Non-mall summer job ideas for teens

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Ah, SUMMER! That grand time in the middle of the year in which you can expect several things: hot temperatures, lots of pool parties, and a whole gaggle of teens who are out of school on summer break and looking for ways to make cash. For every kid that likes folding clothes at a local big box establishment, there’s another who really… doesn’t. If your offbeat teen is looking for a summer gig that he or she might actually like, here are a few suggestions:

Outdoors FUN!

  • It’s a stereotype, but lifeguarding at a local pool might be one of the most obvious jobs around for a Red Cross-certified teen. There are usually facilities that offer the training on days that are convenient for students — for example, our local university’s gym has lifeguard-training classes on Saturdays in March and April and during Spring Break. It’s a little expensive up-front (around $150), but it beats slinging burgers.
  • Camps are ALWAYS looking for counselors! Since there are so many different kinds of camps (band camp, art camp, space camp, nature camps, etc.), there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Rockin’ the homestead

  • If your teen is a clean freak, he or she might want to consider trumpeting their house-cleaning skills on Craigslist. If allowing your underage kid to offer services online freaks you out, consider posting a flyer at local coffee shops and churches, or wherever you guys frequent.
  • Don’t forget the quintessential teen summer job: babysitting! While most teens aren’t old enough to list their services on websites like Care and Sittercity, you can combine your social networks and probably come up with a few people who might be looking for someone to watch a kiddo or two. Plus, nowadays this could easily be extended to house-, pet-, or even car-sitting. Similarly, a stint in dog-walking could be awesome.

For the artistically-inclined

  • Art lessons are huge across the ages — little kids, the elderly, and many people in between love expressing themselves. What better way to put those skills gleaned from a high school photography or painting class to good use than to teach others at an hourly rate?
  • If you have a budding English major (or just a voracious reader) on your hands, he or she might be interested in tutoring younger children in the rules of reading and writing. Libraries and community centers usually offer these kinds of lessons and groups, so they’d be good places to start looking.

If money isn’t the object

  • If your kid doesn’t actually need to make money but wants something to do, there are two huge possibilities: internships and volunteering. Both are pretty easy to find locally, but the internet has possibilities as well: has a list of guidelines for high school students, and VolunteerMatch and the HandsOn Network are good places to find volunteer opps in your neck of the woods.

I know there’s way more where this came from — what offbeat summer jobs did you guys have?

Comments on Non-mall summer job ideas for teens

  1. I am physically awkward and instead of working as a lifeguard took admission at the front door. I was fifteen and thought $6.25/hour was amazing money.

    If your child is too young to work at a camp, many county-wide camps have counselors in training and your child can get hired on at a higher rate the next year.

    If they are over 16 they can be a valet at a car dealership.

    Some science labs take on high schoolers in the summer. I was offered a chemistry internship until they learned I wanted to major in philosophy.

  2. I lifeguarded when I was a teenager (and all through college), and LOVED it! It was easy, and being a swimmer, it was the perfect fit. I also taught swim lessons. A lot of pools will pay for the training for you if they know you can pass the swimming part of the class. They’ll usually also pay for you to become a certified swim instructor. If you are able to teach swim lessons, you can do private lessons and get some pretty good money for that!

    Also, if you choose to work at a water park (the only place I’ve ever actually had to do rescues), they usually do their own trainings as well so you don’t have to pay for it. I was lucky enough to be able to do my training as high school class for gym credit.

    It’s a great job, and I always made way more money than my friends who worked in retail/restaurants. However, the water park I worked at paid less money than the community center pools I worked at, but I had a lot of fun working there.

  3. I worked as a kennel technician in a vet hospital as a teen. I think it was the most kickass teen job in the universe, but I also think it was a huge factor in personal development.

    Working in a vet kennel involves a lot of strength building. Emotional strength is required for caring for animals near the end of life, physical strength for lifting a 70 pound dog into a bathtub, and mental strength in the opportunities to learn about veterinary medicine. I would suggest it as a job for teens interested in any kind of medical career. I think there is also worth in witnessing how awesome and how shitty people treat animals. If they stick with it, many kennel workers can train for vet tech work, and that can be a decent paying job to keep through college.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of cleaning up shit and you don’t smell too good at the end of the day. But I think smelling awful and dealing with poo are great character-builders, too… or maybe that is just weird justification from someone who has spent too much time with horses, vet hospitals, and babies! Seriously, though, doing something really stomach turning like cleansing a deep wound or milking out a hematoma require a teenager to put themselves aside and do a hard, gross thing to care for another creature.

