How Old Do You Have to Be to Work?

Young people have many questions about entering the workforce and one common question is how old one has to be to work.The answer depends on where you live because different states have different rules regarding the minimum legal age to work. In most industries, you have to face certain restrictions until you are 21. There are so many rules and regulations to follow that finding information on how old you should be to work in your state and which company hires workers at your age is even more difficult than finding a job.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Work?

In states like Georgia, Virginia, and Vermont, the legal age to work is 12. However, you need to be at least 14 years old to work in most states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Delaware, Colorado, Indiana, and so on. It is also important to bear in mind that even if you are 14 and are allowed to work, you still cannot work during school hours. The only exception is when the job is part of your school program.

  • It is possible to get a job when you are at least 13 years old, but you can only do light work. What it means is that you are not allowed to do any job that would affect your health or put your safety at stake. It should not interfere with your education either.
  • You have more options available once you turn 14. While you can get a job in most places, you are still not allowed to work on a building site or in factories. It is therefore a good idea to check with your local authorities to confirm if you can work in certain jobs at 14
  • While there are restrictions, they usually last until you turn 16 and are out of school. This is the time when you are considered a young worker and start working in most industries. Just remember that you will not get work rights as adults until you are 18 years old.

To know more about legal age to work in different companies, please click here.

Getting Your Working Permit

If you are under 18 and want to work, you will need working papers first. These papers are available for two age groups: 14-15 and 16-17. Here is more about these two categories:

  • 14-15 year olds: If you fall in this age group, you will receive blue working papers. These papers indicate that you are too young to work in a factory.
  • 16-17 year olds in school: If you fall in this category, your working papers will be green. When you have these papers, you can work in a factory as well. Still, you cannot operate certain machines and are not allowed to work on construction sites. You are also not allowed to help a motor vehicle or wipe, adjust or clean belts on machinery.
  • 16-17 year olds out of school: If you are in this age group, your working papers will be peach. These working papers let you work in a factory but restrict you from working around certain machines or doing construction work. You can find full-time employment as well.

Where to Get Your Working Papers?

When you know the answer to your question, "How old do you have to be to work?" you would want to know how to get your working papers. There is a set procedure to follow to get your papers.

  • For those in school, it is important to go to their guidance office and get a working papers application. Even if you are not in school, you can still go to the nearest school in your area and ask them to give you the application.
  • Complete the application and ask your guardian or parent to sign it.
  • Get proof of age, such as a state-issued photo ID, birth certificate, passport, or driver's license and a physical test report. It is important to get a physical and include proof of a doctor's exam within the last 12 months stating you are physically fit with your application.


How old do you have to be to work? It is an important question to ask, but there are other things to remember when trying to get your working papers or starting a job in your local area. For instance:

  • Be sure to change your papers when you turn 16 because now you will need green working papers.
  • Be sure to take the original working papers with you when looking for a job because employers cannot accept photocopies of your papers. You will have to get new papers if you lose your old ones.
  • You should get your working papers back once you have completed the job. This way, you can use your papers to get another job.

How Long Can You Work for Your Age?

It is quite common to ask, "How old do you have to be to work?" but it is equally common to ask, "How long can you work according to your age?" Here is more info about it:

When You Are in School


Daily Hours Limit

Max Weekly Work Hours

Work Times

Max Weekly Work Days


8 hours on non-school days and 3 hours on school days

18 hours

7 am-7 pm

6 days


4 hours on Monday through Thursday and 8 hours on the rest of the days

28 hours

6 am-10 pm

6 days

When You Are Out of School


8 hours

40 hours

7 am-9 pm (June 21-Labor Day)

6 days


8 hours

48 hours

6 am-midnight

6 days