How Does Having a Job Affect a Teen's Academic Life?

Getting that first job can be an exciting time for your teen. You are probably almost as excited as he is, knowing he will learn the value of hard work and how to handle money on his own. Although having a job does teach your teen responsibility, too much of a good thing can spell disaster for his academics.

Too Much Work

While working part time can be beneficial for your teen as she learns to budget her money, further her sense of responsibility and manage her time, working too many hours may have detrimental effects on her academic life. A 2011 study published in the journal Child Development reports that teens who work more than 20 hours a week get lower grades and show more school-related behavior problems. Another study published in American Educational Research Journal (AERJ) reports that teens who work more than 15 hours a week are more likely to drop out of school than students who work 1 to 15 hours a week.

Lack of Sleep

One theory for why teens who work more hours experience lower grades and problems in school is that they have difficulty juggling both school and work and often sacrifice sleep for other activities. According to the National Sleep Foundation teens require 8 1/2 to 9 1/4 hours of sleep per night for peak performance and health, which is often difficult for teens who work more than 20 hours a week while attending school 1. A lack of sleep in teens causes problems with cognitive functioning and poses issues with maintaining focus and attention, reduces their ability to problem solve and causes behavioral issues resulting from irritability.

New Peers -- New Pressures

Another factor that may effect a teens performance in school may be the new friends he meets on the job. Because they are likely to be older than he is, they may expose your teen to activities, such as drinking or drugs, that he has avoided until now. They may also invite him to activities and events that occur during the school day and he may choose to skip school in favor of hanging out with new friends.


Working under 15 to 20 hours a week appears to be a positive influence of teens and does not typically effect academics. If your teen must work more hours, arranging the work schedule for weekends may alleviate problems arising from lack of sleep. Eliminating chores at home, or relaxing your expectations -- such expecting a spotless room -- may give your teen the extra time she needs for other activities and lessen the effects of working too many hours. While each teen is different and handles the work experience in her own way, talking to your teen is always a good move. Assessing her health and stress level often, and working together to find solutions to problems, lets you decide together how many hours of work is too much for your teen.