    • I also worked at the local vet clinic doing odd jobs. The first year I volunteered, then every summer after that they hired me. And Hey! Now I’m in Vet school. Fancy that!

    • I reckon doing jobs like this also help with career choices later in life. While I was fond enough of animals back in high school, doing work experience in a vet clinic helped me to see that I really can’t stand blood/flesh/operations. That rules out a bunch of career options. Yay!

      • Agreed; I was totally on the pre-vet track before I was routinely asked during surgery to “Hold this piece of gut aside” or “take these testicles”. I stopped getting as woozy eventually, but realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

  4. Love this! i spent the my summer from 17-21 doing ranch work all over the country. worked my butt off, but got to travel for free and meet loads of people and be outside.

  5. I was a lifeguard too, and loved it. My parents frequently tell me it was the happiest they’d seen me. And the above commenter is right, some of them will pay for you to be trained.

    I got hired by the city right from lifeguard training class, and working for the city gave me privilege to freely use recreation facilities. πŸ™‚

    • I was hired at the Y straight from training, too. It was pretty much the end of the class, we were showering off in the locker room, and the instructor turned to me and said, “So, Kyla (the aquatics director) wants to know when you can come in for an interview.” Haha!

  6. It might be a little harder to find nowadays because of libraries getting their funding cut, but one idea is shelving books or doing other types of jobs at a library. I started a job shelving in high school (I did it year-round though, not just for summer), and I love books and organizing, so it was perfect for me. I really liked handling all the different kinds of books, because I would often find something interesting that I wouldn’t have thought to look for. I continued working there all through college and met my husband there, so it worked out pretty well for me. πŸ˜‰

    • I have a friend who started working for the library in high school who has worked his way up the ladder and still works for them now! (We graduated 10 years ago…)

  7. Great suggestions! I am a long way past needing a summer job myself, but I remember being absolutely flabbergasted when I started college and realized that my peers (those who had even HAD any jobs before) had all worked in one of three areas: mall, movie theatre, or fast food. I never worked in any of those kinds of jobs – and I thank my lucky stars for that. I worked all through high school: canoe rental at the state park ($3.61 an hour!! I thought I was RICH), housekeeping at a B&B, hostessing and waitressing at a nice restaurant, lunch-maker and pick-up van driver for a river rafting company, ski area ticket sales, landscape maintenance, clerk at a spa/conference center, library assistant… Every job was different, required and taught new skills, and they all contributed to my development into the [awesome] person I am today. When my kiddo reaches the teen years I will definitly encourage him to get a job, or a volunteer gig, or several!

  8. i worked at an independant cinema, you know the type: one screen, 80 seats, one person sells tickets, ushers and cleans and another handles projection. It was awesome, great pay and i got to see some sweet movies that i probably wouldn’t have gone to see otherwise.
    I just enquired at the ticket desk one day and got hired the next, i worked there for 5 years while i was at highschool.

  9. I wanted to offer one twist on the babysitting.
    The summer I was 12 years old, I wanted to start babysitting, but was still a bit young to be on my own for all day. My dad found the perfect solution. He paid a friend in our church to watch me during the day (but didn’t tell me) and she offered me a job of mom’s helper during the summer. I watched her 3 younger girls while she worked at home. This way, I was mostly on my own, earning some money and keeping the kids mostly outside and she got to work at home with less distractions. And my parents didn’t have to worry where I was while they were at work.

  10. Yeah camp counseling! I was a counselor for two years and while it was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, I loved the kids, I learned a ton, and made great friends too. It would depend on your area, but in highschool I also had a few agricultural-type jobs– working on a horse farm for a few years, and working in a corn field for one summer. It was great to be outside and to feel like I had really WORKED at the end of the day, and it also helped me value that kind of work and the people who do it day-in, day-out.

  11. Most of my jobs revolved around kids (they still do!). I babysat, nannied,and played chauffeur for various summer activities. In college, I cleaned the campus library. I also worked at a cd/movie store and got a great discount on the merchandise.

    My favorite job was working the ticket booth at a movie theatre. The pay wasn’t great, but you got two free movies a day plus all the popcorn and soda you could consume if you brought your own containers.

