The Minimum Age to Work in Pennsylvania

Mixed race boy pushing wheelbarrow to sheep in barn
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If you're a Pennsylvania minor who's looking for a job, you may not work if you're under the age of 14, which is in line with federal child labor laws. While child labor laws in each state may vary, the state law and federal laws are in agreement in Pennsylvania. 

Children under 14 may work if they're employed on a farm or in domestic service in a private residence. On farms, however, the farmer must be the person who hires the child, and this is often the child's parent. Children as young as age 12 can work as golf caddies, and 11-year-olds can work as news carriers. Children of various ages can work as performers if they're in the entertainment field.

Necessary Permits 

Minors don't need an age certificate, but Pennsylvania state law requires that they have a child employment certificate. The permit is required until they become legal adults at age 18 and can usually be acquired at the child's school. Children under 16 should also have a statement from their parent or guardian giving permission for them to work and recognizing that they understand the duties and hours of employment.

Hours Teens May Work

Although 14- and 15-year-olds can work in Pennsylvania, they can't do so without restrictions. For example, they may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. unless they're on vacation from school. In this case, they can work until 9 p.m. Pennsylvania law also prohibits children from working more than three hours on a school day or more than eight hours on non-school days. 

Special rules apply to older teens. Minors age 16 and up may not work before 6 a.m. or after midnight during school weeks. They also can't work for more than eight hours per day or more than 28 hours per week during school weeks. Lastly, they must be at least 18 to work in an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages. 

Prohibited Occupations for Minor Workers

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has compiled a list of prohibited occupations for all minors in Entertainment and prohibited occupations for all minors in general, including brick-making, crane operating, excavating, explosives manufacturing, forest firefighting and more. The complete lists are posted below.

Prohibited Occupations for All Minors in Entertainment:

  • An acrobatic act that is hazardous to the minor’s safety or well-being, including high-wire or trapeze acts, working with partners hand to hand or head to head, and bicycle or unicycle acts. (Child Labor Act, §§ 5(b)(4)(iv), 5(k), 34 Pa. Code § 11.1)  
  • Use of/or exposure to dangerous weapons or pyrotechnical devices. (Child Labor Act, § 5(b)(4)(v))  
  • Activities that have a high level of inherent danger, including activities involving speed, height, a high level of physical exertion, and highly specialized gear or spectacular stunts. (Child Labor Act, § 5(b)(4)(iii))  
  • An act that constitutes sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of minors. (Child Labor Act, § 5(b)(4)(i))  
  • Boxing, sparring, or wrestling, except for a bona fide athletic or recognized amateur competition or activity or non-contact portrayal. (Child Labor Act, § 5(b)(4)(ii))  
  • Assisting performers in an animal act, conducting an animal into a ring or on stage, or riding an animal when the animal exceeds half the weight of the child performer. This paragraph shall not necessarily apply to performances with trained seals. (34 Pa. Code § 11.1)

