Working in High School: Pros and Cons You Need to Know

There are definitely two distinct sides to the argument of whether or not your teen should work while studying. Some have enough means to skip working while others don’t have any choice. Regardless of the reason why your child is working in high school, you must understand that there are several pros and cons in their situation. 

In this article, we have compiled each of the advantages and disadvantages of having a part-time job while studying. This will help you better understand the situation of your teen once you allow them to work.

Important note: If you want to learn some tips about working that you can share to your child, read the following article: 

Pros of Working in High School

The following are different skills and attitudes that students can obtain early on from working in high school.

1. Gain interpersonal and communication skills

Knowing how to effectively communicate and work with others towards a common goal is essential to success in any business environment. This is the foundation of developing leadership skills.

While in most jobs it is essential that you have a pre-determined degree of knowledge, technical expertise and skill, without interpersonal skills you certainly will struggle with those all-important relationships. These struggles can negatively impact your career as well as your ability to function as part of a team. Most jobs today require that you be able to engage others, both internally and externally and it’s your social skills that can make all the difference.

Peak Focus

In most jobs, you will be one member of a team. Whether this is your coworkers or your employees, you will need to utilize interpersonal communication skills both to preserve the harmony of the workplace and to ensure that you reach your goals and objectives. This is also an essential skill that you will be able to use during your interviews in order to get to your dream college.

2. Build your resume early on

working in high school

For most people, their first job will be something part-time and unspecialized. This is because, in high school, most of us have little to nothing to put on our resumes that would qualify as actual work experience.

A lot of high schoolers will have jobs as babysitters, fast-food and grocery cashiers, delivery men, and women for restaurants, etc. Some of these students can become freelance writers as well. These jobs for high school usually pay minimum wage, and rarely require a college degree (hence the reason high schoolers apply to them).

However, these are still real jobs with real pay, and your student can put them on their resumes. That can make a world of difference when it comes to applying to a more specialty job later on because future employers will see:

  1. Your student held a position for a certain amount of time
  2. Your student has experience working with others in a professional environment

3. Develop a work ethic

Taking pride in what you do is a big part of success.

In a surprisingly profound speech at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards, Ashton (Kris) Kutcher highlights 3 key ideologies for teens to follow in life.

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In one of our favorite lines of the speech, Ashton makes another point about having a strong work ethic.

I never had a job in my life that I was better than… Opportunities look a lot like work.

Ashton Kutcher

Your teen may not be passionate about selling frozen yogurt or selling discount retail, but they can still draw from the benefits of doing their jobs well.

Working their way upwards towards better things is a humbling experience that can help your teen appreciate and excel in future jobs.

4. Learn the value of a dollar

Imagine this: It’s graduation day.

Your high schooler approaches you in their graduation cap and gown, a diploma in one hand. They flash you a big smile and wrap their arms around you and say “Thanks for everything!”

Everyone works — it’s a part of life. But more often than not, the only way for someone to truly understand what it means to spend a lot or a little money is by earning money themselves.

It’s not just about your teen recognizing the sacrifices YOU’VE made for them, but them understanding how to be smart about what they spend and knowing that money is earned, not granted.

5. Time Management

Part of growing up is having a schedule and staying on top of it. By taking a job in high school, your teen can get a feel for what that is like before they hit college. As a result, they may be able to take on more responsibilities and credit hours and experience the benefits of both. They may even explore some high school clubs if they are that good in time management.

6. It fosters confidence

Having a job while studying will also teach your son or daughter to be more confident. How? They will realize that they are more capable of doing something more than they expect from themselves.

They’ll start being sure of themselves especially because they are learning how to be more independent. 

7. It will teach your teen a new skill

working in high school

Let’s be honest. Some teens live a very sheltered life before working a part-time job. Initially, they cry out of frustration because they find it difficult to do the tasks they need to do at work. But as days pass by, they learn to master some new skill that even you would be proud of.

This is one of the best benefits of working in high school. They’ll be more competitive because they are learning new skills.

8. They’ll get to meet new people

Another good reason why you should allow your high schooler to work is for them to meet new people. This will expand their circle and they are definitely going to learn from each individual they encounter from work. Maybe they’ll learn some managerial skills from their boss or they will learn how to be more patient because of some rude customers in the coffee shop where they are working with. Our point is, they will consistently learn because they will always be around new people. This will also help them mature because they will come across workmates from different age groups.

