Obtaining a job as a camp counselor is the best way to experience beautiful areas of the US and build an impressive resume. It’s ideal for undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing degrees in teaching, counseling, coaching, physical therapy, athletic training, sports psychology, etc. or for skilled athletes who simply love working with youth and want a summer job that feels like play.
In fact, some believe that camp employment can be even more valuable than internships in many ways. Read more.
Many camps hire both domestic and international staff. Through this exchange, American campers and counselors have the chance to experience foreign cultures, while foreign participants increase their knowledge of American culture.
When considering employment with a summer camp, it is important to understand the personal and professional benefits that are possible. Read more here.
Although qualifications vary based on camp setting, focus and position, most camps are looking for candidates that must:
- Be a mature adult over the age 18.
- Be willing to work long hours with children and have some prior experience.
- Possess one strong or two or more moderate camp related skills that you can teach or assist in teaching to campers – the stronger your skills and application, the better the chance of a placement at camp.
- Be open minded, energetic, flexible & prepared to work long hours!
- Be in good health.
- Have no criminal record.
- Be eligible for the J1 Camp Counselor Visa.
Camps vary in many ways including location, program offerings, facilities and dates of operation. However, there are similarities in all summer camps for the counseling staff. Following are some of those similarities:
A typical arrangement has 8-12 campers living with 2-3 counselors. The bunk conditions will vary on location and will range from wilderness cabins to modern college dormitories, but all staff must understand that they will, in most cases, be physically in the same room as a group of campers during the summer (privacy is at a minimum).
Counselors will be expected to arrive at the designated camp approximately one week prior to the campers. There is an orientation program where counselors learn the daily schedules along with the camp policies and procedures. During this time counselors are placed in the age group and bunk unit where they will live during the summer. There is typically scheduled time when counselors are given training and practice in how to deal with camper conflicts, health issues, and other issues that may occur throughout the summer.
Roles and Responsibilities:
Summer camp counselors are responsible for ensuring camper overall well-being, keeping campers on schedule with activities, and leading camp activities. A counselor’s work includes assisting with camper management in classrooms, in bunks, on the sports fields, and in the dining hall. Counselors may lead daily activities, like crafts, outdoor games, musical performances, and so forth, and may perform other responsibilities, especially at smaller summer camps. Counselors supervise and manage campers at all times, except during scheduled breaks. Counselors may participate in whole camp activities and special events such as talent shows, camp competitions, the camp band, and/or an end-of-the-year musical. A summer camp counselor may also accompany campers during out-of-camp events, including camping trips, hikes, theme parks, whitewater rafting, whale-watch cruises, and ball games. Themed camps such as fine arts camps, computer camps, sailing camps, specific sports camps, etc. hire multiple specialty counselors every summer. No matter what the venue, the summer camp counselor is primarily responsible for ensuring that the campers are safe, having fun, and engaged in interesting recreational and educational activities.
As you go through the application and interview process you will be able to speak with camp directors about their particular camp and your role as a counselor. Information about their expectation, salary, time off, etc. will be outlined for you so you can make an informed decision to accept or decline an offer.
Camps typically provide as compensation free lodging and free meals, in addition to a salary for a 63 day contract with pay per day for work thereafter. Applicants with advanced skills and certifications may receive more.
Season & Duration:
The US summer camp season runs from late May, beginning of June through mid to late August with average employment between 9-11 weeks. Some pre-camp and post-camp work opportunities are possible. This time frame is perfect for those who want to work and still have time to travel or to rest up for the upcoming school year.