Should your teen get a summer job?

Teens by definition are know-it-alls. Any parent that currently has a teen or has endured a teen knows exactly what I’m talking about.

You say, “Left” she says, “Right.” You say, “Up” he says, “I wasn’t listening.”

So when summer rolls around, and that lovable, contrarian know-it-all is around the house all day, many parents are ready to drive their teen to the nearest McDonalds and drop them off for work.

But is this a good idea? Should your teen get a summer job?

Research by the Pew Research Center shows the decline of teens working during the summer. In the 1970’s and 1980’s most teens could be expected to work part-time for at least a portion of the summer. During the summer of 2014, less than 20% of 16 and 17 year olds held a summer job.

Pew researchers offer the following possible explanations for the decline: fewer low-skill, entry-level jobs than in decades past; more schools restarting before Labor Day; more students enrolled in high school or college over the summer; more teens doing unpaid community service work as part of their graduation requirements or to burnish their college applications; and more students taking unpaid internships, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not consider being employed.

Serving ice cream is a typical teen summer job.


All these statistics are well and good, but what about your teen? Parents need to sit with their child and honestly discuss whether he is ready for the responsibility of working at a job. If the answer is yes, the discussion needs to progress to the type of job your teen could do. Parents need to focus on the logistics of getting their child to the location. Does he have access to a car? Public transportation? A bicycle?

In a perfect world, a teen would take a job in a field of possible career interest. If she is interested in animals, take a job with a vet. If she is interested in teaching, work with children as a summer camp counselor.

But more realistically, your child does not know what she wants to do 10 years from now. And even if she does, often times these jobs are not available; at least not for pay.

So let’s focus on the benefits of your teen electing to work this summer at any job such as a retail worker, an ice cream scooper or a lifeguard.


Time management skills

Your teen will be responsible for showing up at a specific time and completing his share of the job. He will also need to manage his time outside of work with friends and other summer activities.

Transferrable skills

Even scooping ice cream, a worker can learn valuable job skills. Your teen must get along with his co-workers and the boss. In a retail setting there will be grumpy customers that need to “handled” diplomatically.

Money management skills

We wrote a blog post about Teaching money management skills to kids. A teen working a job and receiving a paycheck must now make choices about his spending. Does he really want that new video game?


As most adults come to realize, networking is a critical tool to success in the business world. One is never too young to begin learning the art and science of networking. Your teen can place this job on her resume and being comfortable calling the boss and asking for a recommendation is a life skill that will benefit her for years.

Less likely to get in trouble

Let’s face it… Teens with too much time and not enough to do WILL find trouble. Channeling all the know-it-all information and energy into a constructive use of time will benefit everyone in the family.

Wrapping it up

Going to work for the first time is a big step in a teen’s life. Discuss the demands and responsibilities of a part-time job with your child before he applies. Consider the logistics of travel. If your teen is ready to step up and work in the real world, there are many life skill-building benefits to be reaped. Summer jobs for teens may be on the decline, but taking one may launch your child into a successful adult life.

David Karch (Learning Specialist with Engage the Brain)















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