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Should High School Students Hold a Job?

posted Mar 30, 2016, 8:28 PM by Jeffrey Wolf

By: Elysia Dowd, News Editor

Posted January 14th, 2016

High school is filled with exciting milestones of independence, but should one of those milestones be employment? Growing up, I had always thought that every teenager got a job; that it was essential to the high school experience. Now that I’m a senior and balance two jobs, I have realized that that assumption was perhaps unfounded, and I wondered what my fellow classmates think on the subject. Early in December a poll was created and sent to the student body to determine the general opinion on high school employment and how it affects schooling.

180 students responded to the poll, and all four classes were roughly equally represented. Out of that sample, 64.4% held jobs. Of those employed, almost 80% worked 20 hours or less per week, with only 7.8% working more than 30. Having spending money and saving for big expenses like cars and college were the two common reasons students gave for working (each at 80%), with parental pressure (30%), enjoyment (28.3%), and career interest (16.7%) as significantly less common motivations to work. Out of the entire 180 student sample, 70% believed that working affected school performance, with 69.9% of those expecting that effect to be negative or very negative. Yet, 77.8% thought working makes one more prepared for college, and 67.2% thought high schoolers should hold a job. To view the full results of the survey, click here: https://docs.google.com/a/slingerschools.org/forms/d/1C2GJ2tN5LbI2NhotLIUAC3hr48kpobmLJSd9nCEl0y8/viewanalytics

I was surprised that despite the negative overall opinion of the effect of working on school performance, many still thought that working in high school was a good idea. Maybe the respondees shared my opinion that holding a job is just what teens need to do. It made me wonder how the results of this poll stack up to the national average, if these opinions are backed by any studies, and how high school employment actually affects success in later life.

According the the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41% of freshmen, 65% of sophomores, 79% of juniors, and 87% of seniors are employed, which is comparable to the results of the poll. Several studies have been conducted to determine how employment affects scholastic success and later achievements in life, and though it is difficult to account for all socioeconomic factors in these studies, they have found some pretty consistent trends. The National Education Longitudinal Survey of 1988 found that as students worked longer hours their grades and test scores fell, they became less likely to engage in leadership roles and extracurricular activities, and they were less likely to attend or complete college.

However, some researchers suggest that there is a threshold of time spent working at which confidence, real world experience, and responsibility all increase without having a detrimental effect on their academic performance or collegiate aspirations. Still, no magic number of working hours has been identified, so this threshold theory is seriously debated.

It seems we were right on both counts. Working does affect one’s grades, and generally in a negative way, but working in moderation may still be a benefit in the long run. Should holding a job be part of the high school experience? It’s up to you to decide.