There are 10,000+ camps out there, all very different flavors, foci and missions; therefore, you have the opportunity to find which one suits you best. It is very tempting to want to apply to every camp you come across, but take some time instead to think about what you want out of your summer. What are you passionate about? Is it sport? Drama? The great outdoors? Working with special needs or faith? Be honest with yourself when browsing camps; it can be a difficult summer working at a camp that isn’t a good fit, so take the time to find one that will best suit your needs and wants. From religious camps to wilderness therapy, from sports camps to special needs camps, they are out there.
It depends how many you are interested in. Some camps have a much easier application process than others and so your chances of being hired will depend on each camps hiring process. It is always best to back yourself up and apply for three or four camps. Any more than this and you risk losing focus for those you are truly passionate and excited about. However, there is really no limit to how many camps you can apply to work at this summer 🙂
Yes. Though a lot of staff (mainly internationals) set up an online profile and wait to be selected, it is always best to be proactive too, as this will open up more options for you and give you an idea of all the different types of camps out there. You can research and read about different camps, and if you find one you might be interested in, send them an email directly. When emailing be sure to be specific about the camp you are contacting; give them a personal bio and include how their camp suits you and what you are hoping to get out of the summer. Be sure to do your research before contacting, many questions you ask can usually be answered on their website, and so, in order to look like you have actively studied this, avoid asking questions that are plainly answered here. NEVER send a bulk email to several camps at once, this looks lazy and shows you have little interest in a specific camp. If you want extra bonus points, call the camp up and ask them informed, intelligent questions, and let them know about you as well.
For residential camps, the age is often 18+, while days camps will hire 16 year olds at times. You need to be at least 18 years old to work at summer camp. The average age for most camps is 19-21, however, many have counselors and staff that are in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s.
Yes. You will need a J1 summer visa in order to work at a summer camp. These are relatively easy to obtain, though require time and a cost. If you are international, you will need to sign up to an agency who will assist you with your visa, sort out travel insurance, transport (if opted for) and give advice whenever you need it. From applying to camps, to assistance with reclaiming tax at the end of the summer, these specialist agencies will help you with it all. In order to be granted a visa, you need to be sponsored by an agency so sign up now. That said, please read the international section of this website, as there are important differences in how you can obtain a visa and job.
The key months of hiring at summer camps are January, February and March. However, some camps begin this process earlier in December and go right through to May. If you are going through an agency (international) the cut off dates are usually the end of March, however, if you have already been hired with a camp, this deadline can be worked until sometime in April. There are no blanket dates for when all summer camps begin, each one is different depending on staff training and summer dates, therefore, it is always best to check these dates before applying to a specific camp in order to make sure you are available. The majority of camps will start staff training at the beginning of June, and the summer will run through to the middle or end of August. However, you can find out specific dates on the website’s of those camps you are interested in, if not, send an email.
Though some camps will request you have at least one skill that you can teach this summer, most camps are willing to invest the time to train you in the basics. Though it is preferable to have a skill, so long as you have a passion and love for children, this will rarely be an issue unless you are looking into a specialized camp which requires prerequisite qualifications or experience. Many camp hire counselors whose role involves simply being with the children all day, while activity specialists teach – these models vary WIDELY amongst camps. This would be a great question to ask when contacting a camp you are excited about.
- Mention your passion for children, with specifics/history
- Be playful and quirky, but also show a level of responsibility (you are looking after children after all)
- Ask questions: this shows you are really interest and have given it all a lot of thought
- Be specific to the camp you are applying to, mention the website or what you are excited about in particular
- Be honest: camps are looking for the best fit, and you are also looking for this. Not being 100% truthful may get you the job, but you could find yourself very unhappy at a camp that isn’t for you after all.
- Relax: this is summer camp you are applying for, not a corporate business. Be friendly and fun, dress smart-casual; make an effort. Some camps are very professional and have uniforms and strict appearance codes, while others are far on the other end of the spectrum.
- Talk about your life experiences, what you are passionate about and how that fits into working at a summer camp this year.
- Only talk about wanting to ‘have fun’ or ‘make friends’ as your main reasons for wanting to work at summer camp.
- Try and barter for a better wage; this is usually already set, and it isn’t much. If you are looking to earn money this summer, you are applying for the wrong job! There are plenty of other people out there who will take the job for the original amount!
- Be quiet/timid: nerves are normal, but camps are looking for people who have a certain presence and are able to take control and lead with confidence. Don’t be arrogant, but don’t be timid either.
- Swear or use inappropriate language, no matter how relaxed you might feel.
- Forget to do your research into the camp you are looking at!
