How Old Do You Have To Be To Work?

Amy Culver |
Amy is our Lead Copywriter at Snagajob, where she loves to use her word nerd powers to help workers and employers connect. Her first hourly job was as a cashier at Chick-fil-a.

As a teen, you're probably itching to make some cash. Having money in your pocket is helpful to afford the things you want. Plus, you will be happy to know that employers are just as motivated to hire you as you are to get hired!

While there are plenty of part-time jobs and summer jobs available, your age can prevent you from working some or all jobs. Younger employees like you—if you’re under the age of 18—are protected by federal child labor laws. These restrictions are in place to ensure that you are safe at work.

At Snag, we want to put you with the right employer and get you working and earning as quickly as possible. We know that’s important to you, too. So, in this post, we will take a look at the details around the minimum age that you can legally work, and which employers want to hire you. 

We will even throw in a few bonus tips on how to find work as a teenager!

Teen employment laws you should know

The good news is that federal child labor laws are in place protect you in the workplace if you are a minor under the age of 18. However, that also means there are some restrictions on your ability to get a job when you’re younger. 

What is the legal age to work?

Let’s take a look at some of the specifics of these restrictions around the legal age to work in the US.

If you are 13 years old or younger…

Unfortunately, if you’re 13 or younger, you are not yet at the legal age to start work. You won’t be able to legally work a traditional part-time job. 

If you are 14 or 15 years old…

Yes, 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds can legally work. However, as a younger teen, you also have the most regulations in place around what you can and can’t do when it comes to a job. 

For starters, the number of hours you can work are limited. You can't work more than 18 hours in a school week. You also cannot work more than 3 hours per day on a school day. 

You'll be happy to know that these times are extended during the summer and school holidays. During those breaks, you can work up to 40-hour work weeks and 8-hour days. You can even work until 9pm during the summer instead of your typical 7pm time limit that applies the rest of the year.

Another thing to keep in mind as a 14- or 15-year-old: you will not be allowed to work any hazardous jobs like construction or factory positions.

If you are 16 or 17 years old…

If you're a teen at the age of 16 or 17, you don't have any limits in place on how long or at what times you can work. However, there are still restrictions on the types of work you can do. 

If you want more information on this, check out the U.S. Department of Labor. They’ll have the most up-to-date specifics. No construction, factory, or hazardous jobs for you yet either, which really isn’t such a terrible thing! 

If you are 18+…

Congrats! As a legal adult, there are no restrictions on the jobs or hours you can work. If you’re 18 or older, you’re officially of legal age to start work.

One more thing for teens to know before getting hired

There can also be other state laws and requirements you need to meet to legally work before age 18. Be sure to check with your high school, school district, and local employment office for more information. There may be a work permit, employment certificate, or other age requirement you need to meet.

The perks of getting a part-time job as a teen

Now that you know all about the legal age to work, it’s time to get to work

There are some nice perks that come with having a job while you’re young. Not only will getting a part-time gig to earn you cold, hard cash—it will also get you some great experience. 

A quick note on working as a teenager…Even though you’re of legal age to start work, just know that you probably will not land your dream job at 16. That’s totally okay! Part-time jobs for teens aren’t necessarily meant to be the highest paying or most fulfilling careers. 

Any job you have as a teen will likely be a stepping stone for you, a way to earn a little money and gain work experience while you’re going to school. 

But! Even if you don’t necessarily need the money, a part-time job can be great in other ways. For example, no matter what you end up getting paid to do, there are some key job skills you will be learning at a young age. These are skills that employers will be happy to see on your resume in the future. 

Skills like showing up on time, time management, professionalism, taking responsibility, being able to learn new tasks and computer skills, organizational skills, customer service skills, and any leadership opportunities you might have, will go a long way in showing future hiring managers that you’re the right person for their jobs. 

Who knows, your summer job as a teen could help you to land your dream job one day!

Finding work as a teenager (under 18)

Don't worry if many of the employers you're checking out seem to constantly have 18-or-older job requirements. The same goes for if most of them say they want you to have experience in the field. We promise there are plenty of opportunities out there for you! 

Once you hit the legal age to work in the US, you’re a shoo-in for a lot of part-time jobs. In fact, you're almost guaranteed to find a job with a restaurant, retail store, or in the food industry. To help get you started in your job search, here are some well-known, reputable companies that are currently hiring teens:

  • Burger King

  • Chick-fil-A

  • Jamba Juice

  • McDonald's

  • Walmart

If you want to check out some other teen job opportunities, there's a ton more listed on our website.

Jobs you can “snag” once you’re of legal age to work

Employers know that you're eager to work, and they are equally ready to hire you. It’s just that you may not be able to work all the positions they have available just yet. But no worries! 

There are lots of jobs out there that are a perfect fit for someone under 18 who has little or no work experience.

At a restaurant, for instance, you can work as a host/hostess or server, but you obviously won't be able to work as a bartender until you hit 21. You could also likely get hired on as a cook, prep cook, or dishwasher in the kitchen. 

Most retail stores will hire teens of legal age to work as salespeople or perhaps as a cashier. Grocery stores always seem to need stockers and baggers. And lots of employers need help with basic tasks like cleaning. 

There may also be great employment opportunities specifically for students that are sponsored through your high school. Check with your guidance counselor or school employment office, if you have one.

How Snag can help you get hired

First, we have tons of jobs listed on our website that could be a great fit for you. You can do all your job searching in one, convenient place.

We also offer a massive collection of resources for job seekers of all ages. From articles like this one to interview tips to resume help, we’ve got it all. If it’s job related, you can probably find it on Snag!

Another great thing about looking for employment with Snag is that we check out every company for you. We do the work up front to make sure they're reliable and legitimate so that you don’t have to worry about it. 

That said, you should still take the time to do some research on your own about a potential employer, too. A quick online search or a check with the Better Business Bureau can give you some good information on a company, especially if you've never heard of them before. When you’re of legal age to start work—and really, no matter how old you are—always do your research so you don't take a job you hate or end up working for a shady company!