Jobs For 16 Year Olds – A Practical Guide

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So you are 16 and ready to work. What’s next? The good news is that according to OSHA, 16 is generally the minimum age to be employed at a “real” job.  The jobs for 16 year olds can vary widely depending on where you live and the type of work that is available. Generally, however, you can work in just about any non-hazardous line of work.

As far as the hours you can work, this can vary from state to state. For example, North Carolina says that if you are in school, you can’t work between 11 PM and 5 AM on a school night.

While the laws are good to know, don’t get too hung up on it and let that stop you from finding a job. Knowing all of the laws in the world doesn’t help much if you can’t find work!


Jobs for 16 year olds

The first question you need to answer is why are you looking for a job. That sounds simple enough, but do you really need the money or is it more about filling some time or maybe looking to build experience?

Depending on your answer to that question will determine the kind of jobs you should be open to. Here are two options for you to think about.


Since you have limited hours that you are allowed to work, you will want to get the most out of the time you have.

One option is starting your own business.  People pay well for babysitting and lawn care services and you get paid in cash.

You might get paid $20  – $40 for mowing a neighbor’s lawn, which may take you less than an hour. That is somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 per hour. To give you some perspective, $30 per hour would be doing well at almost any age, but particularly 16.

Or, working in a service field like a restaurant can also be a good business to go into.  Don’t think that starting out as a dishwasher or waiter is always some temporary dead-end job. The COO of IHOP started out as a waitress there when she was 16. It is a pretty cool story – check it out.


There isn’t always a clear delineation between jobs for 16 year olds which make good money, and those which provide good experience. Obviously, you can find the best of both worlds at times, but again depending on what your focus of finding a job is can determine the types of jobs you should consider.

Maybe at 16 all of your bills are paid for by mom and dad, and you don’t really need to work. However, you know that eventually you are going to get a “real” job and you are ready to start preparing for that.

While that may sound crazy, sometimes you can find an unpaid internship that is virtually priceless as far as the experience it affords you.

For instance, if you already have a strong inclination that you want to go into graphic design and you really enjoy that; go into the best graphic design place you can find and simply ask if you can help out.

That may sound oversimplified, but that is really where you should start. Tell them you are in school, you love learning about graphic design and you just want to learn whatever you can – “how can I help?”

Don’t be surprised if they let you do some job shadowing or give you some project work to take home. Maybe they’ll let you do a version of whatever logo or project they have going, and then provide feedback for you.

You may not realize it now, but this is extremely valuable.


Why is it so valuable? First, it looks great on your resume. Although it is a couple of years away, you may go to college or a technical school for graphic design.

By the time you are looking for permanent jobs, you’ll be able to list some real-world experience that many of your competitors won’t have.

Secondly, it is great for networking. This simply means you have an opportunity to make some great connections in the industry.

Impress this company with what you can offer and they may hire you straight out of school. If not them, they would be happy to write a recommendation for you or be a handy reference for a different position.

This is applicable to any industry.  Look for people in the field you are interested in right now and find out how you can add value to what they do. In adding value for them or providing them some benefit, you’ll automatically get all the benefits discussed earlier.

In our Expert Series, recruiter Derron Juarez shared this story: “When I was in high school, I was very into athletics. There was a small gym about a block from my house, so I walked in one day and asked if I could help the owner around the gym: from sweeping to cleaning the equipment, I did it all.

Walk through your neighborhood, look for something that interests you, and walk into that business. Offer your services for experience or pay, both are great down the road.

Another thing is to ask friends what their parents do: many people own their own business in some way, so you could make a few bucks helping out a friend’s parents with odd jobs.” So get out there, think creatively and be bold.


Job ideas for 16 year olds

Here is a list of several job categories for you to look into.  There are so many possibilities here, so you should be able to find one that you feel will be a great fit for you.

Sometimes you have to try several different jobs to get a feel for what you enjoy doing.  Don’t be afraid to try more than one of the jobs listed below.


Food service jobs for 16 year olds

There are three different options to look at when considering a job in the foodservice industry.


