Should Students Work in High School?

Female teen lifeguard in the foreground with two younger kids in a pool in the background.
There are a number of benefits to working part-time while in high school, but juggling extracurricular activities, school work, and paid work can be tricky. 

Should Students Work in High School?

Published April 4, 2023

There are a number of benefits to working part-time while in high school, but juggling extracurricular activities, school work, and paid work can be tricky. 
Female teen lifeguard in the foreground with two younger kids in a pool in the background.

This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 (PFC101) Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. 

There are a number of benefits to working part-time while in high school, but juggling extracurricular activities, school work, and paid work can be tricky. 

A parent in our PFC101 community asked whether other parents thought taking on a part-time job while in high school was a good idea. They provided some helpful responses which we’ve shared here.

Pros of Students Working in High School 

Research has shown that students learn responsibility when working part-time.

Elaine S. said that’s why her son got a job as soon as he was old enough to get a work permit. Since her son started driving around the same time, his job also paid for his gas money.

“My daughter started working five to six hours per week as a sophomore, as she needed more money than we were willing to give her. She isn’t on any teams, and without the job, she would be spending the extra time watching too much TV. She makes the extra money she needs, and since she works at a tutoring place in town, I would think it will look good when she starts applying to colleges next fall.”  – Marni H. 

Maureen D. said her children worked at a young age because “working builds character.” 

“As long as it doesn’t interfere with school and extracurricular activities, it is one of the best teachers of budgeting, saving, being responsible, and time management. I do not see a downside, unless they are overdoing it.”  – Rochal R. 

Cons of Students Working in High School

Many parents pointed out that students already have many responsibilities these days, and an after-school job wouldn’t be a good idea. 

Joselyn A. said her high school sophomore is also a cheerleader. Between schoolwork and cheerleading, she sometimes goes from 6:30 a.m. to nearly 11 p.m. “So having a job is off the table for now,” she said. 

“My daughter is a two-sport varsity athlete with four AP/honors classes. She doesn’t have time for a job.” – Robyn G.  

Studies have also shown that students who work up to 20 hours per week start to see their schoolwork suffer. Desiree M. said she’s fine with her daughter not working because she is taking a rigorous course load and is active in extracurricular activities. 

“There is a lifetime of work ahead of them. The less work while young, the better. All A’s as a full-time student beats lower grades with any amount of work, in my experience.” – Ree L.

Consider Summer Jobs  

Some parents worried about how teen jobs would interfere with school and recommended waiting until summer. 

“My kids had summer jobs at a place that was only open in the summer. They did not work during the school year other than occasionally babysitting or doing odd jobs due to their school load and extracurricular activities.”  – Jenni M. 

Teen summer jobs are making a comeback. More than 6 million teenagers had a job in summer 2021. Some popular summer jobs include food services, arts and recreation, and manufacturing. 

Lifeguarding is another popular summer job for students. Sarah F. shared that her students work as lifeguards in the summer because they don’t have time to work during the school year.

“We allow summer jobs only. There is so much going on at school with studies, clubs, and sports that we think it stretches them too thin.” – Janice A.

While parents don’t always agree on whether it’s appropriate for a student to work while in high school, they do agree that it’s important to strike a healthy balance between being busy and being too busy. 

Keep the lines of communication open, look for signs of fatigue and/or stress, watch for changes in grades, and let your student know it’s okay to adjust expectations and schedules as the school year unfolds. 

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Holistic Admissions: Your Child Is More Than Their Grades and Test Scores

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