Cons of Working in High School

1. Increased stress

High school can be a very stressful time in itself. There is a lot of pressure for high school students to excel academically, and with college admissions seeming more competitive than ever, many students feel they must go above and beyond to even have a chance at getting accepted. Not to mention, the pressure of choosing a college major. Figuring out the areas of life to focus on is something your child should be doing by this stage in life.

“What I did was cut out sleep… I had kind of a panic attack in spring of junior year. I honest to God went into therapy to work on my anxiety about the math, because for the amount I worked, my score should have been higher.”

Sarah Rodeo, The New York Times

With so much stress already placed on high schoolers to succeed in their courses and exams, adding 20 hours a week of dealing with difficult customers and juggling responsibilities could tip things over the edge.

Worse, stress is proven to have lasting effects on our health.

In the short term it can cause anxiety; over long periods of time, elevated levels of stress hormones can degrade the immune system, cause heart problems, exacerbate respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, and bring on chronic anxiety and depression.

Alexandra Ossola, The Atlantic

2. Distraction from academics while working in high school

Even after the last customer finished their meal and left for the night, chances are your child was the one who had to vacuum and mop the floors, clean the booths, and prep for the next day’s rush of hungry people.

Staying late at work meant your son or daughter won’t be home studying for exams, reviewing math problems, or easily writing a research paper. It also meant that the next day, they are tired and arguably less focused on the new material they are learning in class.

3. Cutting childhood short

working in high school

For most of us, once we start working, we will work for the rest of our lives. High school is a confusing time wedged in-between the last of one’s childhood and the beginnings of one’s adulthood.

Student Sarah Rodeo from the article I quoted earlier has a similar notion about spending all her time securing her position at an elite university in high school.

“I’m still not sure how I feel about using all that time prepping instead of playing the piano, playing with my little brother and sister, or seeing my friends.”

How to decide

All of the following are questions you should ask before encouraging your high schooler to take a job:

  • Does your student want to work?
  • What’s their current stress level?
  • What’s the need?
  • Is the job in line with their future career/will help them get there? 

Conclusion

As you have seen, there are both things to be gained and potential consequences of working in high school. To review, here were the pros and cons we discussed:

Pros:

  1. Gain interpersonal and communication skills
  2. Build your resume early on
  3. Develop a work ethic
  4. Learn the value of a dollar
  5. Time Management
  6. It fosters confidence
  7. It will teach your teen a new skill
  8. They’ll get to meet new people

Cons:

  1. Increased stress
  2. Distraction from academics
  3. Cutting childhood short

Does your high schooler have a job? How has it helped or challenged them? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!

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Ruth
Ruth
3 years ago

I seem to get a raised eyebrow from my coworkers when I tell them that I will not allow my daughter to work before she is out of High school. Her Job is to get good grades and to do well in all of her sports. I was on the other side of the fence growing up. I came from a very poor family and if I wanted the essentials I had to work , I worked 3 jobs at 12 years old. I lost my childhood, my grades suffered because I was too tired to study on top of… Read more »

siomara
siomara
4 years ago

From an early age I have seen how much my mother would struggle to give my brother and me a better chance in life, working day and night to give us what we needed and on occasions what we wanted. I have learned early on what the value of money really is. Its not just to say you work and dont get tired, or that the money is easily earned. I believe that working through high school no matter how hard it gets is an experience I would of loved to go through. Sacrificing a childhood that most don’t have… Read more »

Sean Campbell
Sean Campbell
4 years ago

Great article! Experience can not only bolster their resume; they can gain insight into whether or not they will enjoy their chosen career.

Shahan
Shahan
4 years ago

High school is a very basic and important step of a one’s life, when you learn the basics of modern education and the education of high school serves as basis for higher education and practical life. So, it is very important to work well at this stage and for this purpose student is needed to work regularly for his studies. Two things are must to work well in high school: • You have to be punctual • You need to be concentrated on your studies A high school student who works for earning cannot completely concentrate on his studies and… Read more »

Marc
Marc
3 years ago
Reply to  Todd VanDuzer

Todd,

I unequivocally agree with your assessment about the early exposure/benefits of working during high school. Shahan does raise some good points because each student’s experience and/or family’s circumstance is relative to determining if the former is wise or not.

Thank you all,
Marc

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