In the foodservice industry, one of the best is waiting tables. 16 is usually old enough, given that you won’t be serving alcohol. Knowing that, think about the restaurants nearby that always seem to be busy.

One example is Cracker Barrel. This is a perfect place for a teenager to wait tables.  It has a simple menu, is alcohol-free, and is generally busy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

As a waiter, typically you are paid a very low hourly wage.  The real money you make comes from tips. This is why it is critical to start your job search by only considering places that are fairly busy during the hours you’d like to work. If you go work a dinner shift after school for 5 hours and only have 3 or 4 tables, you are probably making less than minimum wage. However, that same 5-hour shift at a busy local restaurant might net you $80 – $100 in cash as you walk out the door.

Attitude and initiative are important in just about anything you do.  It is particularly important though if you are waiting tables. The other thing I like about this line of work for a teenager is that you can directly influence what you earn by your effort and your attitude.

While being busy is important, a bad waiter might make $15 from 5 tables.  A good waiter would have made $40 from those same 5 tables. If you are friendly and willing to hustle, this is a job where you can do better than most people your age.

If you have a place in mind, stop by in person and tell them you’d like to work there. This is much more effective than dropping an application online or a phone call.


As the dishwasher in a restaurant, you are the lowest person on the totem pole, but it is a good place to start when you don’t have much work experience.

The main goal of this job is getting a fast turnaround time with the dishes.  Everyone in the restaurant depends on you to work quickly and efficiently.

Some key things to remember when you are working in this area are, prioritizing what dishes are washed next according to what is used the most, changing the water frequently to prevent clogs and keeping your work area organized.

During the slower times of the day, there may be opportunities for you to help do other things around the kitchen.  Mopping and sweeping floors and taking out the garbage are not glamours jobs but will show that you are a hard worker and will get you a promotion much faster.


Fast food jobs, such as McDonald’s, are usually very flexible with schedules.  They typically have lots of work shifts to choose from since teenagers make up a large portion of their workforce.

The tasks that you will likely come across are taking customer’s orders, cleaning, preparing food and stocking the self-serve station.

This type of job is where you can learn good customer service skills.  Not everyone is happy when they have to wait for their fries or they get upset when they didn’t get exactly what they ordered.

Learning how to best handle disgruntled customers is a skill that will serve you well in any job you would pursue next.


Jobs at a movie theater for 16 year olds

Working at a movie theater is a great job because evenings and weekends are the busiest times.

There are three main areas of the movie theater where you would be working.  The first is at the ticket counter selling tickets.  This job is pretty straight forward since you only have one product to sell.  Movie tickets!

The second area you could work is in the concessions area.  You would be running the cash register or making the food.

The third area is in the movie theater.  The two options here are taking the tickets at the entrance or cleaning up the theater after a show.


Coffee Shop jobs for 16 year olds

At 16 years old, you are eligible to apply to coffee shops, such as Starbucks.  Starting out, you would begin as a Barista.  As a Barista, you will be trained in how to make all of the drinks on the menu, as each drink has a specific recipe to follow.  Having a friendly attitude and being detail oriented are a must since this is a very customer oriented job.

Once you show your aptitude for making quality drinks, positions like a shift leader or store manager would be your next step up the latter.  Those positions would require management training and learning how to motivate your team.  Take advantage of any time you can get management experience because this will look great on your resume.


Sports Jobs for 16 year olds

There are so many different jobs to pick from when it comes to sports.


Most sporting events have a concession stand and when you aren’t busy serving customers you get to watch some of the game!

You will be spending most of your time serving customers or making food.  Some concession stands only serve prepackaged foods, so there would be no food preparation if you worked at one of those.

Since sports are all year around, you can find this type of job anytime.


Soccer, football, and basketball are all sports that need referees.  The age requirements for this vary, so you will have to check with your local league.  Once you verify that you are eligible for the job, then brush up on your knowledge of all the rules of the sport you are interested in refereeing.

You will have to have thick skin for this job.  Many times overly excited parents will disagree with a call that you make, so you will need to make sure you know your rules and stick to them.


Check with your local baseball league to see if you would be eligible to be an umpire.  The age requirements vary, but many hire 16 year olds.