Prohibited Occupations for All Minors  

  • Brick-Maker: Manufacturing bricks, tile, and kindred products. Working in the brick-making industry on horizontal or vertical pug mills (mixers) (34 Pa. Code § 11.54). Manufacturing of clay construction products – exception: may work in storage or shipping, in offices, laboratories, and storerooms and in the drying departments of plants manufacturing sewer pipe. For silica brick and silica refractories, office work is permitted. Prohibition does not include non-structural bearing clay products: ceramic floor and wall tile, mosaic tile, glazed and enameled tile, faience, and similar tile, nor shall the term include nonclay construction products such as sand-lime brick, glass brick, or nonclay refractories, except silica refractories. (29 CFR § 570.64).  
  • Crane Operator: Operating, tending, riding upon, working from, repairing servicing, or disassembling cranes, hoists, derricks, high lift trucks including forklifts, and elevators. (34 Pa. Code § 11.32, 29 CFR § 570.58).  
  • Electrical Worker: Installing and removing electrical wiring.* Installing, removing, reading and testing electric meters.* (34 Pa. Code §§ 11.31, 11.35, 11.38).  
  • Elevator Operator: Operating, managing (34 Pa. Code § 11.32), tending, riding upon, working from, repairing, servicing, or disassembling passenger or freight elevators, hoisting or lifting machinery. (34 Pa. Code § 11.32, 29 CFR § 570.58) Exception: riding inside unattended automatic operation passenger elevator, and 16 and 17-year-old minors may ride upon a freight elevator operated by an assigned operator. (29 CFR § 570.58.).  
  • Excavator: Working within tunnels, shafts prior to completion of all driving, sinking and shoring operations and trenches more than four feet in depth.* (34 Pa. Code § 11.66, 29 CFR § 570.68).  
  • Explosive Manufacturing: Including handling or storing explosives. (34 Pa. Code § 11.43) Exception for retail establishments. (29 CFR § 570.51) Must be at least 360 feet from the point of handling/storage of 200 pounds of explosives, the amount of distance increases with greater pounds of explosives. (34 Pa. Code § 11.43).  
  • Forest Firefighting: Including forest fire prevention activities. Exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds: as long as tasks are not performed in conjunction with/support of fire fighting efforts. May clear fire trails/roads, construct/maintain/patrol fire lines, pile/burn slash, maintain fire fighting equipment, and act as fire lookout or fire patrolman. (29 CFR § 570.54).  
  • Forest Service/Mill Worker: Including timber tract management, logging, lath mill, shingle mill, cooperage stock mill, and sawmill operations. Exceptions for 16-17 year olds: work in offices, repair/maintenance shops, living quarters, repair/maintenance of roads, railroads or flumes; work on telephone lines not involving the use of power-driven machinery, handling/use of explosives, felling/bucking of timber, and collecting or transporting of logs or work on trestles; work related to forest marketing/forest economics, feeding/care of animals, peeling fence posts, pulpwood, chemical wood, excelsior wood, cordwood, etc., when not done in conjunction or location with logging occupations. For permanent sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill or cooperage stock mill operations, 16 and 17 year olds may straighten/mark/tally/pull lumber on dry chain or dry drop sorter, clean-up lumber yard, piling/handling, shipping of cooperage stock, other than operating/assisting with power-driven equipment; clerical work; clean-up work outside shake and shingle mills, except when mill is operational; split shakes manually from precut/split blocks, and pack shakes into bundles, except inside mill building/cover; manually loading bundles of shingles/shakes into trucks/railroad cars with doctor’s note. (29 CFR § 570.54).
  • Meat Processing:* Operation of power-driven food chopping, meat grinding, slicing or processing machines, and any occupation on the killing floor, in curing/hide cellars. Except for 16 and 17-year-old minors working as messengers, runners, and hand truckers, which require entering such workrooms infrequently and for short periods of time. All occupations in recovery of lard and oils, except packaging and shipping, all occupations involved in tankage or rendering of dead animals; boning, pushing or dropping of any suspended full, half or quarter carcass; hand lifting or hand carrying any full, half or quarter carcass of beef, horse, or buffalo; and, any hand lifting or hand carrying of full or half deer or pork carcass. Killing and processing of rabbits and small game in areas physically separated from killing floor permitted for 16 and 17-year-olds. (34 Pa. Code § 11.65, 29 CFR § 570.61).
  • Motion Picture (Film) Projectionist: Exception, a 17-year-old minor may work as an apprentice of a motion picture projectionist. (34 Pa. Code § 11.45).
  • Motor Vehicle: Driving a motor vehicle and being an outside helper on public roads/highways, in or about any mine, in or about excavation operations, and around sawmill/logging operations. Exception for occasional driving for licensed 17-year-olds with a state-approved driver education course, if a vehicle does not exceed 6,000 pounds and has a restraining device, driving is during daylight, within a 30-mile radius of the employer, and limited to 2 trips per day away from employer location. May not drive for urgent, time-sensitive transporting and deliveries, including pizza delivery, may not tow, drive route deliveries/sales, may not provide transportation for hire of property/goods/passengers, the limit of three passengers. Outside helper is any individual other than the driver, whose work includes riding on a motor vehicle outside the cab for the purpose of assisting in transporting/delivering goods. (29 CFR § 570.52).
  • Paint, Acids, and Poison Manufacturer: In any capacity in the manufacture of paint, color or white-lead, poisonous dyes, or compositions using dangerous lead or acids. (Child Labor Act, § 4(a)(3)).
  • Roofer: All occupations.* (34 Pa. Code § 11.63; 29 CFR § 570.67)  
  • Spray Coater: Spray coating with substances containing lead, benzol or ground siliceous material.* (34 Pa. Code § 11.58).
  • Welder: Acetylene or electric welding.* (34 Pa. Code § 11.33). 
  • Woodworking: Using power-driven woodworking machines, including supervising/controlling operation of machines, feeding/assisting with feeding materials into machines; setting up, adjusting, repairing, oiling or cleaning power-driven woodworking machines, off-bearing from circular saws and guillotine-action veneer clippers.* Exception, 16- and 17-year-olds may place material on moving chain/hopper for automatic feeding. (34 Pa. Code § 11.46; 29 CFR § 570.55).
  • Wrecking and/or Demolition Worker: All occupations, including shipbreaking. (34 Pa. Code § 11.64, 29 CFR § 570.33).

More Information 

If you're interested in more information about working in Pennsylvania as a youth, visit the Pennsylvania State Labor website. If you're interested in the child labor requirements for other states, consult this list for the minimum age to work by the state.