5 Reasons Why Summer Jobs Have Become Less Popular

Fewer students are working in between semesters. Here's why.

Maurie Backman
Maurie Backman
Jul 11, 2019 at 9:18AM
Investment Planning

Back when I was in high school, I spent every summer working as a counselor at a local summer camp. The pay was lousy, the job was tough, and by the end of each day, I was utterly exhausted. Still, it was work experience to put on my resume, and thanks to the generosity of some parents, I generally walked away with a decent pile of tips.

Fast-forward to college, and once again, I spent my summers diligently plugging away, this time in an air-conditioned office. The pay was far better, and the experience more impressive.

But summer stints are no longer the rite of passage they once were. According to the Pew Research Center, historically, roughly 50% of teens aged 16 to 19 have held summer jobs, but since 2000, only about 35% work during the summertime.

Smiling young woman in apron holding tray of food

Image source: Getty Images.

Why the decline in summertime gigs? There are a few reasons, according to Payscale.

1. Automation is taking over

Summer jobs appeal to a younger candidate base and therefore tend to require fewer skills. But automation is eliminating the need for some summer work, and those with limited skills may be struggling to find suitable jobs for that short window between school semesters.

2. Unpaid internships are becoming more common

Many students find internships to grow their skills and make contacts in the field they wish to eventually work in full-time. Many of these internships are unpaid, or come with only a stipend to cover the cost of getting to and from work. But in many cases they're far more helpful from a career perspective than common gigs like scooping ice cream or hauling plates across busy restaurants. Volunteering is also becoming more popular, and despite its unpaid nature, students are flocking it to enhance their resumes and gain valuable experience.


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3. More students are taking summer classes

Summer classes are a great way for high schoolers to prepare for college, and for college students to tackle challenging courses or get ahead on their studies. And since more students are staying in school over the summer, they have less time available to work.

4. The school year has gotten longer

The average length of the academic year in public schools has increased over time, and while the average school year today lasts 179.6 days, in some parts of the country, it's even longer. The window to get a summer job is narrower, which makes it more challenging for applicants.

5. Gigs are replacing traditional jobs

Cash gigs are common among students, and they're tricky for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track. For example, a teen who gets paid cash to walk several neighbors' dogs during the day may not count as employed, even though he or she is earning money.

Clearly, working during the summer is no longer as popular a notion as it used to be. But if you need money, whether to pay for college or for another purpose, and you have the time available, then it pays to find yourself some sort of temporary job. Doing so can certainly help you boost your savings, but it can also help you grow as a person, and that's reason enough to spend your summers doing something productive.