucks an hour back in 1965...great pay for a high school kid during vacations and through college....it seems to be getting harder for kids to find decent part-time jobs...hopefully this article will help.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      Thank so much for your comment. Yes, it can be harder these days for many teenagers to get work and for some - because of the level of disadvantage they have experienced in social and educational terms - very hard indeed. However, I think for many kids it is well within their reach - my own all did well in finding work as teens that they both enjoyed and made money from.

      Thanks for sharing your first jobs before you went into teaching history! I think one of the great things about the experience of working for teenagers - aside from the spends - is the social and educational aspect of just getting the job and doing it, whatever it is.

      My first job was really important for me - helping out at a kindergarten - as it sparked a passion for working with kids that I have never lost and wasn't at all what i thought I was going to do. I was sure that I would be a marine biologist!

      Thanks again for your lovely and supportive contribution.

      Bless you :D

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Helpful information on getting that first job. I like that you point out it's not only about the money. My first job was with my town newspaper doing the write-ups of the wedding announcements and obituaries after school. Then throughout the summer before I headed to college and again on breaks, they let me do feature stories and an occasional opinion piece. I got the job through a club I belonged in. It definitely pays off to use all the connections that you have. Coworkers were very eager to teach and mentor.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi FlourishAnyway!

      Thanks for your comment and great contribution to the article. Yes, it really is - or can be - about more than the money even if that is the first motivation for many teens.

      Interesting to see that you have been a writer all your life - it shows in your work, for sure.

      You are right that some of the best opportunities can come your way by being brave enough to go out there and talk to people face to face.

      Bless :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      A great hub which I know will benefit many. Voted up and wishing you a great day.

      Eddy.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Very useful information and wish this hub had been around when I was a teenager! Voted useful.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi Eiddwen,

      Thank you for your kind comments, I really hope that this hub will be useful to teens looking to get a job, either in the longer term pursuit of their career or just for pocket money.

      Bless you :)

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi Suzanne!

      Yes - me too! That's one of the reasons why I wrote it. That and knowing what my own children had to do to get reasonable work as teenagers.

      Thanks for calling by and taking the time to comment.

      Bless :)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      It's a tough job market out there for everyone, including teenagers. I used to work for a newspaper and recall doing multiple stories about how teens were having a hard time finding summer work since adults are now desperate and need the jobs that have largely been done by teens in the past. Here's hoping it gets better for everyone. Great idea for a hub and very informative.

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi Crystal!

      Thanks for a very valuable contribution to this hub. I think you're right in many ways...but...

      I do think that if there are kids out there who really want to work there are decent jobs that they have a good chance of getting even if they have to compete against adults.

      Thanks for your comment. :)

    • profile image

      greeneyedblondie 3 years ago

      I'm Maine it's 15 for a worker's permit but at 16 you can work without one. :D

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Hi greeneyedblondie!

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, that's right, in Maine an employment certificate is mandatory if you are under 16. Over that age there is an optional age certificate but you are able to work legally without one.

      Bless :)

    • dhimanreena profile image

      Reena Dhiman 2 years ago

      Very informative and detailed knowledge. Your hub is wonderful and gives some valuable job tips. Keep up the good work

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi dhimanreena!

      Thanks for your kind comment. I do hope that this article will prove useful and informative not only to teenagers who want to look for a job but to their parents and helpers, too.

      Bless you :)

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      here, most teens go for easy jobs such as job fair, education fair and fast food restaurant waiter

    • stuff4kids profile image
      Author

      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi peachpurple!

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. Yes, it is often the case that teenagers do those kinds of jobs and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as it is a free and informed choice. Generally, they'll be doing it for a short time just to get some 'cash' for a particular project or to see them through college.

      Of course, I also appreciate that for some that is going to be everything they get. But I do know, from my own past experience, that having a job of any kind is important for self-esteem. It doesn't matter so much what the job is so much as the sense of independence, self-worth and camaraderie that it can give - especially to teenagers.

      But I do think it is important to mix realism with ambition and tailor your job-search and approach to your overall aims.

      So, if you just want a few dollars in your pocket over the vacation - why not flip a few burgers? The work itself might not be of much interest but it can still be fun in a busy environment and getting to know new people.

      If you have a longer-term career strategy then the money may not matter so much as the right situation that will benefit you in terms of experience, contacts and your resumé.

      Anyhow, thanks again for your comment and contribution. Bless you :)

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