The 10 Best Jobs for 16-Year-Olds

Smiling young girl working as a barista in a coffee shop Shutterstock


You may not think about it now, but you will always remember your first job. Whether it was a part-time job at McDonald’s on a Saturday or a full-time landscaping position for the entire summer, you will inevitably look back at this time with great nostalgia, regardless of your choice of career. And why shouldn’t you? This was an important time in your life – a time when you matured and reached an important milestone.

Job prospects for 16-year-olds are greatly different today than they were 20, 30 or 50 years ago. Because employment laws have evolved, labour costs have increased and the makeup of the talent pool has changed, it can seem impossible to come across jobs that hire at 16. Sure, they may not be as ubiquitous as they once were, but you can still find employment opportunities in your job search.

Are you having a difficult time finding companies that hire teenagers? Are you unsure what job you should take on? Fret no more!

Here are the 10 best jobs for 16-year-olds during the summer, after school or on Saturdays.

1. Dishwasher

Let’s be honest: dishwashing is not the most glamorous of jobs. As chefs cook up a storm and waiters bring in the hefty tips, you are stuck in the back, cleaning everyone’s dishes, cutlery and glasses. It is tough, and it can leave teens feeling disenchanted at the end of their part-time shifts. But this is a lesson you need to learn in the job market: not everything is going to be perfect.

That said, being a dishwasher is still an integral part to any restaurant. It is your job to ensure that every white plate, fork and mug is clean and sterilised. Remember: without a clean set of plates, patrons cannot enjoy their steak tartar, chocolate mousse cake or overly expensive pasta – it’s just noodles and sauce, so why is it £17?

Earnings potential: For the most part, dishwashers will be paid the minimum wage. This means dishwashers will make an average of $19,000 (£14,450) per year. Even if you have several years of experience, your pay scale will not increase much. Your best option would be to apply for a dishwashing position at the best of restaurants in your city; these types of establishments often pay their personnel higher wages.

2. Cashier

Is the role of a cashier becoming obsolete? If you’ve looked around a supermarket, coffee shop or home improvement outlet lately, then you would realise that more businesses are installing self-serve kiosks. Because of rising labour costs and advanced technology, companies are investing in these types of machines that many people fear will wipe out the manned checkout counter.

Well, it isn’t exactly all doom and gloom. A lot of stores still rely on cashiers for their day-to-day operations. Right now, whether it is a grocery store or a coffee house, businesses complement their self-serve endeavours with human beings. You will either check out customers or you can help shoppers with the machines. It is a perfect job for 16-year-olds.

Earnings potential: Cashiers will earn the hourly minimum wage in most jurisdictions around the world, which can equal on average $17,000 (£12,950) to $20,000 (£15,200) annually. However, the longer you work at the store, the higher the pay you will inevitably receive. The number of years of experience may boost your pay at first, but it seems unlikely in today’s environment.

3. Barista

What is your beverage in the morning on the way to school? What do you drink to stay up on a Saturday night to cram? Is it an iced Starbucks blonde almond milk vanilla latte or just a plain black coffee? Whatever the case might be, you see first-hand how difficult it can be working as a barista. Coffee has become more extravagant these days, so it is hard to remember how to brew a specific cup.

At the same time, getting hired as a barista is a good employment opportunity, especially if you work at international chains. Baristas are given a wide array of responsibilities, benefits and remuneration, like stock options and bonuses. It is a superb first job for 16-year-olds – just make sure you are energetic, friendly and can work in a fast-paced environment.

Earnings potential: Your hourly wage as a barista will depend on what business you are employed by. If you are hired by a mom-and-pop shop, then you will likely get paid the minimum wage. On the other hand, if you are working at Starbucks or other similar coffee shop chain for the summer, then you could receive higher compensation, which is why the global coffee juggernaut is regularly a celebrated employer.

For instance, an independent café will offer $10.90 (£8.29) per hour, while Starbucks hourly compensation starts at $16 (£12.16) and can be as high as $18.25 (£13.87).

4. Movie Theatre Attendant

What teenager hasn’t at least considered working at the local cineplex?

When you think of jobs that hire at 16, one of the first gigs that springs to mind is that of a movie theatre attendant. This is typically a dream job for any teenager: you spend eight hours at your local cinema house, you get to watch films for free and you’re part of an exciting environment. It is a superb job for any teen, and it can lead to other opportunities within the organisation.

Earnings potential: Again, you will be paid the minimum wage at any movie theatre, whether you’re in charge of the concessions stand or you’re cleaning up the popcorn underneath the seats. A lot of the time, you will be given part-time shifts, so your pay will likely average $15,000 (£11,400), which is still a handsome chunk of change for any 16-year-old.

5. Retail Associate

Despite the ‘retailpocalypse’ unfolding across North America and Europe, retail positions are still projected to grow 2% annually for the next eight years in the US. It may not seem like it, but the role of retail associates has greatly changed over the years, from working with the company’s ecommerce model to managing inventories. Therefore, it is still one of the best employment opportunities around for teens.

Retail associates are essential for most stores, whether the firm specialises in apparel or electronics. You can boost your human capital, skills and CV by working in retail. Yes, there are times when it can be stressful because of outraged consumers, but it is part and parcel of the working world.

