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minimum wage for student jobs in the USA

What is the minimum wage for student jobs in the USA?

March 9, 2020

If you’re a student in the United States of America, you’ve probably had a few student jobs by now. Maybe you just need some pocket money to make the most of your student years, maybe you have no other choice but working (sometimes two/three jobs) to be able to support yourself (and your family). Some studies have shown that attending college is way more expensive in the 2000s than it was in the 1960s or 1970s. Many people actually leave college with circa $30,000 in debt. Therefore, many students try to get a job that preferably pays more than the minimum wage that varies by state. As a consequence of that, the student minimum wage may differ from state to state. Read further and find all the essential information international and national students should know about the (student) minimum wage.

student minimum wage
Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

1. What is the minimum wage in the USA?

You might have placed and arranged items on shelves in a supermarket or a warehouse located on the West Coast. Or you might have repeatedly said hi and goodbye to customers in a coffee shop or a fast-food restaurant somewhere on the East Coast. Either way, you should have earned the minimum wage (for students). The federal minimum wage (not for students) is $7.25 per hour, which was introduced in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Workers in some states earn more or less than that. It depends on state wage laws.

It’s good to know that under specific circumstances employers don’t have to pay their employees the minimum wage. More on this in section 4. (Some employees are exempt from the minimum wage provisions: farmworkers, people employed by certain seasonal and recreational establishments to give you a few examples.)

2. 2020 minimum wage increase

After years of effort, governors in several states have signed laws that will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the years to come. The new laws regarding the increase in the state minimum wage came into effect in twenty-one states on the 1st of January. They will be followed by four more states at some point in 2020. While the bills usually focus on average workers, in some states the minimum wage of tipped employees and young people has been adjusted as well.

These are states where people may earn more in 2020: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. (Also in the District of Columbia.)

Not only states/territories but also cities have increased or intend to increase the hourly minimum wage:

  • New York City: fast-food workers earn $15.00 per hour
  • San Jose: $15.25
  • San Mateo: $15.38
  • San Francisco: $15.00 (by July 2020)
  • Berkeley: $15.00
  • Los Angeles: large employers must pay $15.00 and small employers $14.25.
  • Santa Monica: From the 1st of July 2020, large employers must pay $15.00 and small employers $14.25
  • Denver: currently $12.85 but will be $15.87 by 2022
  • St. Paul: The city will raise its minimum wage in July again to $11.50 (large employers), $10.00 (small employers) and $9.25 (micro employers). By 2022-27, the minimum wage is expected to be $15.00 per hour.
  • Washington D.C: $15.00 (by July 2020)
  • Chicago: From the 1st of July 2020, large employers must pay $14.00 and small employers $13.50. By 2023-24, it will rise to $15.00 per hour.
  • Minneapolis: From the 1st of July 2020, large employers must pay $13.35 and small employers $11.75. By 2022-24, it will rise to $15.00 per hour.
  • Seattle: Large employers must pay $16.39; small employers $15.75 (providing no benefits) and $13.50 (with benefits).

Additional information
An interesting fact is that the federal minimum wage has increased only three times since 1981. The most recent change took place between 2007 and 2009 when the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was signed into law. Before that, it was set at $5.15 per hour. There have been studies conducted to present the benefits and drawbacks of an increased minimum wage. You may find studies that support the theory of a higher minimum wage being detrimental to small businesses. Other studies have released data showing no meaningful employment consequences.

3. Minimum wage by state in 2020


Courtesy of the United States Department of Labor

3.1. States and territories with the highest minimum wage in 2020

After the increase in the minimum wage in several states and territories, Washington D.C. kept its top position with a minimum wage of $14.00 per hour, will rise to $15.00 per hour later in 2020. Washington State and California have also landed on the podium. In the former state, workers may earn $13.50, so two dollars more than in previous years. In California, employers with 25 employees or less have to pay $12.00 per hour, and the minimum wage is $13.00 per hour with more than 25 employees.

