The Pros and Cons of Teen Summer Jobs

Before you know it, summer vacation will be here.  The great American summer is shrinking, and is a few weeks shorter than it was a generation ago. Even still, some teens choose to cash in during their break from school by picking up a summer job. There are plenty of good things about summer employment for teens: learning responsibility, earning money, and learning to manage or save it. But for today’s teens, there are more summertime academic opportunities and other concerns that may make working less ideal.

Teen summer jobs are far less common than they used to be. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of all teens worked during the summer in the early 1990s, and that number has declined—plummeting with the recent recession—to less than 30% today. But for some kids, it’s still a great opportunity worth checking out. Consider the following as you advise your teen about how to spend the summer break this year.

The Bad News:

  • Summer jobs are much harder to find these days. Unemployed recent college graduates and other adults hit hard by the recession are absorbing the lower-paying jobs once designated for teens. As a result, the type of job your child may get will likely require more work to find, and be a little less desirable.
  • The school break is much shorter than it used to be. When today’s parents were teens, the summer break was significantly longer in most parts of the country, making summer jobs more necessary to fill the time, and a more reasonable proposition for employers. Some school districts now take little more than six weeks off these days, making it difficult for teens to find a job, become trained, and be of real help to a business.
  • Lots of teens need the summer for academic work. If your child struggles academically, or is trying to get ahead by taking some courses at a local community college, those summer weeks may need to be dedicated to extra academic work.

The Good News:

  • Jobs outside the home teach responsibility. A summer job is a good training ground for what the “real world” will be like: having to show up on time, fulfill expectations, follow orders, and serve others with courtesy and respect even when it’s hard. (6 Ways to Teach Your Kids a Good Work Ethic)
  • Summer jobs offer extra income and financial skills. For many teens, a summer job represents the first time they’ve had access to significant amounts of cash which is all their own. It’s a great way for you to let them test out some financial management skills like having a bank account or debit card, or learning to budget their earnings toward important goals like saving for a car or college.
  • A summer job keeps a bored teen out of trouble. For some kids, too much free time without responsibility or supervision of any kind is a bad idea. Being engaged in a job most days during the school break may help them avoid behavioral trouble.
  • Summer jobs can clarify career direction. If your kid is lucky enough to land a summer job in a business or field they’ve considered as a career choice, it’s a great chance to see that world up-close and find out if it’s really a fit for them.

Related Resource: 6 Volunteer Opportunities for Your Teen

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