Jobs for High Schoolers: Why fast food is not the only option

As Northern Colorado continues to grow, more employment opportunities are becoming available for high schoolers.


Seth Bylund, Staff Writer

The modern world has made it nearly impossible for the common high school student to make it through all four years of school without having a job of some sort. As the population of Fort Collins and the surrounding areas continue to grow, more and more opportunities other than the typical fast-food jobs are grabbing the interest of students all across the Poudre School District.

Most parents will tell you that fast food is the only way to start when you are looking for your first job. Although this is a viable option, and relatively easy to be hired, there are many different, and arguably better, ways to go

Most juniors and seniors have their own vehicles, which comes with many responsibilities and costs. This can range from insurance, gas, maintenance, and even the price of the vehicle itself. This can cost students anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $6,000 and even more, depending on what type of vehicle you have. If you do not have a job, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the maintenance and costs that are associated with owning a vehicle. Many costs that come with ownership are not even taken into consideration when purchasing a car, including new windshields, tires, and other dings and such that can happen without any warning. Needless to say, a high school student who owns a car, needs a job. 

Classes in high school, such as career preparation classes, will tell students that saving money is one of the most crucial things that can be done. Oftentimes, this money will be saved for endeavors after high school. This could include moving out and putting a down payment on a house, a security deposit on an apartment (and monthly rent), or some sort of schooling, whether it be a two-year school, a trade school, or a four-year school. All of these come with expenses that are impossible to pay without a job. Saving money with your (more than likely part-time job) is crucial for financial stability and security after secondary school. But the question still remains: where is the best place to start when looking for a high school job?

Most parents will tell you that fast food is the only way to start when you are looking for your first job. Although this is a viable option, and relatively easy to be hired, there are many different, and arguably better, ways to go. Restaurants such as Arby’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell have very high percentages of high school age employees on staff. In fact, according to Workforce Magazine, 33% of all fast food employees are high school students. Nationally, 1.7 million teens work in some sort of food-related job, including sit-down restaurants and fast food joints. Although some people may want to work in food, I firmly believe that there are far better options. The danger that can often come with fast food, whether from customers or dangerous objects (slicers, fryers, knives etc.) in the restaurant, will often not be made up with the more than likely starting minimum wage pay. 

Retail is a great option for someone who does not want to come home smelling like fast food and does not want to worry about their own safety. As Fort Collins continues to grow, many large retailers have added locations throughout Northern Colorado. Two of the nation’s largest retailers, Walmart and Target, each have multiple locations across Fort Collins. Target has four locations within ten miles of Fossil Ridge High School, with Walmart having five. Both companies have great opportunities for high school students and each has scholarships available for employees that choose to attend college. They also have many nationwide locations and will allow employees to transfer stores if they choose to go out of state in college and wish to continue developing their careers. Both of these companies pay their employees above minimum wage no matter what position you start at within the company. With flexibility in hours, Target and Walmart are sure to be great for high school students looking for a job. 

For people that do not want to work in grocery stores, there are many options. These two companies are sports retailers that offer many different positions for high school students. Dick’s Sporting Goods has two locations within ten miles of Fossil; positions open for students, including “retail associate” and “cashier”. Scheels All Sports is very similar to Dick’s Sporting Goods, just on a much greater scale. Although Scheels only has one location within ten miles, it has great appeal towards high school students. Many Fossil Ridge students, myself included, are employed by Scheels. Because of the sheer size of the store, many positions are available to students. The company offers great growth opportunities and pays well above minimum wage for starting positions. 

For students that are above 18 years of age, have very tight schedules, and need incredibly flexible hours, delivery driving for companies such as Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and NOCO Nosh (for local restaurants) is the perfect match. You choose your own hours, and it gives you immense amounts of flexibility. It allows you to work when you want with compliance around your schedule, which could allow you to do this alongside with another job, even. 

For the student who wishes to work and save for college, a vehicle, anything after high school, or just have some extra cash, there are many options, one of which is bound to suit your exact needs. As Fort Collins continues to grow, more opportunities are sure to become available, and more options for students will become accessible too.