Some people don’t work until they’re out of grad school. Others jump in with both feet in their teens.
And an enterprising few, such as child actors, make bank well before then, getting an early start on their retirement investments.
All of that is legal. Fourteen is the youngest age for most nonagricultural work, with restrictions on hours when school is in session set by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The U.S. Department of Labor adds:
“However, at any age, youth may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs); and perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home.”
But what’s legal and what companies are willing to do aren’t always the same thing. It can be harder to find jobs that hire at 15 than it used to be.
Why many companies won’t hire 15-year-olds
Many states have their own child labor laws, and may go further than federal law in spelling out job protections for 15-year-olds and restrictions on places that can hire them. Some require work permits.
For that reason among others, many national companies won’t hire people younger than 16. Even at places that hire younger workers, jobs can be quite limited and are often only available seasonally.
But if you’re wondering who hires at 15, the answer is: There are lots of places that hire at 15. Here are some kinds of companies that offer jobs for 15-year-olds:
Local and family-owned businesses
Local companies and family-owned businesses are the best bet for places that hire at 15.
Local companies don’t need a one-size-fits-all policy on jobs for 15-year-olds to cover stores nationwide, because they only have to worry about the law in effect where they operate. So, in general, they may have more flexibility to offer jobs for 15-year-olds, particularly in states where laws are more lenient.
Family-owned businesses are also worth asking. These also might be places that hire 15-year-olds because the federal Fair Labor Standards Act explicitly allows for business owners to hire their own children at a younger age. This is where you may find restaurants hiring at 15.
Inevitably, some owners do employ their own kids and become more familiar with the labor rules for places that hire at 15. And then they may realize — with nudging from their children’s friends or other parents — that they can legally hire other minors for limited but useful tasks.
This might also occur at what seem like national companies, but are actually independently owned and operated stores that hire at 15.
Many theaters rely on young workers and are more likely to have such positions available than companies that are only making special exceptions for one or two kids. There are numerous opportunities for 16-year-olds at the major chains.
But if you’re 15, where can you work? There are far fewer jobs in theaters for 15-year-olds these days, although AMC ‘s corporate FAQ specifically says “We often provide offers for employment to persons between the ages of 14-17.”
The grocery industry is another that often comes up when looking into what businesses hire at 15.
Stocking jobs and those working with fresh food often have a higher age requirement, while cashiers, baggers or cart retrievers are often jobs that hire at 15.
Publix stores are among places that hire 15-year-olds; the chain spells out age requirements for different roles. Some jobs, including floral clerk, cashier, front service and bagging, are available from age 14.
Wegmans stores’ earliest age for hiring is 15.
Where can you work at 15? How about a water park or local pool?
The American Red Cross certifies lifeguards as young as age 15, and the U.S. Department of Labor explains what duties they’re allowed to perform at that age, including keeping pool areas tidy, testing and maintaining water quality, teaching water safety and monitoring activity in the water.
For “natural environment facilities,” including beaches and rivers, federal law requires lifeguards to be at least age 16.
The other big industry associated with teenage employment is fast food, but there are few restaurants hiring at 15. Burger King specifically mandates workers be at least age 16.
There may be other restaurants hiring at 15 for limited roles, including bussing tables and kitchen work. But 16 is a more common minimum age for waiting tables or working as a cashier.
Kid-friendly indoor venues
Entertainment venues that feature arcades, trampolines, laser tag or escape rooms might be places for 15-year-olds to find jobs, and definitely for older teenagers. Since many of the guests are children and teens, younger workers are more of an asset than in other industries — they contribute to the family-friend vibe.
If you can’t find any local stores that hire at 15, there are always the old standbys for making extra cash: babysitting, pet sitting, housekeeping, mowing lawns, washing cars and running errands (if they don’t require a driver’s license). Many people name one of these as their first job, even if it’s not employment by an established company.
Teenagers can also explore how to make money online, perhaps by teaching their peers. They can also take online surveys for money: young teens’ opinions are prized by consumer researchers. Sites like Swagbucks allow people as young as 13 to participate.