You can also register Little League as an umpire and instantly get connected with your local Little League through the national organization.  This would be a great place to start as you explore the job opportunities as an umpire.


An assistant coach position isn’t always a paid position, but it could be a great way to get experience in coaching.  This job would give you an inside view of what goes into a coaching job and you would be able to learn from the head coach.

If you already play a sport, then you may want to look for an Assistant Coach job in that same sport, but for a younger group.  Since you would already be familiar with the rules and how to play, then you would be more likely to be considered for the job.


The job of a golf caddie is to carry the golf bag and hand the clubs to the golfer as needed.  You will need to learn the name of each club and have a general idea of what part of the course it is used on.  This will help you anticipate which club will be needed next.

As you get more experience, you will also be able to start making recommendations to the golfer on which club you recommend.


Retail jobs for 16 year olds

If you enjoy working with people and clothing, then clothing retail could be a fun job for you.  Stores like Aeropostale, American Eagle, Walmart and Old Navy all hire 16 year olds.

In a clothing retail job, you won’t just be folding clothes.  A huge part of this job is customer service.  Helping customers find what they need and showing them their options.

You will also have the opportunity to work at the cash register.  Some stores offer their employees incentives for getting customers to sign up for loyalty cards or credit cards.  So, that can be another way to make a little more on top of your hourly pay.


Library assistant job for 16 year olds

Working at a library is a great way to build your customer service skills.  Most libraries have assistant jobs or intern roles for students throughout the school year and especially during the summer.

The types of tasks you would have at a library would be shelving books, helping people find what they need, ordering books from other libraries, and straightening up the shelves.  Customer service will be your main focus as you are working in the library, so during your interview, focusing on that quality will help you land the job.


Summer jobs for 16 year olds


If working with kids and roasting marshmallows over a campfire sound fun to you, then you will want to check out camp counselor jobs near you.  Your local YMCA would be a good place to start.

There are many organizations in most cities that offer summer camps, so doing a quick google search should bring up lots of options for you to choose from.

A camp counselor is in charge of planning and leading activities with their group of kids.  If this is your first year being a camp counselor, then you would likely be paired with a more experienced counselor so that you can learn from them.

Having lots of energy and a love for teaching kids is a must for this job.  If you think that maybe teaching is something you would be interested in as a profession when you get older, then this could be a great opportunity for you to see how much you enjoy being in a teaching role.


Being a lifeguard is an important job.  You will be making sure everyone in the pool stays safe and potentially save someone’s life!  A side benefit would be getting to work on your tan while keeping a watchful eye on the people in the pool.

The America Lifeguard Association has different requirements depending on what kind of lifeguard job you are planning to apply for.  Getting your lifeguard certification isn’t usually a requirement, but would definitely give you more job opportunities.

You can contact your local Red Cross or The American Lifeguard Association to schedule your training.


In order to be a lifeguard at a pool that is 5 feet or less, there are two tests you will have to pass.

The first one is being able to swim 50 yards without stopping.  Secondly, you will also need to retrieve a 10 pound weight from the bottom of the pool.

Some pools don’t require that you are certified in First Aid and CPR, but having this training would go a long way in helping you get a job at a pool.


In order to be a lifeguard at a pool or beach that is over 5 feet deep, there are two tests you will have to pass.

The first one is being able to swim 300 yards without stopping.  Secondly, you will also need to retrieve a 10 pound weight from the bottom of the pool.

Some pools and beaches don’t require that you are certified in First Aid and CPR, but having this training would definitely help you in finding a job as a lifeguard.


Turning a hobby into a job is pretty easy to do.  If you love to ski or snowboard, then becoming an instructor may be a natural step for you.  If you enjoy teaching people and encouraging beginners, then a good place for you to start down the path of getting a job as an instructor is talking to the place you spend most of your time skiing or snowboarding.  They can let you know what they require and if you need to be certified.

If you do need to be certified, then a great organization to look into is Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors.


Summer will be your biggest opportunity for working lots of hours and amusement parks are a great place to start building your resume.  You would be doing any number of things, such as ticket sales, assisting with rides, cleaning the grounds, and serving food.

