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Fourteen is old enough to handle some responsibility and prove your ability to contribute to the workforce – but where can you work at 14? The options are limited, thanks to the protection of child labor laws. In the average town or city, only a handful of places may hire at 14. That doesn't mean that finding an employer an unrealistic goal. It just means that, at 14, you should also be prepared to be creative about how you find paying work.
Working Legally at 14
For someone who is 13 years and 11 months old, the legal work options are practically nonexistent. However, 14 is the minimum age to perform many different types of jobs, so kids this age might have some choices when they go looking. First, though, they and their parents need to understand how labor laws affect them.
Fourteen-year-olds may legally work in all 50 states, but in many states, they have to obtain working papers before they can start. In states that require 14-year-old workers to have these documents, typically a parent or guardian is required to sign off. Some states require that the minor's principal or school superintendent approve.
Policies vary slightly from state to state. For example, in Massachusetts, a 14-year-old has to get a job offer first and then have a doctor sign off on the work permit. Contact the school office or your state's department of labor for specific guidance. It's often possible to apply online for a permit.
Limitations for 14-Year-Old Workers
The U.S. government has a number of provisions in place to protect 14- and 15-year-old workers. These young teens may only legally work in the types of jobs that the U.S. Department of Labor specifically approves; all other types of jobs are illegal for 14-year-olds to do.
Labor laws limit the hours that 14-year-olds can work. While school is in session, you may work no more than 18 hours per week. During school breaks, you can work up to 40 hours a week. Fourteen-year-olds can work no more than three hours per school day including Fridays or eight hours per nonschool day. Between June 1 and Labor Day, you can work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.; the rest of the year, you can work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Fourteen-year-olds are specifically not allowed to perform certain types of tasks. You can't be asked to make door-to-door sales, do any baking, work in coolers or meat lockers, climb ladders and scaffolding, do manufacturing or mining, catch or coop poultry, operate heavy machinery or wave signs. Your state's department of labor may have even more restrictions.
Working in Grocery Stores
The Department of Labor allows 14-year-olds to perform a few different roles in grocery stores. One role that is a great first job is bagging groceries. Not only is it specifically allowed by the DOL, this job is low stress and doesn't involve much customer interaction or the use of a cash register. Fourteen-year-olds may also help customers carry their groceries out of the store.
Legally, 14-year-olds can work as cashiers in grocery stores, but it's unlikely that a local store will be willing to hire an inexperienced young teen for this job. However, you may find work stocking shelves or doing minor cleaning tasks in the store.
Working in Restaurants
Good news for teens hoping to get free fries at the end of every shift: 14-year-olds are allowed to work as cashiers or baggers in restaurants and quick-service establishments – think ice cream stands, takeout restaurants and fast food joints. At 14, you may also do limited cooking but only with electric or gas grills – not over open flames. You may also use deep fryers but only if the fryers are the type that automatically lift and lower the basket in the oil.
Fourteen-year-olds who work in restaurants can enter a walk-in cooler to grab items but can't do work tasks that require them to stay in the cooler. You may do some cleaning in the kitchen, but you can't even touch grinders, meat slicers, mixers and containers holding cooking oil hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Working as a Creative
Are you a 14-year-old dreaming of becoming the star of your own Disney show? Enjoy the fantasy and realize this isn't a realistic job goal for most 14-year-olds. Kids this age are allowed to work as singers, actors and musicians, but they usually need extraordinary talent to earn money in these pursuits. Fourteen-year-olds may be cast in community theater productions or accepted into local musical groups, but these are often unpaid gigs.
Teens this age can use their skills to earn money through certain creative endeavors online. Artistic teens can sell artwork, crafts and jewelry online or possibly be paid to write articles for teen magazines and websites. Kids have to have real talent to make money in a crowded marketplace, and the parents should always be involved to make sure that teens aren't scammed or put in unsafe positions.
Working as a Tutor
A 14-year-old with an aptitude for math or science can make some spending money by offering to help younger students. As a young teenager, you can't advertise yourself as an expert in any subject and can't be expected to have the same teaching skills that an experienced tutor does, but at this age, you have the advantage of being relatable to a slightly younger kid – which could be a great advantage.