  12. I was a teacher’s aid for an old elementary teacher one summer. It was really fun! I’m not sure if it was legal, but in the afternoons the teacher would send me outside with a small group of kids so I could read to them! And in the morning I would correct tests and what not. I can’t remember if I got paid… I think my mom had ran into this teacher one day and when the teacher mentioned the trouble she was having with such a large class, my mom offered my services. It was fun : ) I think I wanted to do it just because. And as a reward, my mom gave me a nice movie theater allowance : )

  13. I never did this, but I work at a museum now that hires teens and I think it would be a great summer job. It’s a living history museum, so some kids start in middle school as volunteer interpreters (they dress up, “live” in the homes, and interact with visitors) and continue through high school as paid interpreters. I think the volunteer program is especially great, since you’re not old enough to be paid in middle school but may want to do something over the summer. Other teens work at the visitor desk and gift shop. We also have teen volunteers help our curators in our 2D and 3D collections and exhibits.

  14. Check out what your local government agencies have for high school students as well. My first job (at 16) was with my local county’s court system. It lasted for a year and a half until I went to college, and I got a really interesting (in a good way) look at how our legal system works.

  15. I grew up in Nebraska and every summer starting from when I was 12 i worked in the fields!! We would have to remove tassels from the top of the “female” corn stalks so that it wouldn’t pollinate with the “male” cornstalks. We would walk through the corn rows and pull tassels as we went. It sounds terrible (especially since we had to be ready for the bus by 5:30 a.m.), but it was actually really fun! We were able to talk to our friends all day, get an awesome tan, and we walked several miles a day so we stayed in great shape. When I turned 16 I was finally allowed to drive the tractors for the new little kids every once in a while. It was great money too!

  16. I worked an after school job as a teacher’s grader all through junior high and high school. In the summers, I worked at the school cleaning, repainting, building benches, rearranging classrooms. Right before school started, I loved decorating bulletin boards for the elementary teachers. This might be an easier job to get if your teen goes to a smaller school.

  17. My first job was as a hostess in a 4 star restaurant, my mom owned the bakery that supplied their bread and the owner thought that I was cute as a button πŸ™‚ so I started seating people at 13. It was an amazing opportunity because just a few months after starting they had a dessert and salad chef that kept calling in and when they canned him I got the opportunity to learn all about cooking! I worked there til I was 16 and loved every minute of it! I’m sure we were breaking child labor laws, but it built character and taught me things I would never have the opportunity to learn elsewhere!

  18. Yard work can be a valuable enterprise too! My teenage brother has spent the last 2 summers mowing lawns and occasionally weeding or trimming. He’s less exspensive than a lawn care service and for people who maybe just dont want to mow but still want to do their other yard stuff it has worked out perfect. Plus he picks up leaves for most of these people during the fall as well.

  19. I worked in my school’s library one summer. They need to re-organise and repair all the school books for the next year and it’s always quite a lot of work since it’s a pretty big school. Pay wasn’t great, but it was fun to work with fellow students and it felt like such a noble thing to do, repairing books…

    Heartily recommend it to all the book-nerds put there πŸ™‚

  20. I started working at 13 on a local farm kind of doing a bit of everything; collecting eggs, bailing hay, painting fences, etc.

    In high school I spent a summer making homemade ice cream at an independently owned amusement park. Another summer working the entrance both at a state camp ground. Another driving around putting golf course pamphlets in hotel lobby’s (yes, they pay someone to go around putting all those pamphlet in hotel lobby’s).

  21. My first job was at a small Ace Hardware. Mostly cashiering, but by restocking shelves, taking orders, doing returns, and the like, I actually learned a lot about do-it-yourself stuff that most high school girls wouldn’t know! Including cutting glass and mixing paint. I really enjoyed it.

  22. The zoo! I worked in admission, but there were hundreds of part-time jobs available: concessions, admissions, maintenance, vet assistants, etc. It was AWESOME to say I worked in the zoo and I got to walk through the zoo every day during my lunch hour. I ended up working there for two years.

  23. I watched two boys for 3 summers starting when I was 14. The dad worked on the fire department with my dad. My older sister started watching the boys when they were just 9 monhts old and 4. When she went to college and the boys were 4 and 8 I started watching them. 3 days a week (they went to their grandmother’s house the other 2).
    I also worked at the local baseball/softball fields (7 total) in the concession stand starting at 15. Once I hit 20 and was working at a bookstore they hired me on to manage it 3 nights a week. Since I had learned all about ordering and money management the 5 years I worked there.

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