Camp counselors supervise camp activities and develop recreational plans. They generally work with children in residential summer camps or day camps. Their job duties include guiding teenagers and children in camping, swimming, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. Counselors may organize camping trips, plan and schedule group activities, provide emotional support, greet new campers, and explain all the rules of the camp.
Other job responsibilities of camp counselors include the health and safety of their charges, and they lead campers in fire drills and emergency procedures. Camp counselors should be prepared to work night and weekend hours, because supervision of the campers' cabins is also needed during these times. Many camp counselor positions are only available on a seasonal or part-time basis.
Many camp counselors are young people themselves, and therefore college degrees aren't required for all positions. Teenage camp counselors do need to have good moral character, patience and a high level of maturity. Camp counselors should possess leadership skills as well. Age requirements for camp counselors vary, but most counselors should be at least 15-18 years of age. They should have some expertise and experience in the activities they'll instruct, such as kayaking, drama, music or tennis. Counselors should be physically fit and in good general health.
Training and Education
There are counselor training programs that combine training with on-the-job experience. These programs allow prospective camp counselors to learn to work with and lead children, plan events, and learn about child development. Training programs can last up to two weeks.
If a counselor wants to go on to work for a large organization, or if he or she wishes to become a camp counselor on a full-time basis, then at least an associate's degree is needed. Students might major in leisure studies or parks and recreation, and they may specialize in areas such as athletics or art.
Sometimes it's necessary to become certified, especially for those who plan to work as lifeguards and teach water-related activities. Lifeguard certification requirements vary by state, or even by county or city, so applicants should ensure that they meet the specifications of the area in which their camp is located.
Those seeking long-term careers in this field may want to advance into supervisory and administrative jobs. Such positions will require at least a bachelor's degree, and higher-level jobs are more accessible if one holds a master's degree in a subject like parks and recreation. Similar degree programs include sport and tourism, camp administration, and outdoor education. Students can also enroll in a recreation management course and take classes in leisure and recreation or program planning.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that recreation workers, which included camp counselors, made a median yearly salary of $23,320 in May 2015. Recreation work jobs were predicted to increase 10% from 2014-2024, which was above average growth.
In summary, camp counselors typically learn about their positions through training and on-the-job experience. Those seeking to work for larger organizations or in long-term careers in the field might need a formal degree.