Why Teens Absolutely Need to Get a Summer Job

Why Teens Absolutely Need to Get a Summer Job

Looking back on my teen summers, my memories are . . . pretty hazy. All right, I don’t remember much except when we left home for a vacation. Other than that, they all blend. I believe I spent my time going to friends’ houses, reading, and watching TV. (This was pre-internet.)

What didn’t I do? Work. (I keep hearing the Schuyler sisters’ song from Hamilton whenever I read that sentence!) For a variety of reasons, many related to transportation in the ‘burbs, I didn’t work in the summers during high school. Looking back, though I wished I had.

As a teacher, I was constantly amazed by how many of my students worked during the summer and school year. This was even true when I worked in fairly wealthy communities. And almost without fail, my students who worked had their stuff together.

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Why? We learn so many amazing life skills from work. While not academic in nature, these new skills help you become not only a better student, but a better person. And isn’t that what all want? (And money. We definitely all want money.)

So even if you don’t want to work during the school year (I totally get that!), the summer is a fantastic time to start working!

Why Teens Absolutely Need to Get a Summer Job

Working teens earn so many benefits, other than just money! According to the US Department of Labor, teens who work have a higher income in their 20s than their counterparts who didn’t work. And students of color who work are less likely to drop out of high school. In fact, working teens are more likely to graduate high school!

Here are some other major impacts of working a summer job:

Time Management

Nothing changes a chronically late teen like someone else’s expectations. Let’s face it – it’s ok to be late for Mom or Dad. But the boss? Not cool. Not to mention, your will need to keep track of your hours and plan around work. (I see a planner in your future.)

And if you still can’t get it together, you will face the consequences. Like getting fired. Real-world consequences often lead to changes in behavior.

Those sweet new time management skills can help in school. In fact, one study showed that students who worked 10-15 hours a week DURING the school year actually had better grades than students who didn’t work.


Someone is now relying on you – to show up, handle money, possibly make food or drink that other people will ingest, handle merchandise, and interact with customers. In other words, real stuff. It’s time for you to step up and carry through on your tasks.

Money Management

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

You can use pretend money all you want, but nothing teaches financial literacy like real money. Wait until you get your first paycheck – those taxes are a shock “But why was all this money taken out??”

I would recommend sitting down with your parents BEFORE the first check arrives to discuss their expectations. How much will you save? Are you saving up for a particular purpose? Do you have to contribute to household expenses? How much can you spend and on what? And if you haven’t already, you will need to open a bank account.


No, it’s not a prestigious (unpaid) internship, but working at the ice cream shop/ clothing store/ mowing lawns is real work experience. And looks good on that resume. Many employers would rather hire someone with actual work experience than someone with a degree, but no work history.

Also, your manager is your first reference.  A good impression now will help you get other jobs down the line. It’s really never too early to network.

And if you’re is worried about what to write that college essay about, the admissions officer would much rather hear about your summer job than yet another mission trip to Latin America. Seriously.

Value of Education

There is nothing wrong with working a crappy summer job. In fact, I think all kids should. If anything will get your butt back to the books, it’s the thought of working that horrible job for the rest of your life. Suddenly, getting that diploma seems much more worthwhile.

What do you think is the most important skill teens learn while working? Let me know in the comments below! 

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