Long ago, kids everywhere seemed to be car hopping for the local hamburger joint, delivering newspapers, or rewinding the VHS tapes at the video store. It was common and expected. That was also a time when kids were smoking cigarettes and staying out until the streetlights came on. Some may contest that those were “the good old days” while others recognize that as a time to be improved upon. Fast-forward 20 years. The world is vastly different, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), established in 1938, is being enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor
The FLSA set the minimum age to work at 14 years old. There are a few variances, but businesses must adhere to those standards or face strict penalties.
Rules for working at 14-15 years old
14-15 year olds are legally able to work, but the fields they can work in, the hours they can work, and the jobs they can perform are more limited than even those who are 16 years old.
At 14-15 years old, youth can
- work 3 hours or less per day Monday through Friday
- work 18 hours or less per week while school is still in session
- work 8 hours or less per day or 40 hours or less per week during breaks and vacation time from school
- work between 7 am-7 pm on any day from the day after Labor Day to May 31
- work between 7 am-9 pm on any day from June 1 through Labor Day
Reasons for working at 14-15 years old
There are many factors that go into a 14-15 year old’s decision to work. Sometimes, youth want to contribute to their home while other times, they want to get away from their home. Some want to make money to save for a larger purchase while others want money to spend on smaller items.
Whatever the reason, there are legal requirements he or she and the business have to adhere to. Additionally, parents or guardians have to sign-off, often with a permit from the school the youth attends. It takes a bit of work, but ambitious 14-15 year old youth who want a job, can find places that will hire them.
Warnings (and the reality) for working at 14-15 years old
- There are a lot of places that are able to hire at 14-15 but won’t hire until 16-17.
- Many franchises are a part of that category.
- Franchises are usually locally owned, so they have a bit of leeway, but they also have a lot of corporate policies to adhere to.
- It’s also important to keep the competition in mind, too.
- If the area has a high unemployment rate, adults will take the jobs that 14-15 year olds might be hired for.
- If the area has a low education level, adults may only be qualified for jobs that would otherwise go to a 14-15 year old.
- Another factor is the time of year.
- Each summer and winter, college kids return home in search of temporary jobs that might also be a great fit for the 14-15 year olds.
- During the school year, a 14-15 year old is only able to work a lower amount of hours than during breaks.
Outside of family-run businesses (which function by a different set of rules), it is often difficult to find a job at 14-15 years old, so I compiled a list of 10 places that will actually hire after going through the process with my own children.
Jobs in certain industries are available. These jobs and their interest in hiring 14-15 year olds vary.
In the midwest, we have a ton of farms. Farmers look for farm hands to do small jobs around the farm like feeding animals, cleaning and clearing areas, bailing hay, harvesting products, and selling at market. Not only do the farmers look for farm hands, but here in corn country (Indiana), farmers are seeking youth to detassel. Most of these jobs are intensive manual labor positions that cultivate a lot of collaboration, caretaking, and perseverance.
To find a job on a farm, start with the local Farmer’s Market, produce stand, FFA, or agriculture instructors to find a farmer who needs some help. Even if that farmer isn’t hiring, he or she may know or encounter someone later who is in need.
Good old fashion delivery boys and girls still exist in the world where there are newspapers. Newspapers look for delivery persons who will roll, band, wrap (in wet weather), and deliver the newspaper to individual homes and businesses. Many newspapers still have the delivery person still collect funds from patrons as well. Delivery can be on foot or on a bicycle or scooter. This job is tedious and repetitive, but it fosters a sense of timeliness, integrity, and socialization.
To find a job at the local newspaper, start with the newspaper office. If the newspaper itself isn’t hiring, current delivery persons may want an intern to shadow or take over their route.
Many restaurants hire bussers, hosts, dishwashers, and clerks at 14-15 years old. While the majority of places will not allow someone that young to wait tables or to work on a line (as a cook), some will hire youth for jobs that have a lower risk for accidents. Whether it’s a restaurant or an ice cream parlor, food service workers have to be careful, aware, and cautious to do their job well and safely. Three of my four kids worked in food service as did I for many years. It’s a unique culture that some people aren’t ready for, but the industry leads to tolerance, patience, and socialization like no other.
To find a job in food service, contact local restaurants first before checking into franchises like Dairy Queen, Culver’s, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or Burger King. My kids never had luck with franchises, but it’s going to vary everywhere. Be sure to check multiple franchises, too. They could have different owners!
Medical facilities like nursing homes and hospitals sometimes hire at 14-15 years old. It’s not feasible to get a position that requires a license (CNA, QMA, RN), but it is possible to get other jobs in medical facilities. Nursing homes and hospitals have laundry services, dietary (food) services, hospitality services, and cleaning services.
