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How Old Do You Have to Be to Become a Camp Counselor


Summer camp is a great place to kick-start your career. However, if you have ever pondered on the question, how old do you have to be a camp counselor then you are not alone. While there may be a minimum age to be eligible for a camp counselor job, there are no upper formal age limits. Like other jobs, camps also adhere to employment laws and many states stick to 18 as the minimum age requirement. Nonetheless, it all depends on whether you are applying for the position of a junior or senior camp counselor.

When applying for a summer camp counselor position, it is essential to understand that summer camp jobs are seasonal. So, you need to consider whether you want an all-year-round- job or a seasonal job. For someone who combines academics and work, summer camp jobs work well for them. However, others see it to keep the mind and soul together while they apply for more permanent jobs.

Younger adults are more likely to accept a camp counselor position. Most older adults shy away from it in search of more permanent employment. One reason is that working as a summer counselor rarely pays well. It also requires you to put in a lot of time to work (up to 24 hours in some cases). However, if working as a summer camp counselor matches your life pattern, it is a great career path.  

Who is a Camp Counselor?

In layman’s terms, a camp counselor is a person who is to supervise and educates teens and children during camping programs (day and night events). Camp counselors ensure the safety of the children as they enjoy various camping activities. They receive special training in child support and safety during camping activities.

Duties of a Camp Counselor

Among all the duties of the Camp Counselor, the most crucial is to ensure that the campers are safe at all times. He/she must ensure that no camper wanders off or gets hurt during camping activities. Other duties of a camp counselor include:

  • Planning the camping activities depending on the environment and specialty
  • Supervising the campers at all times to ensure everyone is safe
  • Developing and leading recreational and educational activities at camp
  • Ensuring that the children correctly use camping tools and facilities
  • Planning sports, outdoor activities and organizing campers into groups
  • Plan and create daily or weekly schedules and activities according to the age groups on camp
  • Resolve any domestic disputes that may arise between children
  • Maintain an accurate log of camp incidents
  • Perform first aid on camp where necessary
  • The camp counselor may also carry out administrative tasks

How Do You Have to Be a Camp Counselor?

While many people want to take up summer jobs at camp to earn more cash, not everyone knows how to become a camp counselor. The position of a camp counselor does not require any educational qualification.

However, there are basic requirements that you need to meet to become a camp counselor. Some camps offer training on-site for their counselors, which may include the daily rules and the routes campers will follow during their activities.

For specialty camps that focus on specific areas like sports or nature, counselors with experience in the area they require. Below are some of the common requirements to become a camp counselor:

Eligibility to Become a Camp Counselor

To be eligible to apply for the position of a camp counselor, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Meet the minimum age requirement
  • Many organizations require you to live within the location of the camp or at least be willing to travel
  • The applicant must be First Aid and CPR certified (e.g. Advanced First Aid and CPR from the American Red Cross Society)
  •  The ability to work with children

Responsibilities and Skills 

  • Proven experience of working as a camp counselor or working in a similar position with children
  • You must be familiar with different outdoor activities and camping operations
  • Patience and reliability are other invaluable skill 
  • You must genuinely love and be willing to work with kids
  • Good communication and organizational skill is essential
  • CPR and first aid skills
  • The ability to cope with the physical demands of the job is crucial
  • The ability to be a positive role model to children
  • The prospective counselor must be a good team player
  • Computer skills like Microsoft Office Suite can also be handy for camp counselors
  • Camp counselors must understand and adhere to the various camp standards, philosophies, and goals  

How Old Do You Have to Be a Camp Counselor?

If you are wondering how old you have to be to become a camp counselor, it is best to consider the stipulations of labor law regarding employment. Also, note that there are two types of counselors, the junior and senior counselors and both have different age requirements.

Senior Counselor 

Senior Camp Counselors must have experience in camping activities and supervising children. The age requirement for the Senior Counselor role is 18 years for overnight camping and at least 16 for a day or traveling camp. According to the United States labor laws, to be eligible to apply for a job, you should be at least 18 years.

Junior Counselor /Counselor-in-Training (CIT)

The Junior counselor is also referred to as a counselor-in-training (CIT). The position is available to children from 13 to 15 years and serves as an avenue for them to gain leadership skills. Junior Counselors are supervised by the senior counselor.

Their duties are more of an assisting role than a major role. The junior camp counselor must be a self-starter and willing to take directives from others.

According to an official release by New York City Health Department,

Junior counselors at a day or traveling day camp shall be at least 15 years old (16 years old for overnight camps) and have at least two seasons of prior experience as a camper. — (NYC Health) 

Different Summer Camp Jobs and Staff Qualifications 

Camp Director 

According to NYC Health, the following qualification is essential for all Camp Directors:

  • The camp director must be at least 21 for a traveling day or day camp or 25 for overnight camps
  • Candidate must have a previous record of 24 weeks of administrative or supervisory role in camping or other relevant experience that the State Commissioner of Health and the Department recognizes
  • It is also mandatory for all camp directors to attend an NYC Health Department orientation session
  • They must also complete a training on how to recognize and report maltreatment, child abuse, and neglect

Eligible candidates must also receive an SCR clearance and complete a Criminal Conviction Statement Form. Preferable for the position of camp directors are medical doctors, nurses, doctor’s assistants, emergency medical practitioners, etc.

