Should Teens Have a Summer Job? Experts Weigh In

Jul 2, 2018 at 6:50 p.m. ET
Two teens baristas summer job
Image: Sturti/Getty Images.

During the long days of summer, it’s pretty common for teenagers to lounge around, sleeping until noon — right? But should parents be encouraging teens to be more productive during their break from school? The short answer is absolutely.

To find out about the important benefits of summer jobs for teens, we spoke with parenting expert and adolescent psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg as well as JJ Ramberg, founder of Goodshop, host of MSNBC’s Your Business and the coauthor of new book The Startup Club. Their message is clear: For teens (and, well, adults too) having a job is a really good thing.

"I am a big fan of teens having summer jobs," says Greenberg. "In my practice as a clinical psychologist specializing in parenting, teen and relationship issues, I have seen teens benefit from jobs in many ways." So how do they benefit? Let us count those ways. 

Sorry, teens, it's time to start turning in those job applications.

More: As a Poor, Work-From-Home Mom, I Hate Summer "Break"

Responsibility

By starting part-time employment early, teens build crucial skills — including time and money management — that set them up for success in the real, adult, post-school world. "Teens learn about responsibility and the importance of showing up on time and the expectations associated with being a valued worker," says Greenberg. And there may be no better way to learn about these things than actual work experience.

Ramberg agrees. "The earlier we can teach our kids about how to be responsible at work, the better."

Financial education

Sooner or later, every kid needs to learn that parents aren't ATM machines. Through working, kids find out how to appreciate money. They can also learn how to budget their new income, enabling them to save for big purchases. "There is no better way to learn about money than by learning that you need to earn it," explains Greenberg.

Ramberg agrees. "According to the T. Rowe Price Parents Kids and Money Survey, parents who talk with their kids once a week about money are more likely to have kids who say they are smart about money," she says. "So, if your child has a job, it's important to then take it the next step and talk about how they will spend or save their earnings."

More: How to Raise a Body-Positive Teen

Teamwork

Businesses that employ teens generally have a staff of many, and that staff needs to work together. "They learn about the importance of being a team player," says Greenberg. "This is a valuable skill throughout life." As adults, we generally need to know how to work well with others, and that’s something teenagers can start getting used to early.

Self-esteem

"I have seen self-confidence and self-esteem increase as a result of being a good worker and earning money," explains Greenberg. And for teens, seeing that they have the ability to earn money is empowering. "Having a job can give our kids a sense of independence and confidence that can carry through other parts of their lives," adds Ramberg.

Time management

Employment doesn’t have to end in the fall. Teens can build skills all year-round provided they have time for other responsibilities like schoolwork. "Some kids may be so booked up with other activities that there is no room to work year-round,” says Ramberg. "Others may gain a lot from having a job that goes through the year." Help your child assess his or her schedule and see if adding employment hours will work for them. Mastering the art of time management will come in handy after graduation — and so will that extra cash.

More: When to Worry About Your Teen & Social Media

A chance to shine

"A job is a chance to do well," notes Greenberg. "Teens need all kinds of arenas in which to be successful. This provides another one." Having a job allows adolescents to experience success and to understand how to create the life they’d like as adults. "It’s helpful for them to see at a young age how curiosity and hard work can help them achieve their goals," says Ramberg, "at work or otherwise."

A version of this article was originally published in August 2017.

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