Sometimes parks use other companies as vendors in their parks, so if the amusement park near you doesn’t have any openings right now, then you should check out other opportunities available for jobs with the park’s vendors.


Tutoring jobs for 16 year olds

If you enjoy teaching, then being a tutor would be a great option for you to look into.  There are two ways that you can look for tutoring jobs.


Through you are able to tutor anyone who is under 18 years old.  It is free to sign up and all you will need is either a FaceBook account or a Google+ account.

Once you sign up, set your schedule so that students looking for a tutor know when you are available.  The tutoring is done through a webcam with audio, so your computer will need that capability.

Students can rate their tutors, so make sure that the subjects you are planning to tutor students on are ones that you are very knowledgeable about.


If tutoring online isn’t for you, then start asking around at school or friends and family to see if anyone is looking for a tutor in your area of expertise.

Check out the article about jobs for 13 year olds to read about the 3 suggestions we have for advertising your business.


Greenhouse jobs for 16 year olds

Do you have a green thumb?  If you enjoy working with plants, then there are three jobs that you should look into.


Your local park is the busiest during the summer months, so they are usually looking for some help.


The first one is working at a nursery.  Your parents may even know about one near you if they have flower beds or gardens.  You would be working in either a greenhouse or outside and would be taking care of a variety of plants.

Nurseries usually have a variety of flowers, shrubs, trees, and greenery.  The types of tasks you would be doing at this job are planting, watering, pruning and moving plants in and out of the greenhouse.


Depending on where you are located, there may be a farm nearby that could use some help. Tasks on a farm could be picking vegetables, planting, or caring for animals.

These types of jobs aren’t always advertised, so you will want to ask family and friends if they know of anyone looking for help on their farm.  Or, stop in and ask the farm owner if they are hiring.  You will definitely want to start asking around before springtime, since spring through fall is the busiest time and is when they would likely be hiring.


Artistic jobs for 16 year olds

If you are artsy and love making crafts or designing logos, then you should check out these two options for selling your work.


If you love making crafts and selling them, then you should check out Etsy.  Since you are under 18 years old, you will need a parent or guardian to manage your account, but you can make the crafts and reap the profits!

It only costs 20 cents to list your item on Etsy, so the cost to get started is extremely low.

To get started, follow these 7 steps to build a thriving Etsy business!


If you have a creative bent, then Fiverr may be just the place for you to find a gig.  There is a huge range of opportunities from graphic design to writing blog posts to video creation.

The list is huge on this site and could be a great place to showcase your talents.  All this can be done from your computer!  All you need to do is set up an account, decide what category to start in and then create your offer.

You will want to make sure that whatever you decide to offer, you can deliver on.  People can review you on this site and some bad reviews could keep potential clients away.  Definitely, make sure that your first jobs are fantastic work and then ask your happy customers to leave a review, so that potential clients know they can trust your work.


Grocery store jobs for 16 year olds

A local grocery store in your neighborhood would be a great place to start your search for a job.

The jobs you will find at your grocery store are stocking shelves, being a cashier or bagging groceries.  Customer service is also an important job.  No matter what role you find yourself in at the store, you will want to know the layout of the store, so you can help customers find what they need if they would ask you.


Starting your own business as a 16 year old

You may read this suggestion and think, “Wait a minute!  I am 16 years old and I can be hired by a company, so why would I start my own business?”  Well, there are some great reasons to look into this option!

Running your own business is a great way to make more money per hour than you would be working minimum wage at the jobs listed above.

Remember that your time has value. In fact, your time has a ton of value.  Here is an example using lawn care.

If it takes you 30 minutes to mow your neighbor’s yard and he pays you $25, some quick math suggests that you were just paid $50 per hour. You’d probably have to work a full 8 hour shift at a fast food restaurant to come out with $50 because you would be paid minimum wage and be paying taxes as well.

Your neighbor isn’t necessarily paying you for your time, but rather for your value. Perhaps it hurts his back to do the lawn, or his work schedule doesn’t afford him many opportunities to take care of his own yard. To him, it is well worth $25 every week to not have to worry about the hassle of maintaining his landscaping.

