High-Paying Jobs for Teens
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
The idea of a high-paying job for a teen might seem contradictory. Most jobs that teens are qualified for, such as working in retail stores or restaurants, aren’t exactly known for their high salaries. Most teen-friendly jobs pay minimum wage, and even in states where that hourly rate is higher than average, working a full 40 hours will only bring in a few hundred dollars per week, after taxes.
So what’s a teen to do? After all, life these days is expensive, what with saving for college and a car, and all of the other expenses that come with being a teen – iPhones and green tea lattes don’t pay for themselves, you know, and mom and dad are only going to be willing to shell out so much for so long. The key is to get a comparatively high paying job, and the good news is that they do exist and can help you add some serious funds to your savings account.
One of the best summer jobs for high school students is working as a golf caddy. It might not sound that exciting to follow golfers around the course carrying their bags for them, but considering you can earn upward of $30 per hour to do it, plus tips, you might start to find it very interesting. Country clubs and golf courses will often hire junior caddies as young as 14, and provide plenty of training in the game of golf, golf etiquette and customer service to help you be the best caddy that you can be. Your primary responsibility, of course, is to carry the golf bags, which can weigh anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds depending on the golfer, and retrieve clubs from the bags at the golfer’s request. The typical golf game lasts around four hours, during which time you’ll walk several miles, but again, the payoff is a decent hourly wage. And if you are good at your job – which most country clubs make sure you are – you can expect to earn tips too. Depending on where you work, you could potentially earn up to $1,500 per week as a caddy – not to mention, you get to be outside, getting exercise and making contacts that may come in very handy when it’s time for college applications.
Hollywood might make lifeguarding seem like an easy job where you spend more time flirting than saving lives (ahem, Baywatch) but it’s actually a very challenging, very important and very serious job. Being a lifeguard does have its perks – you get to be outside all day, and getting in shape is a job requirement – but it’s also a major responsibility. PayScale reports that the average pay for lifeguards is about $9 per hour, but it depends largely on where you work. Lifeguards at the ocean or lake often earn more than those working at pools. Lifeguards can also earn bonuses or pay increases by performing other tasks like teaching swimming lessons or coaching swim teams. To become a lifeguard, you have to be a strong swimmer and certified as a lifeguard, and have a license or certification in life-saving techniques like CPR and AED, as well as first aid. Because lifeguards have to interact with the public and communicate important safety information (and, yes, remind swimmers and beachgoers of the rules) they also need to be good communicators.
Another job that lets you work outdoors is landscaper. Landscapers can rake in (get it?) big bucks mowing lawns, planting flowers, cleaning up brush and performing other tasks for homeowners and businesses. Many established landscaping companies will hire teens on a seasonal basis, paying $12 to $15 per hour. However, landscaping also lends itself to entrepreneurship. One teen-owned landscaping company in Colorado brings in more than $100,000 per year with a staff made up entirely of high schoolers. If you opt to strike out on your own, you’ll need reliable equipment and a willingness to hustle for clients, but if you do a great job, you can get referrals to grow your business. Regardless of whether you work for yourself or someone else, though, landscaping is hard work, and you’ll be working outdoors in all kinds of weather.
When you think “teen jobs,” babysitting is probably one of the first that comes to mind. And with good reason, as it’s one of the most common ways that teens can earn money. The average rate for a babysitter is $12 to $15 per hour, with some parents willing to pay more if they call on short notice or need you on a holiday – on New Year’s Eve, some babysitters can score $20 or more per hour. During the summer months, you might be able to land a regular gig with a weekly salary, but even during the school year you can pick up jobs on the weekends or after school. Getting babysitting jobs is often contingent upon referrals and word of mouth, but you can also offer your services on websites like Care.com or Babysitters4Hire. Babysitters with CPR and Red Cross first aid certification are in high demand, and you can improve your marketability by taking a babysitting training course. These courses are often offered by local community education programs or the YMCA. You need to be responsible, patient and enjoy working with kids, but babysitting can be a lucrative job option.
