What is it Like to Work at a Summer Camp?
Why work at a summer camp?
Work at a summer camp long enough and you may start to pick up on some friendly inter-camp rivalry: with thousands of camps nationwide, we all do things a little differently. These differences can have a huge impact on the experience, and are worth thinking about as you find a place to work.
We talked to a few different camp people – and drew on our own years of experience – to offer a few things we think are true about any camp. They are worth considering as you decide if a camp job is right for you!
Community is a huge part of summer camp
In most jobs, you work with your coworkers. Maybe you hang out on weekends or go to happy hour after work. At camp, you live with your coworkers. There is no “after work,” and there may not even be weekends. You will probably be pretty far away from cities or major towns. Regular calls home may be replaced by occasional e-mails or letters.
For a lot of people, this ends up being the best part of the whole experience. You can build amazing relationships and will get to know people more deeply than you do in most other jobs you come across.
Get Ready to Play!
Camp is fun! At the end of the day you are there to play, and to play hard! Of course, every camp will do this differently – some have traditional competitive sports, some focus on teaching specific skills, and others are built around imaginative and ever-changing games – but all of them are going to have some focus on fun.
So bring your costumes, your games, and your inner child – ongoing play is one of camps’ best perks.
Get Ready to Learn!
Some of the earliest summer camps were created by teachers looking for a way to pass the summer months. As fun as camps are, they’re not amusement parks. Amidst the playfulness and laughter are powerful opportunities to learn, grow, and develop new skills. This is as true for staff as it is for campers.
Work at a camp, and you will have an incredible opportunity to try new things, be brave, test your limits, develop new skills and learn about yourself.
The Hours are Unusual
Some people say the hours at overnight camps are long, but we think “unusual” is a better description.
As a role model for kids, you are always “on” – but it may not feel like work! Still, when you get dozens of kids in one place, you need to be ready to respond to tears at night, injuries in the morning, and who-knows-what the rest of the day.
You aren’t likely to find the 9-5 life at any overnight camp…
While there are camps with private rooms, air conditioning, and electricity, don’t expect it!
Camps vary in what they consider rustic but expect to find bugs and dirt on the floors, screen doors and windows, and canvas tents. Get ready to part ways with high-speed internet, insulated walls, and cell phone reception. Showers may even be communal if they have showers at all!
Lots of Moving Parts
Camps are ultimately homes for huge groups of people who need to be fed, taught, loved, entertained, taken care of when they are sick, and accommodated when they are struggling.
Because of that, things are always happening. Someone is ordering and cooking food. Someone is giving out band-aids. Someone is coming up with a trip to a nearby dune, forest, or lake. Someone is running around playing a game.
That means that you need to be aware of how your plans impact the daily camp schedule and everyone else’s plans. That requires exceptional communication, foresight, and logistics.
While this is ultimately the responsibility of a camp director and other administrators, everyone needs to keep everyone else in mind while doing their own job. While you may “just” be responsible for a cabin or activity, you are accountable to make sure the whole camp runs smoothly. There are no silos at camp! (Unless it’s a farm camp, of course.) Be ready to communicate often and effectively.
Camp work is hard. You will work for a long time, get dirty and messy, and sometimes kids might seem like a different species!
On the flip side you will have a chance to live in a beautiful place, make lifelong friendships, develop new skills and stamina, and change kids’ lives for the betters.
I think most of us agree – camp work is well worth the challenge.
WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU
Any questions about finding a camp job? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Ready to take the next step and test your luck in the camp job market – just fill in the following form and camps will come looking for you!