Kids and parents alike often wonder "How old do you have to be to work?" How can kids make money if they aren't old enough? Are there different rules for when you are working for someone else instead of just working for yourself? What about jobs for teens?
Good questions! There are some basic child labor laws that specify minimum age requirements that employers must follow.
Here are the details:
For the self-employed, there is no minimum age at which one can start working. That's the good news. Lots of kids make money by working for themselves whether through a lemonade stand or other ideas about how kids can make money.
When a young person works for himself or herself, he or she is free to try their hand at any number of jobs that they might enjoy without having to live with a schedule set by an employer.
Of course, self-employment comes with other responsibilities, too, including having to think about federal or local laws that could apply to a personal business. These can range from needing a business license or getting approval from the homeowners' association to filing a federal tax return with self-employment income (if over $400) and paying the related taxes.
That seems like a lot to handle for a preteen or teen entrepreneur, doesn't it? It doesn't need to be. The easiest way to approach it is by doing a little research online. Nearly every government area, local or federal, has a website that includes all the necessary information.
Plus, it's good experience for the young entrepreneur (both in business and in life) to deal with adults in this way.
If it feels a little overwhelming, parents can step in and help out with the phone calls or trips to city hall. Not only does this gesture of support provide a boost of confidence, it can also help make sure everyone is on the same page re: expectations, responsibilities, and commitment.
The good news here is that if the teen meets the age requirements, all they really have to do is just find a job, go to work, and do a great job.
The not-so-good news is that the age requirements under federal law don't work in favor of younger teens, so most jobs for teens are for kids who are 16 or older. The law is designed to protect against the child labor practices from decades ago and has limits on age as well as hours.
You can check out the Department of Labor's answering the question What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?
There are also separate rules and exemptions for agricultural jobs.
The Department of Labor also provides a page of resources and links related to state labor laws.
But here are the federal basics:
Once a teen reaches 16, these limitations go away on the federal level. But until then it can be hard to get hired unless it's something like lifeguarding at the local pool.
Also, there may be state labor laws that have further limitations - even after the age of 16. Employers in your area will likely know these laws and hire accordingly for any jobs for teens that they have.
In addition to the legalese above, the question of "How old do you have to be to work?" needs to be answered by both teen and parent. How does it fit into the family life? Should the teen show a certain amount of responsibility around the house before he or she is allowed to go out on their own? How will they manage other activities and schoolwork?
It helps to answer these questions before a teen job search is ever begun.
Fast Food Restaurants including Burger King, Dairy Queen, KFC, McDonald's, and Taco Bell - 16 years old
Department Stores including Big Lots, JCPenney, Kohl's, Marshalls, Nordstrom, Target, and Walmart - 16 years old
Department Stores including Bloomingdale's, Costco, Dillard's, Macy's, and Sam's Club - 18 years old
Grocery Stores including Albertson's, HEB, Kroger, and Safeway - 16 years old
Retailers including GameStop, Gymboree, Lego Stores, Party City, Target, and Tractor Supply Company - 16 years old
Retailers including Babies R Us and Toys R Us, The Container Store, and The Disney Store - 18 years old
Baskin Robbins - 17 years old
Starbucks - 16 years old (14 years old in Montana where that's the minimum age)
Source: Job-Applications.com (awesome resource by the way)