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Can You Work at 14 or 15 Years Old? 7 Key Things to Know About Working!

Last updated October 30, 2023

Can you work at 14 or 15 years old? Yes, in some states the minimum age requirement to work is 14 years old. Even though you can legally work at 14, the federal government has strict laws about when and where you are allowed to work. These laws were created to protect you as an employee and make sure you are safe on the job. Here’s what you should know about working when you are under the age of 16.

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If you find a job, all work must be performed outside of school hours

This means:

  • You can work a maximum of 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays.
  • You can work a maximum of 18 hours per week when school is in session.
  • You can work up to 8 hours per day when school is not in session.
  • You can work up to 40 hours during a non-school week (like spring break or during the summer if you are not taking class).
  • You can only work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on any day, however these hours are extended to 9 p.m. between June 1st through Labor Day (the first Monday of September).

You may need sign-off from your parent/guardian, school, or both before you work!

The federal government sets some basic rules for working as a 14 or 15 year-old. The main reason is to keep youth safe and make sure their education is still coming first! Each state, however, also can set their own rules for work requirements for teens. In some states this means needing a parent or guardian to sign-off on a work permit. In some states this means you'll need your school to sign-off on a work permit. And in some states you need both or neither! Check out our map of U.S. labor laws for teens below and make sure that you check with any employer when you’re applying and they can help you out!

Graphic representing U.S. Labor Laws for Teens

You are only allowed to do certain jobs

These certain jobs include working in retail settings, computer programming, teaching and tutoring, acting, running errands or delivering items by foot (walking), bicycle and public transportation, clean-up and yard work, working in food service by washing dishes, reheating food, cleaning equipment and limited cooking, to name a few. There are also certain jobs you CANNOT do, like working on construction sites or working in factories with hazardous machines or materials, such as meat processing plants.

You can’t use motorized or power-driven tools or operate heavy machinery

From flipping burgers on the grill at your local restaurant to using power tools on a construction site, if it’s considered hazardous, you can’t touch it if you are under the age of 18. This includes power-driven mowers, cutters, trimmers, edgers, motorized trash compactors and power-driven bakery machines (like a large mixing bowl).

You can legally be paid less than the federal minimum wage

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour - this means, under most circumstances, you must be paid at least $7.25 an hour. However, if you are younger than 20 years old, your employer can legally pay you $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of your employment. Be sure to speak with your employer about your pay before starting any job.

You can work more hours if you enroll in a certified Work Experience and Career Exploration Program

Workforce Experience and Career Exploration Programs are typically created, supervised, and managed by your school. Connect with your guidance counselor to see how you can join. Once you are accepted, you can work up to 23 hours a week while school is in session. Jobs will vary by school, but you will likely work in departments at your school such as the main office, library, cafeteria, or with a sports team.

When in doubt, ask!

Because there are so many laws to protect teens at the workplace, applying for jobs as a 14 or 15 year-old can be confusing and not all employers will hire you at that age even if they are allowed to! The best thing to do before applying anywhere is to get in touch with someone at the employer you want to work with. If it is an in-person store or venue, show up in person and ask to speak with the hiring manager and ask if they consider hiring 14 or 15 year-olds! If not, move on down your list. Check out this list of employers that do hire younger teens to get started!

To learn about job opportunities for 14 and 15 year olds, text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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