Earnings potential: Some retail jobs will start out at minimum wage, but your pay can be increased based on the number of years of experience or by the list of past employers. There are also opportunities for career advancement, higher wages and even benefits and perks. In the end, the average hourly pay for a retail sales associate is $11.50 (£8.74).

6. Tutor

Are you an economics guru? Are you a mathematics wizard? Do you adore British history? Well, if you have the grades, the communication skills and the will to keep your appointments with other students, you could consider becoming a tutor. Even in the online age of the Khan Academy, Udemy and Skillshare, there is still a demand for one-on-one tutoring in your neighbourhood, particularly when it comes to the harder subjects, like maths and science.

Your job is simple: teach students, ensure they are proficient in the subject and determine if they understand the material. The most difficult part is coming up with a lesson plan, but if you have a strong education in geography, biology or coding, then it may not be as hard as you think. If you’re tutoring long enough and you build a portfolio of clients, then this would be a great attribute for future employers.

Earnings potential: With a growing number of students unable to keep up with their studies, tutors are in demand more than ever before. Since parents are willing to shell out a little bit more for the best of the best, then you could earn as much as you want. You also have a couple of options: work for online tutoring services or be an independent tutor. Either way, you could make as low as $8 (£6.08) an hour or you could bring in about $80,000 (£60,850) for only 16 weeks of work.

7. Freelancer

The rise of the Internet has afforded us an incredible amount of job opportunities. From freelancing as a graphic designer to blogging about politics, teens can take advantage of the online job market. As long as you have the skills, then you can start earning supplementary cash on the side or even go as far as launching a freelance business. Indeed, potential clients will not care for your age.

There are plenty of online resources for freelancers – beginners or seasoned veterans – to utilise: Freelancer, Upwork, Freelance Writing Gigs, Fiverr; the list goes on. You need to first start your own blog, sharing examples of your work and listing your prices. Once this is complete, the world is your oyster and you can seek out clients – or vice versa.

Earnings potential: Like tutoring, your earnings potential for freelancing is what you want it to be. Whether you only want to concentrate on freelancing for the summer or you want to take on assignments every second Saturday, you can still make plenty of money on the side that can go towards your education or more equipment to expand your business. Ultimately, this is what your earnings potential can range from: $1.30 (£1) to $125 (£95) per hour.

8. Landscaper

Mowing lawns, planting new flowers and making neighbourhoods beautiful again: this is the life of a landscaper from April (or May) until September (or October). It is also a common job for a lot of teenagers who want to sink their teeth into the labour market.

Many landscaping businesses are always looking for a few good people to add every summer to their payroll. Since it is often a revolving door of young people who want to make a handsome sum of money in the summer, the opportunities are out there. It’s up to you to grab them.

Earnings potential: An entry-level landscaper can expect to earn $23 (£17.25) per hour. In addition, if you find a landscaping business that operates all year around, then you can anticipate making $35,000 (£26,600) in one year.

9. Sitter

Today, there is a sitter for pretty much everyone and everything. You can hire a sitter to look after your children, take care of your house when you’re away or ensure your pets have enough attention and food when you’re gone for long periods of time. Sounds easy, right?

Well, in order to get this gig, you will need to show how responsible, mature and reliable you are. If you’re hired to be in the house, then you need to be in the house. If you’re tapped to care for a seven-year-old child, then you need to be actively caring for the kid – looking at your smartphone and being in the same room as the boy or girl does not count.

Earnings potential: Many sitting jobs are obtained through friends, family and references. Sure, there are websites and businesses that specialise in this area but sitting opportunities – pets or children – are typically through word of mouth. That said, you will still be compensated for your time: pet sitting pay averages $37 (£28) per day; the going rate for babysitting is $13 (£9.90) per hour; and the daily rate for housesitting averages $30 (£22.80) a day and goes as high as $50 (£38).

10. Cleaner

Yes, teenagers get a bad reputation for leaving their dirty socks on the floor, keeping their bed unorganised and having their closets smell like a meat locker. But not all teens are like this. In fact – and there isn’t any research to support this – for every five messy teens, there are two neatniks. Are you someone who needs everything clean and neat?

For cleaning jobs, you have a few options: find employment at a commercial cleaning company, search for residential cleaning jobs, apply for window-cleaning jobs (those ones you see people suspended from the rooftop to wipe down building windows) or use the gig economy to find the odd cleaning task.

Earnings potential: It is estimated that residential cleaning jobs pay between $80 (£60.80) and $120 (£91.20) per cleaning; commercial cleaning companies will offer hourly wages of $17 (£12.90); window cleaning businesses will maintain salaries of approximately $40,000 (£30,400) per year; and the gig economy can range from a few bucks to as much as $20 (£15) an hour.

You may think ‘kids these days’ are too lazy and don’t want to work. And while it is true that the global youth unemployment rate is in the double digits, there are many 16-year-olds and other teenagers who want to find work, be given an opportunity and earn extra cash. This is an admirable pursuit and they should be commended for being mature about entering the labour market in their formative years.

In these modern times, it can be hard to find jobs that hire at 16 because of all the rules and regulations. That said, with a lot of research, a sublime CV and a little bit of luck, you can locate that first part-time job that you will always remember as the years go by. In the future, whether you worked as a cashier or a movie theater attendant, you will look back and say: ‘The first time I received my pay, it changed my life forever’.

What other jobs would be good for 16-year-olds? Let us know in the comments section!