Teens: Summer Work Has Plenty of Perks

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If you're a teen, we wouldn't blame you if you slammed down your smartphone, tablet, or laptop and yelled "COME ON!" After all, the school year just ended, and the last thing you want to do is go right from schoolwork to work work.

But we swear: It's worth it.

If you're at least open to the idea, read on, and we'll talk to you about the benefits of taking on a summer job—and throw out a few ideas!

The Tea

This year, like every year, millions of teens will be spending at least some of their hours getting that bread.

According to outplacement and career transitioning firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 5.6 million teens ages 16 to 19 were already employed as of March 2024—and it predicts another 1.3 million teens will take on jobs this summer. 

YATI Tip: Not old enough for a summer job? Well, you can still do chores or get an allowance—and these apps can help.

That's more than in recent years: "This is larger than the 1.1 million job estimate the firm issued last April, and the 1,034,000 jobs employers actually added for teens during the summer months of 2023," the firm says. 

Either way, when it's all said and done, it means more than a third of teens ages 16 to 19 will be working this summer.

And realize: These numbers reflect on-the-books jobs with companies who actually report this kind of data. That doesn't account for all of the other teens that have their own side hustles, like babysitting or yardwork.

Summer jobs are such an ingrained slice of Americana that it's the central theme of several movies—think Adventureland, Caddyshack, and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.

So if you're worried you'll be the only one of your friends working this summer, don't.

The Take

Of course, you shouldn't do something just because everyone else is doing it. So first, here are some legitimate reasons why you might want to consider getting a little summer work:

  • Money: Obvs. Summer jobs have a wealth of other benefits, but at the end of the day, the main reason to skip out on beaches or video games to flip burgers or work a register is for teens to make money. And why not? Cash gives you options. Cash gives you freedom. Some teens buy things for themselves, others go out with friends, and still other teens save that money toward big-ticket purchases like a first car or a computer for college.
  • Work experience: Work experience looks good on both college applications and work resumes once you're applying for full-time work. Even if the work isn't related to what you're studying or what career you want, it can provide proof of responsibility and other important traits.
  • Recommendations: If you work hard and/or work smart, you might just earn yourself a recommendation, which can further pad your application or resume.
  • Trying out a career: In some cases, you might be able to work an entry-level job in a business you're interested in. Maybe you'll secure important work connections who will help you get even better jobs once you've graduated high school or college. Or maybe you'll find out that a particular career wasn't for you—preventing you from wasting precious college credits studying subjects you ultimately wouldn't use (and the tuition that goes with it).
  • Personal enjoyment: This is Kyle here to weigh in on this one. I'll be honest: I never loved doing homework, I never loved practicing piano … but when I started working, I realized that I gained a lot of personal satisfaction from doing a job well. Also, I was lucky to have co-workers I genuinely enjoyed spending time with—and who I'd never have met by staying home and playing with my N64 (this is what us old folks played long before the Switch).

So, let's say you're sold on the idea of getting a summer job … but you're not sure where to start. Well, just a few simple questions can help point you toward a gig you'll actually enjoy!

Do I need a little money or a lot of money?

If you need a lot of money, you probably want to focus on either jobs with an hourly wage—and if you know you're a good worker, preferably one where you're earning tips. Kyle here again: I worked both as a busser (minimum wage + tips) and a waiter (less than minimum wage + tips), and I made far, far more money than I would have working a retail job at the mall.

YATI Tip: By the way, don't put those cash tips in a drawer at home. Deposit them in a checking account.

However, if you only really want to make a few extra bucks, you can consider less traditional work like what you can find in money-making apps. For instance, did you know you could actually earn cash and/or gift cards by playing video games, watching ads, and even just giving your opinion? It's true! Paid survey sites are a particularly popular side hustle—companies that sell products or services conduct research by paying people to answer various questions about their likes, dislikes, activities, even what brands they've heard of. Now, this isn't nearly as lucrative as an hourly job, but it's easy, it takes little time to do, and because you can fill out surveys on the web or via apps, you can earn money this way from virtually anywhere.

Do I want to work a lot of hours or just a few hours?

Most employers will want you to work a certain minimum number of hours each week. It might not be much, but even 10 to 15 hours a week might be more than you're willing or able to handle.

If you do want to load up on hours, again, you'll probably want to find an hourly gig with a lot of available hours, or you'll want to work multiple jobs. But if you only want to work a few hours, you might be better off working independently on tasks where you make your own schedule—anything from washing cars or mowing lawns around the neighborhood to starting a YouTube channel.

Do I want to work indoors or outdoors?

Summertime is, for pretty obvious reasons, a big time for outdoor jobs—so if you like the sun, there's a wealth of work for you, including yardwork, caddying, umpiring for your local youth leagues, and more. Lifeguarding is a popular gig, too, but it's one of a few jobs that require you to be at least 15 years old.

On the flip side, if you prefer the wintry blast of A/C, consider applying to work in retail, checking out office work, or even exploring online jobs that teens are allowed to do.

Do I want to work around people or mostly (or completely!) by myself?

Some people like to just bury their heads, do their work, and go home. There's nothing wrong with that! If you'd prefer not to socialize much, though, you should be strategic about where you apply. Many online jobs keep you from working with the public, though you can also clean houses and/or offices, do landscaping or mowing, or just enjoy the companionship of furrier friends through pet sitting.

YATI Tip: If you think you're responsible enough, consider pairing your first summer job with your first credit card.

If you're a people person, though, make the most of your outgoing nature. Become a tutor and help younger children learn. Wait tables or work retail. Work at a golf course. Consider babysitting. Anything that puts your personality on display can become a great side hustle.

All right. That's enough work talk for the weekend. If you want to learn more about the options you have, check out our guide to summer jobs for teens.

Riley & Kyle

Young & The Invested

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On the date of publication, Kyle Woodley did not have (either directly or indirectly) positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article. All information and data in this article is solely for informational purposes. For more information please view the Barchart Disclosure Policy here.