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  3. Last updated April 30, 2024

How Old Do You Have to Be to Work?

Plus, where to find a job if you’re under 16

Image of girl not old enough to work
Image courtesy of Peter John Manlapig

Considering dipping your toes into the workforce pool as a teenager? You're not alone. Whether it's to earn some extra cash, gain valuable experience, or simply explore new opportunities, the idea of working at a young age can be both exciting and daunting. But before you jump in headfirst, it's important to understand the ins and outs of teen employment. From the age requirements to the types of jobs available and even the nitty-gritty details of taxes, there's a lot to consider. In this article, we'll delve into the frequently asked questions surrounding teenagers entering the workforce for the first time, providing you with the essential information you need to navigate this exciting journey.

How old do you have to be to work? 

Generally, to hold a job in the United States, you have to be at least 14 years old. 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), “As a general rule, the [Fair Labor Standards Act] sets 14 years old as the minimum age for employment, and limits the number of hours worked by minors under the age of 16.”’

Additionally, some employers set their own minimum age requirements and young workers are prohibited from holding certain dangerous jobs. We’ll talk about this below.

Hour limits for workers under age 16

Child labor laws in the United States stipulate the number of hours someone under the age of 16 can work. In the U.S., workers who are 14 or 15 years old can work:

  • 3 hours on a school day

  • 18 hours in a school week

  • 8 hours on a non-school day

  • 40 hours in a non-school week

  • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day (basically, when school is out), when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.

These rules apply also to minors who work more than one job. “With specific exceptions, it is a misdemeanor to require any minor to work more than eight hours a day,” employment law attorney Cynthia Flynn says. “One big land mine is that if a minor works two jobs, both jobs together cannot total more than the legal number of hours for the minor’s age group and circumstance.”

Additionally, your state may have its own laws about when you can work if you’re under 16.

Do you need a work permit under age 16?

The Department of Labor does not require minors to hold a work permit or provide proof of age in order to work, but some states do. In most cases, it’s your employer who will request to see a permit or proof of age, which you can get from your state's labor department or the federal government (if your state does not issue them). 

To learn more about your state’s requirements for work permits and age verification for underage workers, check out this page from the DOL

Can you hold any job at 14?

The short answer is no. 

There are some jobs that young workers cannot hold because they are dangerous, like certain agricultural or manufacturing jobs, or any mining or excavation job.

Other jobs you can’t have when you’re 14 include ones that require you to drive a car—because you have to have a driver’s license—or operate heavy machinery. And some jobs, like waiting tables or bartending, require workers to sell or serve alcohol, and you have to be at least 18 (or 21 in some states) to do this.

States also have their own rules about which jobs minors are allowed to hold. For example, in Virginia, people under age 16 are not allowed to work in hotel room service, lifeguard at a beach, or perform certain duties in dry cleaning facilities.

Read more: How Many Hours Is Part-Time?

Can you get a job if you're younger than 14?

Yes. There are some jobs you can hold under the age of 14. In many cases, the rules about how many hours you can work still apply.

“The FLSA prohibits employment of minors under the age of 14 except in certain limited occupations,” Flynn says. “These occupations include certain agricultural firms, the entertainment industry, newspaper delivery, homeworkers in the making of certain wreaths, and employment on a farm owned or operated by a parent or guardian.”

1. Delivering newspapers

In most states, you can deliver newspapers under age 14. 

2. Working for your parent or guardian

If your parent or guardian owns a business, you can work for them (as long as your job is not one classified as hazardous). According to the DOL: “Minors under age 16 working in a business solely owned or operated by their parents or by persons standing in place of their parents, can work any time of day and for any number of hours.” 

3. Babysitting, house cleaning, and dog walking

You can be paid to babysit or perform other household chores in a private home under age 14. 

4. Acting/modeling/entertaining

Kids can work under age 14 in entertainment as actors, models, voiceover artists, etc. These jobs are subject to hour limits and may require a parent or guardian to be present.

Read more: How to Write a Resume for Your Very First Job

If you're a teenager, how much will you typically get paid?

In most cases, your employer has to pay you the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25. 

Many states also have their own minimum wage laws, and your employer has to pay you whichever rate—state or federal—is higher. You can check your state’s minimum wage here.

Where can you find a job as a teenager?

There are lots of places you can find work as a teenager, but you should check your state and local age requirement laws as well as the employer’s minimum age requirement. 

In general, these are places where young workers can find a job:

  • Grocery stores

  • Restaurants / food service 

  • Coffee shops

  • Retail stores, like bookstores and clothing stores

  • Movie theaters

  • Pools, beaches, or aquatic centers

  • Car washes 

  • Amusement parks

Job search sites for young workers

You can also search the large job sites like Indeed and CareerBuilder for jobs by putting “teen” in the keyword field and your town in the location field. 