These three states are followed by Massachusetts ($12.75 per hour), Arizona ($12.00 per hour), Colorado ($12.00 per hour), Maine ($12.00 per hour), Oregon ($11.25 per hour), Connecticut ($11.00 per hour; $15.00 per hour by 2023), Maryland ($11.00 per hour; the minimum wage increases to $15.00 by 2024, a subminimum wage for workers under 20), and New Jersey ($11.00 per hour; it will be gradually increased to $15.00 per hour by 2024). In the State of New York, they’ve lifted the minimum rate to $11.80 per hour, but one may receive $13.00 per hour in Long Island and Westchester and $15.00 per hour in NYC.

Other states and territories where workers may make more than $10 per hour are Vermont ($10.96 per hour, applicable to employers of two employees or more), Alaska ($10.19 per hour), Rhode Island ($10.50 per hour), Virgin Islands ($10.50 per hour), Hawaii ($10.10 per hour), and Minnesota ($10.00 per hour applicable to large employer, an enterprise with annual revenues of $500,000 or more; and $8.15 for small employers, an enterprise with annual revenues less than $500,000).

These are the states and territories where you may earn more than the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour):

  • Michigan ($9.65 per hour, applicable to employers of two employees or more)
  • Missouri ($9.45 per hour)
  • South Dakota ($9.30 per hour)
  • Delaware ($9.25 per hour)
  • Illinois ($9.25 per hour; applicable to employers of 4 employees, excluding family members; it will be $15.00 by 2025 and the youth wage for workers under 18 will gradually increase to $13.00 by 2025)
  • Nebraska ($9.00 per hour, applicable to employers of 4 employees or more)
  • New Mexico ($9.00 per hour; $12.00 by 2023 & a training wage for high school students and a slight increase in the tipped minimum wage.)
  • West Virginia ($8.75 per hour, applicable to employers of 6 or more employees at one location)
  • Ohio ($8.70, applicable to employers with annual gross receipts of $305,000 or more; $7.25, applicable to employers with annual gross receipts under $305,000)
  • Montana ($8.65 per hour, applicable to business with gross annual sales of more than $110,000; $4.00 per hour, applicable to business not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act with gross annual sales of $110,000 or less)
  • Florida ($8.56 per hour)
  • Guam ($8.25 per hour)
  • Nevada ($8.25 per hour for those with no health insurance benefits provided by the employer and will be $12.00 by July 1, 2024; $7.25 per hour for those with health insurance benefits provided by the employer and received by the employee and will be $11.00 by July 1, 2024)

These are the states and territories where you may earn the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour):

  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas (The State law excludes from coverage any employment that is subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.)
  • Utah (The State law excludes from coverage any employment that is subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.)
  • Virginia (The State law excludes from coverage any employment that is subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.)
  • Wisconsin
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (special minimum rates)
  • Puerto Rico ($7.25 per hour for employees covered by the FLSA; $5.08 per hour for employees who are covered by the FLSA)

To stay updated and learn about the specificities regarding the U.S. states and territories, please visit the website of the U.S. Department of Labor.

3.2. States with no minimum wage law

In Georgia and Wyoming, the minimum wage is lower than the federal minimum wage. Employees have not seen an increase in it since 2019, so it is still set at $5.15 per hour. In the southern state, it applies to employers of 6 employees or more. In both states, employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act must pay the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

A few states have not implemented any state law regarding the minimum wage but the FLSA applies in those states as well. So in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In American Samoa, there are special minimum rates set.

To stay updated and learn about the specificities regarding the U.S. states and territories, please visit the website of the U.S. Department of Labor.

4. Minimum wage exceptions

student minimum wage
Photo by Matese Fields on Unsplash

4.1. The minimum wage for people under 20

As the section title suggests, this is for young workers who haven’t celebrated their 20th birthday yet. The minimum wage is $4.25 per hour in your first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with your employer; your work should not displace others. When this period is over or you turn 20, you must earn $7.25 per hour for your student job.

