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A guide to working at American summer camps

If you’re looking to experience the culture of the USA while getting paid, consider working at an American summer camp.

Summer camps are big business in the United States, with many children spending annual summers at various locations across the country. While at camp, kids usually learn more about the outdoors, take part in sports events and team-building activities, and make friends for life.

Luckily for us Brits, there’s no shortage of American summer camp jobs. Many organisations work mainly with international applicants, offering students and young people the chance to spend their summer boosting their CVs, earning money, and exploring a different country.

If you’re considering crossing the pond for your next seasonal job, read our guide to working at an American summer camp.

What is an American summer camp?

In the United States, a summer camp is where children from ages six to sixteen develop skills outside a school setting. Activities typically include adventure sports, arts and crafts, musical events, and more.

While summer camps aren’t a big thing here in the UK, in America, over one million children, teens and adults attend or participate in summer camps between June and August. Camp lengths range from one to eight weeks, making it a growing, multi-million-dollar industry with excellent seasonal job opportunities.

American summer camp jobs

Jobs at American summer camps vary depending on the camp type. However, most summer camps in the USA employ general camp counsellors.

Camp counsellors are responsible for the wellbeing, safety, and enjoyment of those visiting the camp. They help run activities, supervise mealtimes, and are generally around the campers for most of the day.

Some camps may also have special needs counsellors to assist campers with specific requirements — you’ll need prior experience for these roles.

Workers with specific skills or certifications, e.g., performing arts, water sports, or horse riding, may get hired as activity counsellors. Activity counsellors lead camp activities and share their expertise with campers.

Why work at an American summer camp?

Aside from the chance to earn money and experience life in a different part of the world, working at an American summer camp has many other benefits.

Summer camp jobs look great on applications and CVs. Mentioning your camp experience on degree personal statements or job applications shows the university or employer your experience beyond educational and professional settings. They’ll admire your team-building experience, leadership skills, and confidence in working outside your comfort zone.

Working at American summer camps is a fantastic way to meet new, like-minded people. With most camp workers coming from outside the US, mainly the UK and Australia, you’ll make friends for life either back home or across the globe.

The events aren’t just for campers. Most American summer camp workers experience a new activity during their time, embracing the chance to try new things in a unique location.

After camp, you can spend the rest of your summer travelling around the States using your generous salary. Some American summer camps give workers time to explore the rest of the country before their visa expires, so you can plan a fantastic travel itinerary before you set off.

How much do American summer camps pay?

Salaries at American summer camps vary depending on your camp and package price.

For example, Camp America gives workers ‘pocket money’ after camp ends, which can be between USD $850-$1,350 for first-time placements. However, the package costs a minimum of £449, which includes job placement, visa sponsorship, food, accommodation, and 24-hour support.

Most summer camp companies work this way — paying a flat fee for the application process and placement and offering ‘pocket money’ or ‘spending money’ once camp finishes.

BUNAC is another popular choice for UK applicants. Depending on the job role, workers can receive up to USD $2,000 in spending money. First-time applicants can expect to pay £369 for this package while returning workers pay £299.

You’ll also need to factor in J-1 visa costs (around USD $160), a police background check (roughly £55), flights, travel insurance, and additional spending money.

What skills do you need for American summer camps?

To pass the interview and make the most of your American summer camp experience, it helps to possess the following:

  • Willingness to get stuck in and help out – camp counsellors are all-encompassing jobs
  • Flexibility – available to leave from May or June
  • Friendliness – you’ll be working with children and people from several backgrounds
  • Patience – working with young people in a busy environment requires patience and consideration
  • Confidence – you’ll be temporarily moving to a new country and taking on a fast-paced role

Camp America applicants are also required to list three special skills. Focus on high-demand skills or camp activities, such as archery, rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming, tennis, etc.

Previous volunteer experience can also aid your application, as it shows your compassion and teamwork skills.

It’s recommended you make your social media profiles private or child-friendly to give organisations an excellent first impression. You’ll also need references from people who know you professionally. References can be from tutors, employers, or workers from previous volunteering roles.

How old do you have to be to work at an American summer camp?

You must be at least 18 years old for most summer camp jobs in America. Some roles also require you to be a full-time student, which is why many university students spend their summers working in the States.

For example, only full-time students can apply for Camp America’s Campower roles, but anyone can apply for the Counsellor positions.

BUNAC only takes applicants between the ages of 18-30. They must also have previous experience working with children and no criminal record.

American summer camp interviews

To secure a summer camp job in the USA, you must first ace the interview.

Applications begin online, where you usually set up a profile and provide your personal information, references, and previous experience.

You’ll then attend an interview with a member of the camp organisation, where they may ask questions such as:

  • Why do you want to work as a camp counsellor?
  • What qualities do you have for the camp counsellor role?
  • Give an example of when you’ve had to deal with a stressful situation
  • What is your experience working with children?
  • Do you enjoy working within a team?
  • What special skills do you have?

As with any interview, it’s essential to emphasise your strengths, demonstrate you are hard-working, reliable, and adaptable, and prepare a couple of questions to ask at the end.

Once you pass the interview, camps can view your profile and offer you a place at their location.

Which American summer camp is best?

We’ve already mentioned a couple of organisations — Camp America and BUNAC — which are the most popular ways to secure a role at an American summer camp.

However, Americamp, CCUSA, Skilled Summers, and USA Summer Camp also provide some of the best American summer camps to work at. Each organisation offers various salary packages and costs for comparison.

Return from a job at a summer camp in the USA full of new memories and lifetime friendships, and rest your head happy at a Pickard student property. Located across the Leeds area, we offer one-bedroom homes to 9-bedroom house shares, perfect for university students looking to embrace a welcoming lifestyle.

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