What Is the Difference Between Teens Who Work During High School & Teens Who Don't?

There are benefits and drawbacks to having a teen that works during his high school years. Employment during the teen years can provide your teen with valuable life lessons and work experience; however, a teen who takes on too many hours at work may struggle academically.

Work Experience

According to Jeylan Mortimer, a professor of the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, work experience -- when moderate in intensity -- promotes healthy development. High school jobs can be extremely beneficial for students who lack the interest and resources to pursue a college degree after graduation. While the student may not benefit financially as much as a student who goes on to obtain a four-year degree, securing a steady job with career potential is an accomplishment. The Child Development Institute states that parents can help teach their teens the value of the money they earn along with budgeting skills by assisting them in opening up a savings and checking account 2.


The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding states that jobs held by teens during the school years may have negative affects on students' grades. It can be difficult for students to balance their school work with their job hours, extra-curricular activities and family commitments. At the same time, Mortimer points out that valuable growth can take place when parents work with teens to successfully balance a job and school, teaching their teens important time-management skills that will serve them well in college and beyond.

Drug and Alcohol Exposure

Because of the lack of supervision in many areas of employment, your working teen risks being exposed to illegal substances at a higher rate. Your teen may also be working with older co-workers who are able to legally purchase alcohol for him. Though, research done for the 2010 Youth Development Study reveals that engaging in substance abuse tends to be an issue only in teens who have already exhibited problem behavior.

Vocational Development

According to Mortimer, parents should encourage their teens to seek out jobs that provide opportunities to learn about and explore possible career interests, rather than jobs that require a great deal of training and responsibility. Mortimer also encourages jobs that allow teens to visit a variety of workplaces rather than one single workplace during the high school years. For this reason, volunteering, internships and "job shadowing" are beneficial in providing variety and nurturing potential vocational interests, and may give your teen an added sense of direction for college and career pursuits.