How Old Do You Have To Be To Work? [Answered]

how old do you have to be to work

Whether you are an employer or seeking employment, it matters a lot to understand the state laws and federal regulations regarding the minimum age requirements at which you can work or employ. Different states have different laws regarding employment age and the type of jobs suitable for those below the age of 18 years.

The legal working age set by the U.S. Department of Labor in its Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is 14 years. This applies only to some jobs with limited working hours and light jobs that are not hazardous. At the age of 18 years, anyone can then venture into any employment without limitations.

Of course, the Department of Labor may not be the only player regarding employment regulations. This article seeks to demystify some state laws that may have different specifications and exceptions regarding employment age.

I will delve into various issues regarding employment age and exceptions, among other things, that you should know as an employer, parent, or seeking employment.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work?

For non-hazardous jobs, 14 years is a set age but with limitations on what kind of jobs the minors who have not attained the age of 18 years can do. Again, this is limited to nonagricultural employment and jobs that do not involve motor vehicles operation, such as driving and excavation, among other non-hazardous jobs.

It is also important to note; that different states have different laws concerning the minimum employment age. These laws are all geared toward protecting minors from being engaged in dangerous jobs.

While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) stipulates the specifics about what constitutes fair employment for minors, state laws may also apply. However, at some points, the state laws and FLSA may conflict, but when that happens, the law that becomes more protective will apply.

Of course, if you have attained the age of 18 years, then you are not limited by any statute or law to work in any industry. You can engage in agricultural, mining, truck driving, engineering, and construction work at this age and can also work 40-hour work weeks.

Teen Employment Laws You Should Know

how old do you have to be to work and a group of teens

Child labor laws are captured in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the U.S. Department of Labor, and state laws. Different states might have other laws regarding child or teen employment, but when it comes to enforcing them, the more specific laws that protect minors are considered.

These laws surround the areas of minimum wage, working hours, working conditions, and work permits.

Minimum Wage

The FLSA sets the minimum wage for minors or youth below 20 years at $7.25 per hour on the minimum. Of course, anyone below the age of 20 and above the minimum working age is a teenager.

Working Conditions

The U.S Department of Labor or the federal government enforces some standards to protect minors from hazardous jobs such as working in the mines, excavation, truck driving, and manufacturing jobs. It, therefore, sets some examples of what teens or minors can or cannot do. These include:

  • Below the age of 14: a minor can do all non-hazardous jobs such as arts, comedy, acting, delivering newspapers, and working in a non-hazardous business owned by parents.
  • Age 14 or 15: a minor can work as a messenger or delivery either by public means, on foot, or by bicycle. They can also perform housework such as dishwashing or non-hazardous yard work, as well as office or retail jobs.
  • At the age of 16 or 17, a minor indicated can perform any agricultural job, whether it is hazardous or not, and can also do some non-agricultural jobs that the department of labor has not listed as hazardous such as working in the food service industry, retail stores and grocery stores, etc. 

Some states, however, have different laws that all work to protect minors and youth from engaging in jobs that would otherwise be unsafe to them. Massachusetts, for instance, allows 14-year-old teens to operate farm equipment such as hand tools and tractors only if they have completed some training in vocational agriculture. M.G.L. c. 149, § 62A.

Another instance is Alabama, where minors under 18 years are not allowed or permitted employment in some occupations, such as excavation or tunnels with more than 4 feet in depth. Minors aged 16 need permits to work in such fields but within depths of not more than 4 feet.

Working Hours

how old do you have to be to work and make money as a kid

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is more concerned about protecting the minor’s right to education and thus provides some regulations and laws regarding the working hours of children. For instance, in agricultural jobs, a minor can work at any time of day outside their school hours.

This is determined by the state or district where you reside, and for the home-school minors, the hours stipulated by the public schools in the school district where you reside will apply.

What Are Age Certificates?

Age certificates delineate a child’s age to show that the minor meets the minimum employment age. The department of labor will require this in order to protect the interests of the minors and to protect them from being engaged in unsafe or hazardous jobs. In addition, the document indicates that the person employed is above the age of oppressive child labor and is captured under Child Labor Regulation No. 1 of the Department of Labor of the United States.

It is important to note that different jurisdictions under different laws may require the employer to seek work certificates or age certificates before employing minors. Of course, some even need a work and age certificate before a minor is employed. This is important since it restricts what a minor is permitted to do and what they cannot do.

The regulations also outline a valid age certificate and what is not. In that case, a valid age certificate can be a state certificate of age that a state agency issues, a local government representative, or a federal certificate of age issued by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

Are There Jobs That Don’t Require An Employment Certificate?

Yes, some jobs don’t require an employment certificate, but it depends on the state. For instance, in Florida and Montana, you are not required to have an employment or work certificate in non-hazardous jobs. In New Hampshire, work certificates are not needed for 16 and 17-year-old minors, but employers may need to keep the file of the proof of age.

Do Minors Need A Work Permit To Have A Job?

In some states, kids need a work permit to get a job

Minors don’t necessarily need a work permit to have a job. It depends on the state where one resides. This is because each state has laws regarding the employment of minors below the age of 18 years. For instance, to work in Maryland, you need to have a work permit if you are under the age of 18 years.

Of course, you can apply for a work permit online if you are below the age, but you need to note that, in this state, you don’t qualify for a work permit if you are under the age of 14 years unless in specific areas such as entertainment. This is the case with other states such as Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, and others.

However, some states don’t require a minor to have a work permit. For example, such states as Florida and Tennessee only require the employees to seek written proof of the employee’s age on file for the entire period the minor is employed. That could be an age certificate, birth certificate, or any valid proof of the minor’s age.