Are you a math whiz? Can you rattle off all of the rules for comma usage in no time? Then you might be a good candidate to be a tutor. While many commercial tutoring services, including online services, look for adult tutors with college degrees, teens can still work as tutors in their own communities and build their own client base. Many tutors earn anywhere from $25 to $45 per hour, and can set their own schedules. In addition, if you have a special skill, such as playing an instrument, you could potentially teach younger children the skill as well. To get clients, you can advertise locally or use a website like Care.com, which also has postings from individuals looking for tutors. Be prepared to provide references and proof of your skills in the subject you wish you tutor.
Dog Walker or Pet Sitter
Do you love animals? Do they love you? Then working as a dog walker or pet sitter may be a viable option to earn some cash. While most pet-sitting services will only contract with adults, especially for overnight pet-sitting jobs, teens can often find jobs walking dogs, or making short visits to feed and spend time with pets while their owners are at work or on vacation. The National Association of Pet Sitters reports that the average rate for a half-hour visit with a dog or cat is $16; multiply that by eight visits per day, and you could potentially earn $128 per day. Not bad for playing a few games of fetch or taking a stroll around the block. Some pet sitters are able to increase their earnings by offering other services as well, such as running errands for clients, bathing animals, or taking care of other tasks around the house like watering plants and bringing in the mail. If you can’t get a job with an existing pet-care business, you can find opportunities for this kind of work by marketing yourself in your local area, telling friends and family, and asking for referrals.
Think Outside the Box
Sometimes, the highest paying jobs are those you might not think of right off the bat. For instance, you can earn more than $50 per hour working as a character at children’s birthday parties. What could be more fun than dressing up as a princess or a superhero and basking in the adoration of 6-year-olds for a few hours? To land one of these gigs, reach out to party-planning or party-supply companies in your area, or businesses that provide characters, and ask for an audition. You’ll most likely have to prove you can nail the part, and provide references and a background check.
If you play an instrument well, you could earn some serious cash by playing as an event musician. For example, you can put those years of piano lessons to work by playing background music at parties, restaurants, weddings and other events. It’s possible to earn up to several hundred dollars per gig, plus tips. Not bad for doing something you enjoy anyway!
The internet also offers plenty of opportunities to make money as a teenager. If you are creatively inclined and make handmade items, consider opening a shop on Etsy; you might even be able to sell some of your work on consignment to local shops as well. Other sites, like CafePress and Redbubble, allow you to sell all sorts of items featuring your original work, so if you are an artist or graphic designer at heart, consider selling your work online. Keep in mind that these sites don’t allow anyone under age 18 to create accounts, so you’ll need to get help from an adult if you want to sell on these platforms.
You don’t necessarily have to be creative to make money online, either. Consider becoming a virtual assistant. Many entrepreneurs and businesses hire VAs to take care of basic tasks like scheduling appointments, managing email, and updating blogs and social media. The best part about a VA job is that you can work from home and make your own hours, while earning an average of $15 to $20 per hour. You can find these jobs by searching online; expect that you will need a resume and references in order to apply.
What to Do When You Make Money as a Teenager
Although you might get excited about a job’s high hourly rate, keep in mind that your paycheck is going to be a bit less than you might expect. Even teen workers have to pay taxes and contribute to Social Security and Medicare. Your tax rate is probably going to be on the lower end, and you’re likely to get most of your taxes refunded when you file your return, but keep that in mind when you are calculating your earnings.
It’s also important to remember that the rules for teen workers are different in every state, and you could face restrictions on when, where and how long you work, based on your age. Before you start looking for jobs, look into the rules for your area and secure any work permits or other documents you need to work legally.
And finally, earning all of this cash at work doesn’t mean you should go out and spend it all at the mall. Before you receive your first paycheck, sit down and create a budget that includes saving at least some of your hard-earned pay. Getting into the habit of saving now will benefit you in the long term – not only will you have some savings for college, you’ll be on track to better money management as an adult.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.
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