Yes! However, most camps expect staff to keep these devises out of sight of the children at all times. Usage will only be permitted in designated staff areas during free periods and not while working. Then again, there are tech camps where your smart phone is standard attire, as well as residential camps that allow unfettered access to e-mail and phone for campers.
Each staff member is usually assigned one full day off each week, this may be a set day by the camp or some camps will let you choose this. Some camps offer a day off every two weeks or more, due to the population/structure of the camp (especially true on wilderness trips of extended nature). Many camps will work to accommodate your needs in regards to preferences to days off, however, should anything happen and you are needed on site, you may be asked to switch your day off for the good of the campers. Many camps also offer one free hour period per day, and if you are not sleeping in a cabin with the campers, evenings (after 10pm) will likely be free too.
Most counseling staff will be expected to share a dorm, room or cabin with their campers, this can range from a number of 3 to 16 children, the more campers, the more staff you will also be sharing with. Most camps have cabins of 8-12 children and so you would be expected to share with your group of campers with another counselor or two. You are responsible for the campers during this time throughout the night, though support is usually readily available should anything happen. Non-counseling staff (kitchen, office, support staff) will have accommodation provided, though this is usually shared and rustic.
No. This is provided for you unless you are on a day off, in which case you will sometimes have to find your own food for the day.
This will depend on the camp. Some camps have laundry facilities available for staff to use, others will do a weekly laundry mat run which you may or may not need to pay for. Again, this varies from camp to camp so check in when you apply :).
Every camp has a different schedule, and so if you want more information specific to your camp, do contact them and ask. In general, your schedule will be very full; from 7am until 10pm you will usually be expected to be somewhere with the campers every hour of the day. This is typically running activities of your specialized skill throughout the day, and joining in with whatever evening activity the camp provides on a night (games, campfires, shows). You are expected to eat every meal with the campers in the designated lunch hall/dining area. Shower times will be supervised by staff and, if you are a counselor, you will also be sleeping with the campers too. Very little down time, and lots of camper time :).
Usually this is absolutely fine so long as tattoos are not offensive or inappropriate for children to see. Some camps may ask you to remove piercings that are not considered ‘typical’ while around children in the day. Camps have different rules about tattoos and piercings so it is best to check in and be honest about it, for most camps however, this is rarely an issue.
If you are international, your agency will usually arrange this with you for a fee, although you can sort it out yourself as well. For domestic staff, you will be responsible for getting yourself to camp or the nearest airport/bus station. Many camps offer a travel fund of a few hundred dollars.
Nothing you don’t want to get ruined. Repeat: nothing you don’t want to get ruined. You will be getting dirty and sweaty this summer, endure spontaneous water fights and accidental spillages of goodness knows what, so do not wear anything while working that you don’t want to get messy, stained or ruined this summer. You will need to dress appropriately for working with children, shorts that are longer than your fingers (when you have you hands by your sides), and for girls, no shirts that show cleavage. No offensive or inappropriate slogans on shirts, in fact, it is best to stick to plain clothing. Some camps require you wear a staff shirt which will usually be provided. If you are doing a specialist sport/activity, dress accordingly. No matter where you are this summer, it will likely get chilly on an evening so bring a sweater or two, along with a pair of long pants. Sensible footwear such as tennis shoes are the usual, with flip flops or water shoes for when doing water activities. Bring a couple of nicer outfit’s too for your rest days. And don’t forget that handy waterproof jacket!
Though not usually needed in order to work at camp, it is useful to have a car on site should you wish to use it for your time off. Many camps offer transport for such times, and if not, you can usually get a ride with a buddy, however, having your own car can mitigate any issues. Be sure to check in with your camp and make sure there is a place to store your car while you are at camp as some have limited parking lots. In the case of a large scale emergency at camp (such as an evacuation or accident), all staff cars can be expected to be available to assist with the transport of at risk campers and staff.
If you have a prior commitment during the summer such as a wedding or graduation, this is something you will need to be upfront with your camp about while applying; most camps will seek to accommodate this if it is important. As a general rule, a birthday party or festival will rarely be prioritized over camp needs. If you have a family emergency, depending on the scale and your wants, the camp will work with you to arrange the best possible strategy. If this warrants you leaving camp for a short period of time or permanently, your camp with work this out with you.
Most camps will give you your final wage packet at the end of the summer. For international staff, a large amount of this will go to your respective agency and so the total that you get will be considerable lower than that of domestic staff; please talk to your agency about the total sum of money you can expect. For domestic staff, you wage will depend on your skills, job role and qualifications. Camps will usually offer checks, but some will pay directly into an appointed bank account should you set this up with them in advance. Most camps will offer an advance of wages throughout the summer should you need the money sooner than the end of the season. Again, this will vary from camp to camp.