The parents of a 14-year-old probably won't be comfortable with their child going to a stranger's home for tutoring. Instead, focus on offering tutoring services to students in the same school district. Teachers can be a great help in getting this kind of work. If you speak Spanish fluently, for example, let the school Spanish teacher know that you're available for tutoring if she hears of any students who are looking for extra help.
Think beyond academic subjects, too. A teen who plays an instrument, is a whiz at programming, or excels at a certain sport or hobby might prove to be a great teacher to a peer who wants to learn those same skills. Even a teen without these special skills can do a good job as a conversational English tutor – basically, someone with whom a new English speaker can practice. If there's a large immigrant population in the area, there may be parents of kids and teens nearby who are willing to pay an hourly rate to a tutor around the same age as their kids.
Working as a Delivery Person
A lot of job options for teens have changed since the 1950s, but one job is still a viable choice for modern 14-year-olds: newspaper delivery. If you can land a job doing a local paper route, start each day bright and early by delivering papers by foot, by bike or while being driven by an adult. Each state has its own age requirements for newspaper delivery. In many states including Texas and New York, kids as young as 11 are allowed to perform this job.
Unfortunately, finding a newspaper delivery job opening nearby will probably be the biggest challenge. With many newspapers being published only a few times per week and with many people getting their news online, paper routes aren't as lucrative as they once were.
Working in Homes
For the average 14-year-old, working in some capacity for a neighbor or local family is probably the easiest job to get. Babysitting is a classic choice for good reason. As long as you're responsible and have some experience working with kids, many parents feel comfortable leaving a young teen in charge of low-maintenance kids for a few daytime hours. Parents of infants or kids with special needs might prefer to find older sitters.
There are a lot of other around-the-house jobs that young teens can do. Offering yard services is a great way to earn some money year-round as you mow lawns and water plants during warm weather, rake leaves during autumn and shovel snow during winter. While it's unlikely to become a legal issue if a teen uses a power mower on a neighbor's lawn, note that the DOL doesn't allow employers to let 14-year-olds use power mowers. An entrepreneurial 14-year-old might also advertise dog walking, cat sitting or housecleaning services.
These jobs are great for workers this age, because even though some businesses can legally hire 14-year-olds, a lot of stores and restaurants choose older candidates with work experience. However, working odd jobs or babysitting doesn't require that you submit a formal application and compete head-to-head against other applicants. Finding a job is often as easy as spreading the word that you're available for hire. As a bonus, you can name your own price so you may earn more by working for neighbors than you would earn making minimum wage. The downside is that parents have to be involved to make sure that 14-year-olds are safe and supervised in other people's homes.
Other Jobs for 14-Year-Olds
Because it's not always possible to find a local job opening for a 14-year-old, it makes sense for kids this age to create their own opportunities. Your neighborhood is one of the best places to get a job at 14. If a neighbor or relative needs to clean out a basement or attic, you can offer to haul things out for an hourly rate. When someone wants to downsize their stuff, offer to do all the work of selling things in a garage sale in exchange for a percentage of the profits.
Kids who are tech-savvy can offer their services to help family friends or neighbors set up new electronics, diagnose issues with computers, troubleshoot phone problems or learn new computer programs.
Fourteen-year-olds are legally allowed to work in agricultural jobs. If there are any family farms in your area, stop by to ask whether the farmers need any help with tasks such as planting, picking and packaging. You can't operate machinery or do any tasks that the DOL considers hazardous, but simple physical tasks are fine. These jobs are often flexible and don't require a rigorous interview process or an interview at all, so they might be the perfect first job for a teen just starting out in the workforce.
Getting a Job at 14
Those resume templates you can find online probably won't work for you at age 14. No employer expects you to have work experience at this age, so if an application requires a resume, it should be short and focus on your academic and extracurricular achievements. Proving yourself to be mature, reliable and hardworking is the most important thing.
- U.S. Department of Labor Youth Rules: I Am 14 or 15
- U.S. Department of Labor: Child Labor Rules for Employing Youth in Grocery Stores Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Business Insider: The U.S. Allows Teens to Start Working at 14 — Here's How to Get a First Job in Every State
- U.S. Department of Labor: Child Labor Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Nonagricultural Occupations
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety: Employment Permit
- Texas Workforce Commission: Texas Child Labor Law
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.