It’s enticing to consider working part time in high school. After all, who doesn’t want to earn some extra pocket change? At the same time, it’s important to think about the variables associated with working while going to school. High school and college are really the only opportunities in your life to focus on academic success and self-improvement without the distraction of paying for housing and food.

It’s critical to get involved while you’re in high school and make the most out of your academic experience. If you do want to go to college, earning top grades is an important factor in the college admissions process. For some students, working is a must. Perhaps you are trying to help out at home or save for college. If you do decide to get a job, the work hours for a high school student are contingent upon legal guidelines and the time that you need to be a successful student.

Tip

There isn't a finite number of hours that a high-schooler should work, but it's important to note that working 15 to 20 hours per week may hinder academic success.

Work Hours for a High School Student

The Fair Labor Standards Act provides specific parameters for people seeking employment who are under the age of 18. The minimum age to begin working is 14. If you are 14 or 15, you can work a maximum of three hours on school days and 18 hours or less per week. This limit jumps to eight hours per day or 40 hours per week during the summer and school breaks. There are no legal limits for average work hours per week for 16-year-old students or those who are 17.

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Benefits of a Part-Time Job

As a high-schooler, you can learn a lot from working a part-time job. In addition to a paycheck, you’ll be responsible for showing up on time for a job and juggling multiple responsibilities. You may even have the opportunity to gain valuable leadership experience. A part-time job can help you define future career goals and set you up with references that you can use for other employment. You may also discover hidden talents and develop new skills by working part time.

High School Students and Job Statistics

In July 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that 55 percent of young people were employed. This isn’t surprising since the survey took place during the height of the summer employment season. When school is in session, it’s important to decrease the number of hours that you work each week. Working more than 15 hours per week will impact your ability to succeed in school, especially as you get older and classes become more difficult. In addition, it’s important to have a balance of classes, extracurricular activities and outside obligations like a job. Assess your time and financial need along with your future plans before determining the number of hours that you plan to work.

Work-Release Program

If you decide to work in high school, you may be able to take advantage of a program that will allow you to leave school early for a job. Work-release programs offer high school students the opportunity to gain practical experience while going to school. Most work-release programs are available for juniors and seniors who are maintaining adequate grades and are enrolled in a career exploration and training class. The best work hours for high school students can be maximized if the school day can be used for scheduled work hours.

Manage Your Time

Working as a high school student demands a mastery of time management. Even if you take advantage of a work-release program, you’ll need to schedule every hour of your day. Use a calendar or scheduling app to fill in each time slot with classes, work hours, study time, extracurricular activities and social time. Writing down obligations will help you determine how many hours you can work and when they best fit into your schedule.

Trade School and College Considerations

If you know that you’re interested in a particular trade, working in high school can help you gain important experience that can be applied to experiential hours needed for a trade degree. College-bound students may choose to limit their work hours to maximize the time needed to take advanced classes that are needed for college admission.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.