How to search for a job for teens

Read more: A Comprehensive List of Job Search Sites

12 common jobs for teens and what you'll do

1. Retail sales associate


  • Assisting customers with inquiries and purchases
  • Stocking shelves and maintaining store appearance
  • Operating cash registers and processing transactions
  • Providing excellent customer service
  • Helping with inventory management

2. Fast food crew member


  • Taking customer orders at the counter or drive-thru
  • Preparing food items according to standardized recipes
  • Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in the kitchen and dining area
  • Operating kitchen equipment such as fryers and grills
  • Working efficiently in a fast-paced environment

3. Babysitter/nanny


  • Supervising and caring for children in the absence of parents
  • Engaging children in age-appropriate activities
  • Ensuring children's safety at all times
  • Preparing meals and snacks for children
  • Following any specific instructions provided by parents

4. Lifeguard (in some states)


  • Monitoring swimmers and ensuring their safety
  • Enforcing pool rules and regulations
  • Performing water rescues and administering first aid if necessary
  • Conducting regular pool inspections and maintenance tasks
  • Providing excellent customer service to pool patrons

5. Tutor/teacher's assistant


  • Assisting teachers with classroom activities and preparations
  • Providing one-on-one or small group tutoring sessions
  • Grading assignments and tests
  • Helping students with homework and study skills
  • Supporting students with special needs or language barriers

6. Camp counselor


  • Supervising and leading activities for campers
  • Ensuring camper safety during all activities
  • Providing guidance and support to campers
  • Facilitating team-building exercises and games
  • Assisting with meal times and cabin duties

7. Pet sitter/dog walker


  • Feeding, grooming, and exercising pets
  • Providing companionship and attention to pets while owners are away
  • Administering medications or following special care instructions for pets
  • Cleaning up after pets and maintaining a clean environment
  • Communicating with pet owners about their pet's wellbeing

8. Golf caddy


  • Carrying golf clubs for players during rounds
  • Providing advice on club selection and course strategy
  • Maintaining cleanliness and organization of golf equipment
  • Assisting players with course navigation and etiquette
  • Offering friendly and professional service to golfers

9. Movie theater usher/concession worker


  • Greeting customers and checking tickets
  • Assisting patrons with seating arrangements
  • Selling concessions such as popcorn, candy, and drinks
  • Maintaining cleanliness in theaters and concession areas
  • Operating equipment like popcorn machines and cash registers

9. Gardener/landscaper assistant


  • Assisting with lawn mowing, weeding, and garden maintenance
  • Planting flowers, shrubs, and trees under supervision
  • Watering plants and performing basic landscaping tasks
  • Using hand tools and equipment safely and effectively
  • Following instructions from experienced gardeners or landscapers

10. Junior office assistant


  • Filing documents and organizing office supplies
  • Answering phone calls and directing inquiries to appropriate staff
  • Assisting with data entry and basic administrative tasks
  • Sorting and distributing mail or email correspondence
  • Maintaining cleanliness and orderliness in the office environment

11. Ice cream shop scooper


  • Serving ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other desserts to customers
  • Taking customer orders and processing transactions
  • Keeping display cases and serving counters clean and organized
  • Restocking supplies such as cones, cups, and toppings
  • Providing friendly and efficient customer service

12. Library assistant


  • Shelving books and maintaining organization of library materials
  • Assisting patrons with locating books and using library resources
  • Checking books in and out using library software systems
  • Helping with library programs and events for children or adults
  • Ensuring library spaces are tidy and conducive to studying or reading

These are just a few examples, but there are many other opportunities available for teens depending on their interests, skills, and local job market.

Do teenagers have to pay tax?

Whether teenagers have to pay taxes on their jobs depends on various factors such as their income level, the jurisdiction they live in, and the tax laws in place. Here are some general guidelines:

Income threshold

In many countries, individuals, including teenagers, are only required to pay taxes if their income exceeds a certain threshold. This threshold can vary widely depending on the country and may also vary based on whether the individual is claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return.

Type of income

Different types of income may be subject to different tax rules. For example, wages earned from a part-time job are typically taxable, while income from certain sources such as gifts or scholarships may not be taxable.

Tax filing status

Teenagers who earn income may need to file a tax return, especially if their income exceeds the minimum threshold set by the tax authorities. However, if their income is below the threshold or if they are claimed as dependents on someone else's tax return, they may not be required to file a return.

Tax withholding

Employers are often required to withhold taxes from employees' paychecks, including federal income tax, state income tax (if applicable), and FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare). However, if a teenager's income is below a certain threshold, they may be able to claim a refund for any taxes withheld.

Tax credits and deductions

Teenagers who work and earn income may also be eligible for certain tax credits and deductions, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or deductions for education expenses. These can help reduce the amount of tax owed or increase the amount of any refund.

It's essential for teenagers who are earning income to familiarize themselves with the tax laws in their country and understand their tax obligations. Consulting with a tax professional or using tax preparation software can also be helpful in navigating the tax filing process.

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