Are There Any Jobs Minors Cannot Work?

Yes, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under the U.S Department of Labor prohibits all minors below 18 years from being engaged in hazardous jobs or employment. This act specifies some occupations deemed hazardous to minors, including truck driving, manufacturing of explosives, mining, excavation, and operation of motor vehicles, among other occupations.

To highlight some of the occupations that minors cannot work as stipulated in the act, it includes:

  • Coal mining occupations
  • Motor -Vehicle occupations
  • Manufacturing or Storage of Explosives
  • Forest fire prevention and firefighting
  • Power-driven woodworking operations.
  • Machine operation occupations.

Of course, there are some exceptions in each of these occupations, and the work doesn’t come with any safety risk for the minor; such could be the exception where a minor may be allowed to work depending on the federal labor laws of your state.

Are There Any Exceptions That Let Younger Children Work?

How old do you have to be to work and how young can you work?

Under the employment standards in the nonagricultural employment of minors, there are some exemptions, especially for minors under the age of 16 years. The FLSA provides for this and outlines all the occupations deemed hazardous and detrimental to the health and well-being of minors. However, these come with some exceptions, such as:

  • In non-agricultural occupations, minors under age can be employed in the entertainment industry as a television actor, in picture motions, theater or radio, and delivering newspapers, among other related jobs as stipulated in the Act.
  • In driving, the law prohibits minors under the age of 17 from driving motor vehicles on public roads as part of the job. Still, some exceptions allow them to drive only if the driving is done during daylight hours, if the automobile does not exceed 6,000 pounds, and if the 17-year-old minor has a valid state license for their driving job.

Of course, there are so many other exceptions, especially in the non-hazardous occupations that allow the minor to perform some work that would otherwise be limited to those above the 18-year-old requirement.

How Many Hours Can Minors Work?

The number of hours minors can work depends on whether the job is within or outside school hours. According to FLSA, minors ages 14 and 15 may be employed to work in non-hazardous, non-mining, and non-manufacturing occupations outside school hours. The Act stipulates the permissible work hours that these groups of minors are permitted to work, including 3 hours per day during the school day and up to 8 hours on non-school days. That accumulates to 18 hours in a school week and up to 40 hours per week in a non-school week.

Frequently Asked Questions:

There are so many questions that touch on minors and employment. Of course, it is a concern for any employer, parent, or even a minor who seeks to work to understand the regulations and the laws of the state to avoid getting into problems. Some of the questions frequently asked by most people regarding minors and employment include the following:

Can A 13-Year-Old Go To Work?

Yes, a 13-year-old can go to work. They can work in any business operated or owned by the parent or anyone standing on behalf of the parent. In this role, a 13-year-old working in a parent-run business can work for any number of hours or any time of the day as set out in the FLSA.

The Act sets 14 years of age as the minimum age for employment but with some exceptions for those below the age of 16, where minors are allowed to work but with specific limitations, as I have discussed.

Can You Be 14 Years Old And Have A Job?

FLSA sets 14 years of age as the minimum age for employment. However, this comes with restrictions based on the occupation a minor can be exposed to. For example, a 14-year-old can only work in occupations that are considered to be non-hazardous. The number of hours you can work is also limited based on school hours and days.

It is also important to note that each state has its federal laws and child labor law requirements regarding the employment of minors. At 14 years old, you may need an age and employment certificate to be employed in any particular job. In addition, at 14 years old, you can do some jobs like pool cleaning, dog walking, dish cleaning, and other non-hazardous jobs.

What Age Does Walmart Hire?

Walmart has many employment opportunities but restrictions on who qualifies for them. First, 16 years is the minimum you need to work at a Walmart store. Therefore, if you are above the age of 16 years and qualified for any position, you stand a chance of being selected for an interview.

Can A 12-Year-Old Work?

Yes, a 12-year-old can work, provided they are working for the parent. The parent, in this case, should be the sole owner of the business where the child works. The federal family business child labor laws allow children of this age to work, but only for the family business where the parents are the sole owners.

In this case, the child can work for any number of hours and any time of the day. However, some state laws may limit a 12-year-old from working within school hours.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At Subway?

To work at Subway, you need to be at least 16 years of age. However, managerial positions at Subway are reserved for those who are above the age of 18 years. As a 15-year-old, you may secure a job at Subway if the state regulations or laws support minors’ employment at 15. However, those below the age of 15 cannot work at Subway.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At Starbucks?

In most states, you can work in Starbucks if you are at least 16 years of age. In Montana, you can work at Starbucks if you are at least 14 years old. Some positions you can apply for at Starbucks include barista, district manager, shift supervisor, or cashier. You only need to be 16 years of age, a requirement for most states.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At Chick-Fil-A?

You must be 16 years old to work at Chick-Fil-A in most states. At 15 years, you can work if you have appropriate qualifications and a permit, and at 14 years of age, you can work if your state legally allows you to work at your age.

Your age limits the number of hours and positions you can serve. For instance, you may not work in the kitchen since that is considered hazardous for minors. Some state regulations also may restrict teens from long shifts and hence can only perform short shifts outside school hours.

Final Thoughts

As discussed, the minimum working age is 14 years, as set by the Fair Labor Standards Act. This, however, is limited to some specific jobs that are non-hazardous, and at age 18, you can venture into any position since the law does not restrict you at this age.

In addition, it is essential to note that even those under 12 years of age can work in family businesses where the parents are the owners but also with some limitations depending on the state where you reside.

Therefore, it is important to note that the minimum age to work is stipulated in the FLSA and state laws, but in areas where there is a conflict between state laws and federal regulations, the act that is more protective of the minor is always considered.