How old do you have to be to work?

So you are thinking about getting a job or maybe you’re a parent helping out your child. Congratulations! It’s a big step. The first question is, how old do you have to be to work? We’re here to answer that question and hopefully some additional common questions after that.

How old do you have to be to work

The easy question about how old you have to be to work is that you generally need to be 14. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that governs minimum age requirements, children do not need to be 14 years old in the following situations:

  • being employed by parents in non-hazardous occupations
  • working as actors or performers
  • delivering newspapers
  • working as homeworkers in the making of wreaths made from natural elements
  • performing certain agricultural work

Also, depending on where you live, your state may have different child labor provisions about how old you need to be to work.

Additionally, under child labor laws, 14-year-olds are prohibited from work in certain occupations. For example, you have to be at least 16 to work in occupations that are considered oppressive child labor. And you have to be at least 18, and sometimes older, to work in particularly hazardous jobs, adult industries, serve alcohol, or work in the marijuana industry. Some types of particularly hazardous jobs include types of excavation, explosives, roofing, power-driven machinery, power-driven bakery machines, brick manufacturing, and circular saws.

Also, may employers will require you to be 18 years old before they will hire you as a cashier because it may involve the exchange of money.

Do you need to have a work permit to get a job

Before you get your first job, your employer may require that you provide an employment certificate. You can usually obtain a work certificate from your school and require parental consent. Also, some states may require you provide an age certificate that establishes your proof of age.

The reason your new employer may require youth employees to have an employment certificate is to ensure they are in fact the age they claim to be. If they employ you and you are under 14, your boss could get in a lot of trouble and could get fined for child labor violations.

The state agency responsible for issuing permits can provide more information. Here are links to the state agencies to help you learn more about how to get a age certificate:

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
District of ColumbiaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
FloridaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming

See US Department of Labor (US DOL) for more information.

What jobs can you get when you turn 16 years of age

Although you can generally get a job when you’re 14, there are more job opportunities when you turn 16. This is because, at 16, you can get work doing jobs that are considered oppressive child labor. Examples of oppressive jobs include general manufacturing, mining, operating motor vehicles, warehousing, and construction work including demolition and repair. For the full list of oppressive jobs go here. That means that 14-year-olds can work in food service, retail stores, movie theaters, grocery stores, and many more.

What days and hours can you work when you get a job

The hours you can get a job depends on how old you are. It also depends on whether you will be working during school days, non-school days, or in the summer.

Here are the days and hours you can work according to federal child labor laws. The rules for your state may be different.

When you are 14 and 15 years old

If you are 14 or 15 years old, you can only work when you are not supposed to be at school. If you want to work after school hours, you can work:

While school is in session

  • not more than 18 hours in a week; and
  • not more than 3 hours in a day, including Fridays
  • between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in any one day

While school is not in session including during summer which is June 1 to Labor Day

  • not more than 40 hours in a week
  • and not more than 8 hours in a day
  • between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

When you are 16 and 17 years old

Under the federal FLSA, there are not restrictions on what days and hours 16 and 17 year old may work when they are not supposed to be at school. However, some states have established day and hour restriction for 16 and 17 year olds. It is recommended to check with your state to make sure you are only working the days and hours you are supposed to if you are 16 or 17.

How much will you get paid

Employer employer is required to pay minors a minimum wage. However, the minimum wage for youth employees can differ from state to state. Under the FLSA, the federal minimum wage for youth employees is currently $4.25 for the first 90 days and then $7.25 after that. Each state may have different youth minimum wage requirements.

Also, overtime is usually available to employees who work more than 40 hours in a single workweek. Overtime is typically paid at one and one half an employees regular rate of pay. Because 14 and 15 years cannot work more than 40 hours in a workweek, they are not eligible for overtime.


Getting a job for the first time is exciting but can be confusing. Educating yourself about the basics about child labor laws is important especially if you are 14 years old and older. This includes understanding not only federal laws, but your state’s child labor laws as well.

Also, knowing the child labor rules can help protect you from accepting a job with an employer who doesn’t know the laws themselves. You can protect yourself from taking jobs that are unsafe or require you to work against the law including under paying you or requiring you to work too much.

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