Camp counselors plan, organize and supervise the activities of children and teens in a wide variety of settings, including day camps and resident camps. The job of a camp counselor often is seasonal, with the highest demand for workers during the summer months. The qualifications needed to become a camp counselor can vary widely by camp, but you generally should enjoy working with children, be patient and mature, love the outdoors and be physically fit, because many camps involve outdoor physical activities. Many camp counselor positions, especially at resident camps, don't allow for a lot of privacy or time off, so being OK with living in close quarters with others and having the energy to work long hours are important.
Age requirements to become a camp counselor vary depending on the camp and job duties involved, but the minimum age to work as a camp counselor generally is 16. Some camps might hire junior counselors younger than 16. Others require their camp counselors to have at least a year of college education, so those counselors would be in their late teens or older.
Many camps teach specialized skills to campers. Having a specialized skill, such as playing a musical instrument, knowing how to ride horses or having experience in archery, can be helpful if you want to become a camp counselor. Certification can be required if you are teaching water sports or other activities that potentially are dangerous. For water sports, a lifeguard certificate or lifesaving certificate usually is required. Archery certification to teach children the sport safely is another example of a certification that might be required.
When you begin your job search, targeting open camp positions that require counselors with your specialized skill can be a good way to find a job that you will enjoy. Many positions require no specialized activity experience at all — enthusiasm, reliability and a desire to make a different in children's lives are the main qualifications. Positions of all types can be found through national and regional organizations, such as the American Camp Association in the United States, as one example. Other ways to find jobs include contacting local youth organizations such as the YMCA, searching online for "camp counselor jobs" and contacting city parks and recreation departments.
After you have located a job for which you'd like to apply, one thing that can help you get that job and become a camp counselor is to highlight in your application any experience that you have with children, such as babysitting or working as a daycare provider. If you have a special skill or skills, include those, especially if the ad for the job has requested that applicants have those skills. Include any certifications you have and any training in first aid. If you have worked in previous jobs in leadership roles or held a leadership position in school, include that information. Any college classes or coursework you have taken also should be noted in your application.