Hiring Minors and Student Interns

Teenage student employee

Hiring students who are minors to work for you during the summer can be the perfect solution if you need extra help for the season. While it can be hard to find adults to fill short-term positions, plenty of students are happy to do just that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that over 2.5 million youth workers entered the U.S. workforce between April and July of 2022.  

I’ve hired a number of students to work for my business over the years.  I’ve had high school students who worked for my company as writers and editors, and they did as good a job as some adult freelancers I’ve hired.

When my company had an ecommerce operation, I hired students during the summers to help with answering the phone, taking orders, and packing merchandise for shipment in addition to doing writing and editing.   

Benefits of Hiring Students

All of the students I hired were enthusiastic and hard working. All were more tech-savvy than some of my year-round employees. And they worked for less money than I would have to pay a temporary agency to send in temps.

The students benefited, too. Besides earning money, they gained experience that could (and did) help them in the pursuit of their careers and in landing other jobs.

State And Federal Laws Child Labor Laws

If you think students might be a solution for your employment needs, it’s important to remember that you’ll need to comply with child labor laws. The federal government and various states all have laws that apply to hiring minors who are under 18 years of age. They include factors such as the hours students can work, the duties they are allowed or prohibited from performing, and their hourly pay.

Here are a some general guidelines:

Age and Hour Limits

As a general rule, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the age of 14 as the minimum age for hiring students. But under the FLSA, hazardous work can’t be performed by minors at all.

Individuals states also have laws regarding the minimum age for workers. If there is a conflict between state and federal law, whichever law is more protective of the minor prevails.

The time of day and the number of hours a minor student (someone under 18 years of age) can work, are also regulated by state and federal laws. For summer jobs for minors, the FLSA rules state:

When school is not in session, and during vacations (school must close for the entire calendar week):

  • Minors under 18 may not work more than 8 hours a day, 6 days a week
  • Minors 14 and 15 may not work more than 40 hours a week
  • 16 and 17 year-olds may not work more than 48 hours a week

As with age limits, state rules may vary.

Working Papers

In many states, students who are 14 to 17 years old will need to get an employment certificate. Employment certificates are also referred to as work permits or working papers. The certificate is a document that says the student is legally allowed to work. Students can usually apply for working papers through their school.

Minimum Wage Laws

There are federal and state laws that specify the minimum wage that you are required to pay minors who work for you. The laws vary, and often state laws will specify a higher minimum wage than federal laws do. Where there is a difference, you are required to pay the rate that is the highest of the two.


You may have read stories saying you can hire student interns to work for you for free. If you’re planning to offer unpaid internships, be sure you are aware of the regulations that apply to them. Under those rules, the economic reality of the employer/internship relationship is what matters.

To be an unpaid intern (and not an employee) the individual has to be getting training that makes them the primary beneficiary of the arrangement. If you’re hiring an intern to cover work employees do and there’s no significant training going on, the person you hire must be paid the minimum wage. Here are seven of the factors used for deciding if an individual is an intern or an employee:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

Hiring minors to work in your business can be rewarding for you and the students you hire. But the laws can be complicated. If you’re thinking about hiring minor students to work for you, check out Resume Builder’s The Small Business Guide to Hiring Minors. The guide is comprehensive, providing need-to-know information such as child labor laws by state, how rules differ for different aged minors, where to find students to hire and links to various resources.

Image source: iStock photo

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