First job as a teenager: how to get one and prepare like a pro

First job as a teenager: how to get one and prepare like a pro


Is your teen looking for their first job? If so, they may wonder how to find one when they don’t have any skills or work experience. The good news is there are jobs out there for teenagers. Here are some first-job options and advice on how to get hired. 


Related: How to make money as a teen



When should your teen get their first job?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets wages, hours worked, and safety requirements for under-18s. The rules vary depending on the age of the teen and the job involved. But as a general rule, 14 is the minimum age for employment. And there are limits on the number of hours under-16s can work. 


If you’re under 16 there are some jobs you’re not allowed to do — bartending, for example. There are also restrictions on the employment of a minor in work declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Excavation, driving or operating machinery. 


Each state also has its own laws when it comes to the employment of minors. If state law and the FLSA overlap, whichever law protects the minor more applies. 


You’ll find a handy chart on the different youth labor laws in your state on the Department of Labor’s Youth Rules page.


As well as age restrictions, you should take into account how easy it will be for your teen to get to and from their place of work. Then there’s their schoolwork to factor in. Will their grades suffer if they start a job? 


First job ideas for young teens 

There are limits on the kinds of jobs under 14s can do: paper routes, babysitting, acting, or working in a family-run business. You can only work outside of school hours too. But check your state laws as they might vary. 


Newspaper delivery and babysitting jobs are often easy to find in your neighborhood. They’re also easy to fit around school hours and don’t have any high overheads or costs. 

First job ideas for older teenagers 

From 14 or 15 years old and upwards, part-time job options increase. These jobs can be further afield and include more structured roles that come with a different kind of responsibility. These include running errands, waiting tables, clean-up and yard work, tutoring, kitchen and food service work, and computer programming. 


There are restrictions on the number of hours they can work. Three hours on a school day (or under 18 hours per week when school is in session). And no more than 8 hours per day when school is not in session (or more than 40 hours per week). 


16 to 17-year-olds can be employed for unlimited hours in any job unless the Secretary of Labor deems it hazardous.


Roles like this require more diligence. But they offer more responsibility for more money – and an opportunity to learn new skills.


What’s a reasonable hourly wage for a teenager?

There is no minimum wage under the age of 16. From 16 years old an employer must pay you at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Don’t forget, though, that if your state has a higher minimum wage than the federal one, that’s what your teenager should earn. Currently, 30 states and Washington D.C. have minimum wages above the federal one. 


For under-16s, talk to your child about what you think is a reasonable hourly wage. Their age and experience will be a factor, as well as the skills needed to do the job. And don’t forget the Youth Minimum Wage. By law, your employer can pay a teen under 20 less than the federal minimum wage for the first 90 calendar days of employment. Some pay as little as $4.25 per hour. 

Which types of teenage jobs pay the most?

Salaries for working teenagers vary from state to state. But the average teen salary in the USA is around $15.94 per hour. If your teen has a driver’s license, delivery jobs for fast food chains and restaurants pay well. Valet parking — if you get good tips — is an option too. 


Other jobs paying more are cleaning and inventory stocking. The hourly rate for stocking shelves at Walmart is between $10-$15.  


Well-paid jobs for high schoolers with the right skills or certifications include lifeguarding, retail sales, catering, and camp counseling. There are also work-from-home online jobs for tech-savvy teenagers in data entry, customer service, and tutoring. 




Steps to help your teen get their first job

Get them to look close to home

Working in your neighborhood has various benefits, especially if your teen has to start work early or finish late. It also avoids travel costs. 

See if they can ask for help at school

If your child’s school has a careers office, suggest they ask for help with how to approach businesses and ask for part-time vacancies. The department may even have an idea of which local businesses have vacancies.

Help your teen prepare a CV

For many part-time jobs, your teen will need to fill in an application and submit a CV. Help them create a CV that shows any relevant skills and experience they have, including awards they’ve won, or achievements like their GPA. And show them how to fill in an application correctly. 

Point them in the direction of job search sites

SnagAJob is the site to use for hourly jobs. and Monster are good for part-time job searches too. Help your teenager by showing them how to search. Type in job titles they’ll be interested in and terms like ‘no experience required’ to find positions worth applying to. 

Ask them to look at student apprenticeship programs

Apprentices get paid while learning a trade. Firms like Bloomberg and Microsoft run apprenticeships. Your teen could look for student apprenticeship programs on the Department of Labor’s youth programs page and JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship.

Tips to help your teen prepare for their first job

Put teens in control of their work needs

Remind your teen that being ready for work means they need to be in control of all aspects of working. From punctuality to having a work uniform clean and ready (whether given to them or bought especially).

Talk about the importance of being professional 

Discuss what it means to be professional at work. That means listening to what your boss tells you, being positive about work, and talking respectfully to customers and colleagues.

Encourage them to stay committed

It’s easy to be excited about work in the first few weeks, but as we all know, teens can lose enthusiasm for something fast. Try not to give them an easy way out. Explain they have committed to the job and the benefits of doing it to the best of their abilities.

Address work safety concerns

Being employed may mean coming home late, starting early, or even working with different people and age groups. Talk to your teen about the safety aspects of traveling, how others should treat them and what to do if they feel unsafe or harassed at work.

Set them up an account to get paid into

A first job also means teens need a bank account where they can receive payment. Although a teen can’t open an account of their own till they’re 18, there are other options. A GoHenry teen debit card has an account number and sort code, so an employer can pay their salary via a bank transfer or BACS.

Establish how much they will save from their pay

When they start working, suggest that a certain percentage (ideally at least 20%) of their earned income always goes into a savings account. This is an excellent life habit; ultimately your teen will thank you for it. Saving pots can automatically be set up on the GoHenry app, moving money automatically when your teen gets paid.


List of places teens can look for their first job 

The best places teens can look for jobs are in the local paper, job sites, and on local Facebook groups. But don’t forget word of mouth. Encourage them to use their initiative and walk into places and ask for work.

List of first jobs for teens 

For ideas on what your teen can do for work consider traditional jobs and thinking outside of the box (see ideas below):

  • Event staff

  • Proofreader

  • Library assistant

  • Waiting tables

  • Retail work

  • Customer service work

  • Yard work

  • Childcare 

  • Cleaning

  • Car washing

  • Call center work

  • Inventory stocking

  • Tutor

  • Pet sitter

  • Camp assistant

  • Office admin

  • Sports coaching

  • Mother’s helper

  • Paper route

  • Food preparation/service

Get your teen their own prepaid debit card with GoHenry 

92% of parents say their teens are more money confident, thanks to GoHenry. Benefits for your teens include having wages paid into their account from their first payday onwards, learning more about money skills with an app+ Money Missions, and being able to pay in an instant with Apple Pay and contactless debit cards.



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Written by Charlotte Peacock Published Feb 15, 2023 ● 6 min. read