In other words, your service has great value to him. He doesn’t care if it takes you 5 minutes or 5 hours, as long as it is done right he has decided that is worth $25 to him.

So whenever possible, seek out opportunities where you can be paid based on the value you provide.  You can find a list of potential businesses you can start by reading the article about jobs for 13 year olds.


Interviewing for a job at 16

Since 16 is when you can legally start working most jobs, it is likely that you have never completed a formal job interview. No matter how you go about finding your job, you’ll undoubtedly have to complete at least 1 interview before being given the job.

It is important that you don’t take anything for granted when walking into this job interview. What I mean is, even if you did a great job networking and you are going to be interviewing with your uncle Bill who runs the place, you need to take this seriously.

Jennifer Byrd, a recruiting manager at York Companies in Louisville, KY offers this advice: “Be prepared. Interviewing is a lot like giving a speech. If you are prepared for it, it’s not quite as bad. If you know what you are going to say and have practiced it, you will do much better.

Research the company you are interviewing with instead of walking in blindly and look up some sample interview questions before you go. Bring a copy of your resume if you have one. Dress appropriately- don’t overdress or undress.

Look at how the employees dress who are already employed and this should help you decide on what to wear. When in doubt, khakis and a nice shirt will work.”

These are all great tips to get you started. Preparation is absolutely key. Here are some other job interview tips to follow.


Use “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” until the interviewer says to call them something else. You would be surprised how many people your age miss this step and make a terrible first impression.

Using your manners will help you stand out from the crowd.


When in doubt, wear a shirt and tie for guys or a nice, modest dress for ladies. Again, many 16 year olds won’t do this and it will help you make a good first impression.

If the place you are going to work is casual, perhaps you could get by with khaki pants and a button-up shirt.

Even if you overdress, this will almost never be seen as a negative thing as the person knows that you care about the job opportunity and take it seriously. That sends a great message.


Take 10 minutes and Google the company if it isn’t a place you already know well. Find out what they do, and ideally what your job will entail.

This will help you ask educated questions when the time comes and again show that you took time to prepare.


It is expected that you ask questions, even if deep down you feel like you don’t have any. Here are some good samples of what you could be asking. 

Remember that you are interviewing them as well, so try to find out if this sounds like a place where you would enjoy working and get some benefits out of it as well.

You don’t want to come right out and say “do I get paid vacation?” or “how much are you going to pay me?” in your first interview. Those things will come up later, but find out about the company and the job you are applying for.


Ask your mom or dad to do a practice interview with you. It is likely that they have been in your shoes, so they can do a test interview with you at home.

While that might sound horribly awkward, you’ll be surprised how much that helps your mind get in the right mode before the interview. If there is something you struggle to articulate, it is better to figure that out beforehand so you can work on it.


“But I am 16 years old! I don’t have any experience.” It doesn’t have to be job experience. The person interviewing you understands you are only 16 as well.  They aren’t expecting you to have a job history.

However, they will want to know about situations where you were a part of a team and accomplished a goal. So think ahead of time of experience you’ve had a school, church, and other groups.  What lessons you’ve learned that might be beneficial for getting a job? This could be charity work you’ve done, fundraisers, sports teams, missions trips, etc.

As long as you practice and are prepared, you can just relax and be yourself in the interview process.

Derron Juarez also had some great advice regarding how to prepare for the interview:

“If you do not have any experience, use examples of your school work or when you had to work in a group and you came together to accomplish a goal/project. Teamwork and leadership are great attributes which all companies are looking for. If you are an athlete or the leader of a club, give those examples to employers during an interview, it shows commitment, hard work, and effort.”

Although the questions may be worded differently, these general themes will work their way through. Have some stories about when you worked well as part of a team to complete a project. The employer understands you are 16, so something you may consider insignificant will work well. Even if this is some volunteer work you did with church or school.  Or, maybe your participation on a sports team. If you have a couple stories like this at the ready, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Do you have any advice on the topic of jobs for 16 year olds? Feel free to comment!


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