Trip Leader 

The Trip Leader has to oversee all trips out of the camp. The position of a trip leader requires you to be at least 18 years to be eligible. The Trip must be one with proven experience of out-of-camp trips at least three times. The Trip Leader must also have certified staff in Advanced First Aid and CPR as part of his team.

Activity Leader 

An activity leader ensures the children are safe when performing high-risk camp activities. The activity leader must be at least 18 years to qualify. He/she must also be competent in the activities the children engage in during camping. 

Related: What is Career Transition & How Does it work?

Top 5 Tips to land a Summer Counselor Role 

Below are the top 5 tips you need to know when searching for a summer camp.

#1. Grow Your Experience

If you are below 17, seek junior counselor roles or camp help jobs. They can be office assistant jobs, and kitchen and landscaping help positions. Many camps require applicants to be at least 17 years to qualify for a camp counselor role. However, some camps accept candidates below 16 years (it all depends on the state and hiring policy). You can always visit the camp hiring information for information.

If you wish to occupy the position of a counselor or other specialist positions, it is advisable to gain some experience working with children. Volunteering in after-school programs is a great way to acquire the experience you need.

Useful Tip: you can enquire from school teachers, counselors, coaches, clergymen, and college volunteer directors on the best ways to volunteer and gain experience.

#2. Begin Your Job Search Early

Always begin your job search early for the opportunity to apply for some of the best positions. Camps usually start their hiring process during the winter. Nonetheless, you can still find positions available in early summer.

#3. Have your specific targets when applying for a job

If your target is one of the special positions available, you must get the qualifications and certifications for the job beforehand. Also, gather the references that show that you are competent in the special position you are applying for.

Always have a clear definition of the type of camp you have in mind. Whether you want an overnight camp or a special requirement camp, ensure to be clear about it. Knowing what you want makes searching for jobs easier.

Note that there are camps available for special needs. If you are a social worker, a psychologist, or work in health-related fields, you may work in camps for those with special needs.

#4. Use Your Network

Coaches and teachers are often in charge of different camps. Therefore, enquire from those you are close to about the best places to apply for a camping job.

Also, if you were once a part of a camping program as a child, you may enquire from the camp director about openings. Many camps love to hire those that are familiar with their activities and terrain. Being a past camper gives you some advantage over those that are not. 

#5. Search Online

Utilize a variety of websites available for your job search. Sites like CampJobs, CampDepot, etc. are great places to begin your search. You can also search for camp jobs near me on Google for openings close to you. Some websites like CoolWorks provide reviews and job listings. You may also want to visit the site for more information. 

Many sites provide you the opportunity to apply directly online or contact the camp directors for further clarification. Some camps may hire for positions sometimes, but will not post them on job sites.

So, it is always best to reach out to the camp director even when you do not see any job openings. You can also send an inquiry letter to camps via email. Follow the link for a good example of an effective inquiry letter.

Youth organizations and local YMCAs usually organize summer camps. Contact them to know if they have openings. If you prefer a local opening, you should your town recreational department for a list of openings.

Tips for Applying for Summer Camp Jobs 

After the tedious camp selection, the next step is to apply. The following tips will help you during your application process.

Prepare your Resume 

When preparing your resume, ensure you highlight your relevant skills. Even if you do not have experience working at a camp before, experience with children is also a valid skill. Ensure to include all relevant certifications you have in your resume and application letter. 

Prepare for Interview 

While your resume is your first impression, your interview is your first physical contact with your employer. Therefore, you need to make it count. Interview preparation is essential, ensure to read through your prospective camp’s website before your interview. Understanding their philosophy, values, and history will make you prepare well to answer company-relevant questions.

Check the internet for relevant camp counselor interview questions to help you build confidence for your interview. Don’t forget to show your appreciation after your interview by sending a little appreciation letter to your interviewers. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Camp Counselor 

How old do you have to be a camp counselor?

There is no upper age limit for camp counselors. However, you must be at least 18 before June 1st to apply.

Is the position of a summer counselor open for only students?

No. the position is available to anybody that meets the requirements. Nonetheless, if you wish to work in supportive roles like the kitchen, then you need to be a student. 

Is it necessary to have experience working with children to be eligible?

No. However, you must work with children. Your experience working with children only adds an advantage.

Is a police check a requirement to go to summer camp?

Yes. A recent police check is a requirement for everyone going to work at a summer camp.

How long do summer camps in America last?

Summer camps in America usually last for 9 weeks. Camps open on various dates beginning from the first of May to the nineteenth of June. If you are available for the summer month, you can work at a summer camp.

Conclusion 

Besides the question, how old do you have to be a camp counselor it is also essential to decide what kind of counselor you want to become? Do you want to work in camps for special needs? It is essential to have a clear picture of what you want in mind when applying for a summer camp job. 

Working as a camp counselor is like working in every other field in the United States. Therefore, how old you have to be a camp counselor depends mainly on state and federal laws. While federal and most state laws require you to be at least 18 to be eligible to work, some camps allow people below the age of 17 to enroll for the position of a junior camp counselor and other assisting roles.

Becoming a summer camp counselor is a great way to gain experience and build good leadership potential. It is also a great way to bond with children, especially for those that love to work with kids. It is also a great way to explore new opportunities. 

Besides working as, a camp counselor, there are other opportunities available at summer camps you can explore. If you fall below the age requirement for a camp counselor, you can apply for a junior counselor position and start building your experience from there.

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