A Student’s Dilemma: Employment and Education


Student Kathryn Pardue operating a cash register at Braum’s in north Springfield.

Kenna Johnson, Reporter

Plenty of high school students apply for jobs when they become old enough, whether it’s to pick up certain skills or just to earn a quick buck on the side. However, in some cases, jobs turn into another ball to juggle for students. While it might be necessary to make ends meet or to save money for college, it could be costly. Working while in school can hurt students’ grades, take away from personal time, and lead to exhaustion from lack of sleep. 

Academic achievement is to be expected from all students. Senior and Sonic employee James Porter says that having a job doesn’t affect his performance in school after working about 25 hours a week.

“I’m keeping up with school work. I don’t really have a lot of school work to keep up with, but if I ever have time then I do it,” Porter says. However, this isn’t the case for every student. Things might change between academic years as well.  Sophomore year, having a job made my life harder. Right now I’m okay because I’m taking easy classes,” Porter adds.

Another senior, Hailey Flores, says she is able to get her work done as well. After working at Panera for up to 30 hours a week, she comes home and does homework at night or over the weekend.

“I’m doing about the same in school since getting a job,” she says.

Sophomore student Alissa Crampton says the same thing about her time spent at Braum’s. 

“I do keep up with my school work,” she says. “A job doesn’t really impact it.”

Senior Joseph Stilwell has had some struggles with balancing academic and work life. 

“I work at Steak and Shake, and I’ve been working there for about 2 years now. I’m basically a manager without manager pay. I work about 12-14 hours a week,” says Stilwell. “For the most part, I can keep up with school stuff but there’s usually a class or two that I’m behind in.”

An adequate amount of social time is desirable as a teenager. These students don’t think that a job affects their social life, either. 

“I still get to hang out with my family,” Crampton says. 

Stillwell thinks he gets plenty of time outside of work to socialize.

“I spend an annoying amount of time with my family,” he says.

One big problem that tends to affect students is a lack of sleep, even students who don’t hold jobs. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teenagers between 13 and 18 years of age should get between 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.

“My sleep schedule is pretty rough sometimes because I’m not getting enough sleep. Especially when I close,” Porter says. “We close at 11 but I don’t get out until 11:30, sometimes even after midnight. I wake up at 6:30 for school, so it’s not really a good mix. I’m just glad I don’t have a lot of school work to do this year or I would probably be really behind,” he concludes.

Flores adds that she has a lack of sleep as well, although she doesn’t think much of it.

“I get around 5-6 hours of sleep typically. I don’t complain about it though,” she says.

Stillwell expresses his lack of sleep as well.  “I get an average of four hours of sleep a night,” he explains.

Crampton claims that while she is bad about getting sleep, her job is not the culprit.  “My sleep schedule is pretty bad. It doesn’t have to do with having a job, I just don’t sleep,” she says.

On the other hand, jobs can also be a good experience for students. They can provide students with skills that they might not otherwise have learned while going about their normal lives such as time management, problem-solving, and communication skills.

“I’ve learned how to talk to people and deal with issues and complaints,” says Porter.

“It definitely helped me with my communication and problem-solving skills. It also taught me timeliness,” Flores says.

It’s not just soft skills that students are learning from their jobs. They are also learning hard skills.  “My job taught me how to cook things I’ve never cooked before,” Stillwell says.

Some jobs even help out students with their education.  “My old job [at McDonald’s] would help me pay for dual credit courses,” Porter says.

According to the United States Census Bureau, 71 percent of students were not working in 2011. 28 percent of students worked part-time and only 1 percent of them worked full-time. The majority of high school students are not employed.