For years, teens have been entering the workforce later, starting their first jobs when they’re older or never working at all — a trend that NPR identified as early as 2018. Culture has changed, state laws have changed and some positions that were for generations seen as kids’ jobs have been taken over by young college graduates and others who can’t get a job in their field.
But the young people who do continue the age-old tradition of entering the workforce as teenagers in high school or college get the same benefits that have always come with the turf. Namely, they get a hands-on lesson in the rewards of hard work and of the value of a dollar — plus, they get to watch those dollars pile up as they save their own hard-earned money. If your teen is ready for the responsibility, the following jobs offer life skills, look great on resumes and college applications, pay well and even let you have a little bit of fun.
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For generations, lifeguarding was one of the great summer jobs for teenagers across America. It’s not for everyone, but those who qualify learn hands-on lifesaving skills and earn certifications to back them up. Lifeguarding requires physical fitness and it’s an important job that comes with real responsibility and a sense of purpose.
In the early 2010s, reports began emerging about growing lifeguard shortages as more and more teens ditched this longtime rite of passage. They and their parents were concentrating instead on summer internships and skill-specific jobs that could pad their college applications. The pandemic made the trend even worse, according to a July report from Bloomberg, and now a lifeguard shortage is keeping pools closed all over the country. So for a teen who wants to dive into lifeguarding, a job should not be hard to find.
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Teen Library Jobs
To be a librarian, you have to have a master’s degree in library sciences, but there are library jobs just for teens, even if those teens have no intention of pursuing careers as librarians. The skills they learn — organizational skills, technical skills, people skills and research skills — can transfer to any number of educational or academic pursuits. Plus, this kind of work looks great on resumes.
According to ZipRecruiter, teens who want to work in libraries have to be enrolled in school and legally allowed to work. For post-high school teen library work, a high school diploma or GED is usually required. Jobs include teen services librarian, entry-level teen librarian and teen intern.
Some teen jobs are fun, others are good for building skills and resumes — camp counselor jobs are both. Leadership skills, organizational skills, critical thinking, logistical planning, supervising, managing and educating are all part of the package.
There are more than 7,000 overnight camps and 5,000 day camps in the United States, according to the American Camp Association (ACA), and Hire Teen has good resources on how to land a job as a camp counselor. A good way to set yourself apart is to get experience working with children by tutoring younger kids, babysitting or assisting a teacher or coach.
Amusement park jobs have been teen magnets for generations — and for good reason. They’re readily available, they require no skills or experience, they’re fun and the teens who land those jobs work with big groups of young people their own age.
Traditionally, it was minimum wage work or close to it, but just like lifeguards, there are now way too many open positions and far too few teens willing to fill them — you can make some real money working in amusement parks now. Six Flags, for example, is hiring at many of its locations for positions like ride attendant, food, games, retail and park services. Many positions pay $15 an hour and come with combined bonuses of $1,000 or more.
Movie theaters employ teens as ushers, ticket takers, in concessions and in ticket sales. Unlike summer-specific gigs, movie theater work can be steady and reliable. As a side benefit, you get exposure to the arts. Countless celebrated directors and actors have cited early jobs in movie theaters and video stores as their inspiration thanks to the priceless perk of free movies.
Teens will learn how to work under pressure in a busy and unique kind of business — movies, after all, are both products and services at the same time. Right now, Indeed.com is listing more than 500 movie theater jobs — many of which are open to teens — across the country. Many pay $12 or more an hour and come with solid benefits.
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