This article will provide a detailed account of the camp counselor job description, including main duties, essential skills, qualifications and training, working hours, and job prospects. Camp counselors work with children in summer camps, and their primary role is to provide supervision for campers as they go about their activities. This supervisory role is critical, but counselors are also role models, leaders, and mentors for campers.
Counselors live with their campers 24 hours a day, and work to ensure a positive experience that is fun, safe, and memorable. Campers can range in age from 7 to 16 years of age, so counselors are often college–aged individuals.
Job Overview: What Does A Camp Counselor Do?
Camp counselors work in a hands-on, fully immersive setting with children. Summer camps typically revolve around outdoor activities, although some camps may be academic in nature. Counselors may be called upon to teach and lead activities, identify and show others how to recognize poison ivy, treat insect stings, settle disputes, make s’mores around a campfire, or supervise a busload of screaming campers.
While there may be a daily routine of activities, specific tasks in the camp counselor job description vary according to campers’ needs. They also require patience, compassion, respect for others, and a willing attitude. A new counselor usually makes $7.50 an hour as a counselor–in–training, while an experienced counselor returning to seasonal work over successive summers may gain as much as $11.50 an hour.
Camp Counselor Job Duties
- Assist staff with daily activities for campers.
- Provide attentive supervision during assigned activities.
- Establish relationships with campers based on genuine interest and mutual respect.
- Provide a positive role model for campers by exhibiting an upbeat, cooperative, and friendly attitude at all times.
- Plan and lead evening activities such as campfires, skits, games, and sing–alongs.
- Help campers learn and follow rules to ensure a safe and healthy environment.
- Be a problem–solver, but ask for help when necessary.
- Attend all meetings and trainings.
- Be punctual, organized, and follow directions.
Camp Counselor Job Essential Skills
Interpersonal skills. Camp counselors must be able to establish trust and rapport, and to set healthy boundaries in their work with children. Because they work with campers who are still learning how to relate to others and often struggle to do so well, they must be able to relate to campers so that they remain calm, cooperative, and safe.
Organizational skills. Counselors often design and direct daily activities for campers. They must understand how to engage children’s interest, and how to manage time and activities to keep campers on task, safe, and having fun.
Problem-solving skills. Camp counselors work with children who are still developing their capacity to respond flexibly under pressure. The ability to intervene quickly and decisively to resolve problems, as well as the ability to model effective problem–solving skills is a critical dimension in the camp counselor job description.
Teamwork skills. Supervision of active children across multiple activities is a team job. Camp counselors must be able to work well with others to coordinate and implement activities and schedules, so that campers’ experience is seamless, engaging, and positive.
Becoming a Camp Counselor
Landing a job as a camp counselor does not require special education or certification, but most camps look for applicants with a high school diploma or an equivalent. Love for children and a can–do attitude are a must. Expertise in areas of camp activities, i.e. swimming, horseback riding, archery, arts and crafts, or team sports, is a plus. The good news for aspiring counselors is an expected growth rate higher than average for this industry through 2024.
Qualifications & Training
Camp counselors are typically college–aged individuals with high school diplomas or the equivalent. First Aid and CPR certifications can be an advantage over other applicants, as camp counselors work hands–on with children in activities where these skills could be needed. Many camps provide on–site training through Counselor–in–Training (CIT) programs designed to help employees learn the ropes at a specific camp. In general, qualities such as patience, compassion, and the ability to remain calm under pressure are essential for camp counselors who work daily with active children.
It is possible to find employment as a counselor without previous experience in a camp setting. However, previous work with and a demonstrated love for children are important. Many camp counselors use work experience teaching, coaching, tutoring, or even babysitting to get their first jobs. Accrued years of experience in a camp setting make applicants competitive for repeat summer jobs or provide leverage for better paying positions at different camps. Many camps sign off on hours of employment as documentation for college internships or work placements, which may offer an advantage to applicants for full–time, post–graduate employment.
Working hours in the camp counselor job description are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while camp is in session. Counselors live on site to provide 24–hour supervision to their campers. This means that, apart from their time off, counselors live, eat, and share sleeping accommodations with their campers.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
New camp counselors may be hired as recreation leaders or as activity specialists. Recreation leaders provide supervision to campers throughout general camp activities during the day and during evening programming. Activity specialists design and direct specific activities such as arts and crafts, horseback riding, or swimming. Counselors may make between $7.50 and $11.50 an hour, depending on the camp where they are employed. The projected rate of growth for this job market is 10%, higher than the average for all jobs.
Some individuals may advance with experience from seasonal employment as counselors to full–time employment as recreation supervisors who design and direct multiple camp activities, manage counselors, and report to camp directors. For advancement to camp director, an advanced degree is typically required, as directors manage budgets, are responsible for hiring and firing employees, and manage business affairs, such as marketing strategies, for the camp.
Applicants who love children and spending the summer months outdoors are an excellent fit for the camp counselor job description. Camp counseling offers a chance to earn money while developing skills in leadership, teamwork, interpersonal communication, and problem–solving, and job opportunities are projected to rise at more than the average rate of employment through 2024.
This field offers opportunities for full–time work and advancement with on–the–job training and experience. Camp counseling is an immersive experience, since counselors live with their campers 24 hours a day. However, it is also a rewarding experience, as it offers the chance to be a positive influence in the lives of children.