The Working Student

In addition to the occasional Netflix binge, many students participate in extracurricular clubs, sports or outside activities. It’s a busy schedule for most, and this does not even account for time spent with friends and family. Apparently all of these activities, plus eight hours at school, are not enough to fill up students’ schedules, as many also acquire jobs during junior or senior year.  

A study conducted in 1992 by NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) shows that more than two-thirds of  high school seniors are employed. This percentage has increased dramatically over the past two decades, and continues to grow. Most find jobs working as either grocery store cashiers, in sales and retail, or in the food industry. It is almost impossible to go to the local Shop-Rite or pizzeria without seeing a classmate working!

When asked how he manages time between school and work, senior Santi Roman responded, “I don’t know– I just do it. I work about 20 hours a week.” Many teens who are employed find themselves working close to this time limit. With American teens working three times as much as those in Asian and European countries, researchers have begun to explore the effects of jobs on students.

Teachers, parents, students, and researchers agree that working while studying in school can have disparate effects. Some believe work has a negative impact on students, forcing them to focus on their jobs instead of academics, extracurricular activities, sports, and family relationships. Others feel work builds character, strengthens organizational skills, and builds responsibility that will lead to success and achievement in the long run. The NCES has stated that outside jobs can benefit students and teach them valuable traits only if the number of hours worked does not exceed the threshold of twenty hours per week. When asked about whether jobs hinder or help success of students, both guidance counselor Mrs. Lugo and Mr. Roman agree that results depend on the student.

“I’ve seen students get huge boosts of self esteem,” Mrs. Lugo said, claiming jobs can be both “rewarding” and allow for “financial freedom.” She and Mr Roman are aware, however, of the consequences that occur when students work too many hours. “It can be beneficial, and shows [colleges] that you have initiative and the ability to balance your time,”  Mr. Roman said. However, he admits that he “definitely [has] had to tell students to dial back on their hours because it starts to interfere with their schoolwork.”

The American Educational Research Journal also agrees that anything over a 20 hour a week limit can lead to a decline in academic success and focus. In extreme cases, teens are more likely to engage in substance abuse when working long hours as well. Kathryn C. Monahan, a postdoctoral research scientist, says that working less than 20 hours a week, however, “does not seem to affect an adolescent’s academic, behavioral, or psychosocial well-being.”

The community is filled with many opportunities for students looking for jobs. Businesses such as Quick Check, Shoprite, Target, and stores at Simon Rockaway Townsquare Mall love the flexibility of student’s schedules and energy of teenagers. Having a job can help prepare for life after high school and college, providing experience that full-time employers love to see. Just don’t forget to put yourself, your health, and your true passions and interests first before taking on a job.