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How Many Hours Can You Work at 16 – Our Guide for Teens

As you start getting older, it seems that there are suddenly a lot of things that require some extra cash: social outings, phone bills, clothes, entertainment, etc.

There are also the bigger expenses coming up that you may need to start saving for, like college and a car.Are you a teen who needs some money?

If you are lucky, your parents may be able to help you out a bit financially, but even then, it can be nice to have part time employment to earn your own money and not have to answer to anyone else about your spending. Plus, there is a certain sense of accomplishment and pride associated with being paid for a job well done.

If you are looking to buy a big-ticket item or simply enjoy watching your savings grow, you may be wondering about the rules surrounding employment for a young person. How old do you have to be to have a job? What kinds of jobs are you allowed to do? How many hours can you work at 16?

Keep reading for the answers to these questions and more!

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Job?

In agricultural jobs, you can work on farms with parental consent starting at just 12 years old. You can start even younger if you are just working at your family’s farm.

If you are looking for a non-agricultural job (which most teens typically are), then according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you typically have to be at least 14 years old. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as working at a younger age if you are delivering newspapers, babysitting, and working in the entertainment industry or family business, but this is a very limited list.

It is only when you turn 14 that more job opportunities become available. You can hold down certain jobs in places like restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, summer camps, etc.

There are certain restrictions associated with hours worked and types of jobs or labor you can do at 14 and 15, but your options certainly open up quite a bit once you turn 16.

How Many Hours Can You Work at 16 and 17?

Once you turn 16, it may surprise you to learn that your working hours are not restricted. If you wanted to, you could work a full 40-hour workweek year-round with sufficient daily meal breaks and a rest break schedule provided by your employer. You do need to be mindful, however; of balancing work, school hours, extracurriculars, and any social obligations.

While it can certainly be tempting to work as much as you can to gain some kind of financial freedom, it is important to make sure that you have adequate time to devote to everything in your schedule. Working on a non school day or on the weekends could be a great way to get your feet wet. Balance is key!

What Kinds of Jobs Can You Do at 16 and 17?

If you are interested in agricultural labor, you can work at any farming-related job once you turn 16. There are no restrictions on farming jobs you can do, hazardous or otherwise.

For non-agricultural jobs, at 16 and 17 you can generally do just about any job that is not considered one of the hazardous occupations identified by the Secretary of Labor. There are some exceptions to these types of hazardous labor jobs for those who are enrolled in approved work-related programs, but these are limited.

What Kinds of Jobs Can You Not Do at 16 and 17?

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According to federal law, the hazardous work that 16- and 17-year-olds cannot do include the following kinds of labor:

  • Most forestry services
  • Most mining operations
  • Most roofing operations
  • Most trenching and excavation work
  • Manufacturing explosives, brick, tile, and other related items
  • Most power-driven meat processing machines, bakery machines, shearing machines, hoisting apparatuses, paper products machines, and circular saws

This list is not exhaustive by any means, so refer to the US Department of Labor site for more information.

State labor law can be different from federal labor laws. Your particular state may have stricter rules regarding what you can and cannot do at 16 and 17. If that is the case, then which law do you follow? State or federal?

The general rule is that the more protective law applies in each situation. For example, if the federal law says a certain type of employment is safe for 16-year-olds but your state law says it is not, then you have to follow the state law. Every state can be different, so refer to your state’s labor laws to see what rules they have in place for your age group.

How Much Should You Be Paid at 16 and 17?

Should You Be Paid at 16 and 17

Generally, your employer should be paying you the federal minimum wage or more for your work. They can pay you on salary, a day rate, a piece rate, or an hourly rate, but at the end of the day it must average out to the hourly minimum wage, which is currently $7.25.

For the first 90 consecutive calendar days of working, however; an employer is allowed to pay only $4.25 an hour to minor employees under the age of 20. Also, others like apprentices, workers with disabilities, and full time students can be paid less than minimum wage if employers are granted certificates by the US Department of Labor. If you want to know more about these special circumstances, get in touch with your local Wage and Hour Office.

Now, what about overtime? Unfortunately, if you are in an agricultural job then you are not eligible to receive extra overtime pay. But the good news is that you are if you are doing non-agricultural work!

If you work over 40 hours within a 7-day workweek, then you are entitled to receive time-and-a-half for your overtime work hours. This means that you will get your regular rate plus an extra 50% of your regular rate for each overtime hour you put in during a work period.

Ready to Work?

Now that you know the basic rules about becoming a worker at 16, feel free to go out there and get to work! Remember that having balance and prioritizing your responsibilities is the key to your success.