Best summer jobs for teens in 2015

June 8, 2015, 11:30 AM UTC
Waiter carrying plates in restaurant
Photograph by Getty Images/Cultura RF

When American teens come pouring out of high school this month, they’ll enter a better seasonal job market than the country has seen in years. During and after the Great Recession, jobs were scarce, especially for the youngest. Now, the U.S. jobless rate hit a 15-year low in April, and entry-level positions are freeing up. Youth unemployment is down to 18%, after being stuck around 25% for seven years.

Teen summer jobs have fallen out of favor among many ambitious, college-bound kids of professional parents. They take courses, pursue athletics and do internships instead, seeking a competitive edge. But with the youth seasonal job-market improving, the benefits of a summer job are coming back into focus – especially ones on our list, with above-average paychecks and availability. Summer job skills are also resume-worthy, catching college admissions officers’ attention.

“Gaining work experience is meaningful,” says Bob Patterson, Stanford University’s former admissions director who is now vice president at an online college advising service, Chegg. “Admission offices want to see commitment, leadership and initiative and all three can be demonstrated in a low-skill job. You can show initiative by getting the job, commitment by sticking to it, and leadership by showing up early and staying late.”

Summer jobs also pay dividends for teens when they go for “real” jobs later in life, says Katie Bardaro, PayScale’s director of analytics and chief economist. They show you can get along and fit in with new and different people. “Jobs that fall into a regular nine-to-five schedule, that rely on communication skills, office skills, and interpersonal skills are teens’ best bet,” says Bardaro. That often means an office environment. But “don’t necessarily stay away from service or retail. They offer a valuable skill that is useful in later careers, as well: dealing with difficult people – what’s politely called ‘customer service,’ ” she says.

Economists say teens from high-income backgrounds find summer work more easily than others, thanks to family and neighborhood networks. A Drexel University study found teens whose family income is $100,000-$149,000 held jobs at a rate of four in ten (in 2013), compared to an overall teenage rate of three in ten. Working with careers site PayScale, Fortune compiled a list of the best summer jobs for college-bound teens in 2015. These require little or no experience and combine skill-building with relatively high pay — to fund college savings, and those mobile-phone upgrades and blockbuster 3-D summer movie tickets. (The employment-growth outlook data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and projects whether the number of positions is expanding. Higher than average growth suggests that job will be easier for a teen to land.)



Median hourly salary: $12.90

Job growth: Above average


Warehouse worker

Median hourly salary: $ 12.90

Job growth outlook: Above average


Office clerk

Median hourly salary: $11.50

Job growth: Below average


Waiter/waitress and barista

Median hourly salary: $9.90

Job growth: Below average


Stock clerk

Median hourly salary: $9.60

Job growth: Below average


Retail salesperson

Median hourly salary: $ 9.20

Job growth: Above average


Camp counselor

Median hourly salary: $ 8.82

Job growth outlook: Average



Median hourly salary: $ 8.80

Job growth rate: Below average


Restaurant host/hostess

Median hourly salary: $ 8.73

Job growth: Average