The minimum wage for people under 20 can vary by state. To stay updated, please visit the official website of the state or territory you live in.

4.2. The minimum wage for student learners

High-school students at least 16 years old enrolled in vocational education programs must be paid no less than 75% of the minimum wage. Your employer may need to obtain a certificate from the Department of Labor. That official document allows you to earn that percentage.

The minimum wage for student learners can vary by state or territory. To stay updated, please visit the official website of the state or territory you live in.

4.3. The minimum wage for full-time students

You work in retail or service stores, agriculture, or colleges and universities in one of the states or territories. Then again, your employer can obtain a certificate from the Department of Labor. That will allow you to make no less than 85% of the minimum wage. You might want your student job to be full-time, but there are some obstacles regarding that. The limit is 8 hours per day and no more than 20 hours per week during the school terms. If it is a summer job or it happens during another break when there is no school, you can work 40 hours a week. Keep in mind that your employer must follow all child labor laws. After your graduation or when you leave school, you must be paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The minimum wage for full-time students can vary by state or territory. To stay updated, please visit the official website of the state or territory you live in.

4.4. The minimum wage for disabled people

A section [14(c)] of the FLSA gives permission to employers to pay less than the federal minimum wage to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed. The employers must receive a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division, only then can they pay subminimum wages. However, some states have barred employers from paying workers less than the state’s minimum wage. These are Alaska, New Hampshire, and Maryland. Under federal law, it has been legal to pay disabled workers less since 1938.

To stay updated, please visit the official website of the state or territory you live in.

4.5. The minimum wage for tipped employees

If you work as a tipped employee, you should be paid no less than $2.13 per hour in direct wages if that amount plus your tips equals at least the federal minimum wage. You keep all tips, and you customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. If your direct hourly wage of $2.13 and your tips combined is less than the federal minimum wage, your employer has to make up the difference.

The minimum wage for tipped workers varies by state or territory. To stay updated, please visit the official website of the state or territory you live in.

5. Student jobs that pay more than the minimum wage

student minimum wage
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

The amount of money you may earn for an hour of work depends on some factors. You may have acquired skills that can help you get a high-paying job in the tech or creative industry, for example. You may live in a city where student jobs diversify the market and student workers are in great demand and paid well. The student jobs that pay more than the minimum wage include pet sitter, tutor, library assistant, transcriber, freelance writer, graphic and web designer, illustrator, landscaper, archival assistant, computer programmers, etc.


Read also:

6. FAQ

🏫Can universities pay students less than the minimum wage?

According to federal law, universities may pay less than the minimum wage in states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York. However, there has been a discussion about this in recent years. Universities and other higher educational institutions have a different take on the issue. For some, paying more or at least the minimum wage is about social justice. Some colleges have said that they must pay the minimum wage if they want to attract student workers. Other colleges have stated that paying higher salaries may lead to higher tuition fees or more part-time employees. If you decide to work on campus, you should find out what policies and laws your college follows.

How much does the average working college student make?

It depends on the number of degrees colleges students have earned, what type of job they’ve got, how many hours they work, and how much experience they have. An average college student earns $7,500-$42,000 a year. The more hours you work, the more money you get.

How much international students can earn in the US?

While some statistics show that international students may earn more than national students, AppJobs can neither confirm nor deny that. Someone has shared online that they make around $1,700 a month while their roommate $1,870 per month. Another person has said that it’s possible to earn up to $2,000 a month and $7-$10 per hour. OPS employees (Other Personal Services) are paid $8-$10 an hour. If you get an assistantship, your tuition and insurance might be covered. You may also become eligible to receive housing benefits among others.

Keep in mind that international students have work limitations in the USA. Please read this blog post: Working as an International Student in the USA.

Paulina Bajorowicz joined Appjobs in November 2018 and she is now the Content Marketing Specialist. She manages Appjobs blog and social media channels, coordinates outreach activities and cooperates with journalists and content creators around the gig economy.