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Working Wise: School and Work

Dear Working Wise,

Does working while in school affect grades? My daughter wants to continue working part time at her summer job while she’s completing school. Should I be concerned?
Signed, Worried Mom

August 31, 2017

Dear Worried,

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer that everyone agrees on, but there are a number of studies that try to determine if working affects academic success.

The Consequences of Employment During High School (2005) study found that the more hours students work, the lower their grades, school involvement, college attendance and career aspirations.

Employment During High School: Consequences for Students’ Grades in Reading and Mathematics (1997) found that students who work have higher grades than those who don’t. However, students who work more than 15 hours per week tend to have lower test scores than those who work less than 15 hours per week.

The Dropout, School Performance, and Working while in School (2007) study also found that academic performance was not necessarily hindered by working less than 15 hours per week.

You might also want to consider that working can provide your daughter with more than just pocket money. She can learn time-management skills, money-management skills, employability skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills.

Employment also provides valuable work experience and may make the transition from school to full-time work a little smoother. In fact, the 2014 UBC Sauder School of Business study, Beneficial “Child Labour”, found that students who worked part time found better jobs and higher salaries later in life.

Know what your teen is capable of handling when it comes to managing school and work and negotiate what you think is an appropriate number of weekly work hours. Ensure that your daughter’s employer agrees to the hours limit that your family has set and understands that school comes first. Monitor her grades and take action if they start to slip.

Your child can help her employer by giving lots of notice about times when she might not be able to work as much (e.g., during final exams) and times when she can work more hours (e.g., during Christmas break).

One last thought, this may be a good time for your daughter to look for a job that will provide her with practical experience in a career that she’s interested in. Working in a field that she is interested in will provide her with valuable related experience and contacts that might help her get her first job out of school. The experience will also give her a chance to “test drive” a career before she invests time and money in a post-secondary education.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/sjlocke

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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