The jobs in these areas range significantly, but both my brother and I grew up working in the nursing home my mom worked at. We both worked in activities (setting up for bowling, BINGO, etc). I also read letters to the elderly, and my brother cleaned equipment (wheelchairs, walkers). I was also a candy striper at the hospital for years. There is great value in working in a medical facility. The empathy gained alone is worth it, but it also builds social skills and a thick skin.
To find a job in a medical facility, contact a local nursing home or hospital’s human resources department or just ask someone who works there.
A lot of people start their first job at a grocery store. Baggers and stockers are often young–even 14-15 years old. A bagger will bag groceries and gather carts while a stocker will rotate and stock shelves. Krogers stores generally prefer to hire at 16, but they have hired at 14-15 years old. Local grocery stores are a better place to get hired than chain grocery stores. Working in a grocery store teaches speed, agility, and coordination.
To find a job in a grocery store, check out local stores before heading to the local chain.
Sports centers and parks hire 14-15 year olds for a variety of tasks. Concessions is one of the most popular places for youth to work, but 14-15 year olds can also collect fees at the door/gate and keep score. Sometimes, these jobs are taken by other teams, but they can be great positions especially for sports fanatics. My daughter worked in a local sports facility for the past 2 ½ years and now works in a sports complex in college. Precision and quick-thinking are skills that youth learn in a sports facility or park.
To find a job in a sports facility, contact the facility itself or even a coach whose team participates in one.
Labor jobs consist of jobs with manual labor: roofing, flooring, construction, landscape. These jobs require many safety precautions, which may include a higher age bracket. For the right 14-15 year old, labor is a great place to start.
Labeled grunt work in the labor industry, the work tends to be very physical and highly demanding. Usually, it involves preparing, setting up, maintaining needs, supplying materials, and cleaning up. It’s the work that many of the skilled laborers don’t want to do, or it saves them time and effort. In addition to being a physically demanding position, this job teaches endurance and balance.
To find a labor job, reach out to a local construction company who will have connections in all of the other areas.
The last three areas are all industries that are especially built for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs will get out there and make success happen, which takes a lot of perseverance and confidence, but it creates a massive profit when done well. Some tips that will help a 14-15 year old budding entrepreneur:
- Advertise. (Consider making flyers and business cards to get your client base!)
- Be fair in pricing. (If your pricing is fair, you will likely get bigger tips!)
- Do every job well. (You’re building your reputation so get those recommendations!)
- Show up. (Always be on time and show up when you are supposed to!)
- Finish early. (Set a schedule to complete and do your best to finish it before that time to impress clients!)
- Avoid overbooking. (Be careful not to overbook and have to disappoint a client!)
- Save some money for taxes. (Check with your local tax consultant for details!)
From cars to animals, the cleaning industry is an area that 14-15 year old entrepreneurs can really make good money if they do it well. A bucket, soap, water, and a sponge can do a long way into cleaning something, but the elbow grease and time are more important for most clients. Consider cleaning vehicles (find those that are especially dirty), cleaning homes (find those new parents who could use a break), and even cleaning animals (find those big dogs who make big messes).
Mowing lawns is a tried and true method of making money. Two of my sons have (and still) make money mowing small yards for our elderly neighbors. One of my two sons was making nearly $1,000 each month mowing yards at one time! Yard maintenance can also include cleaning up fence row, shoveling snow, and even maintaining trash collection.
Babysitting. Dog sitting. House sitting. Caring for others or the property of others is a task built around trust. For the most trustworthy 14-15 year olds, watching and caring for a child, an animal, or a home for a client is an honor that should be taken very seriously. These jobs should be taken seriously, but they can also be extremely fun. Playing with kids and animals or staying in someone’s home may not even seem like work.
Education should always be the top priority for 14-15 year olds, but cultivating a strong work ethic is also important. Jobs are out there for the motivated spirit who is ready to work for it. The jobs don’t land at the doorstep. It takes hard work to go out and get a job without giving up. The 14-15 year old who really wants to work will find a job and maybe even a pathway to a new career.
Martha Warner is a writer, editor, and educator. As a single mom for many years, Martha knows the value of money, how to work hard, and how to hustle. Her freelance career started as a side hustle (to support her love of travel) and quickly grew into the most lucrative career she’s ever had. Martha still teaches at the university as well as other online and in-person courses, including Writing to Make Money, College Scholarship Writing, and Write that Grant. Find out more about her on her website.