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Camp Jobs: Differentiating Camp Director Positions

There are wide assortment of different types of summer camps and so too are there a variety of different Camp Director positions which entail various roles and responsibilities.

Generally speaking, a “camp director” is a camp staff position of greatest authority with respect to summer camp operations.   Relatively small camps and summer programs typically have only one camp director (and is referred to as such) and is sometimes the owner of the camp; however, some larger organizations might have several camp directors with slightly different titles such as Executive Director, Program Director, Marketing Director, and Assistant Director … each of which are designed to fulfill a particular division of labor at a relatively high level of authority in the camp staff hierarchy.

Executive Director

An Executive Director is charged with ultimately overseeing all aspects of the camp entity and often more specifically with respect to administration aspects of running the organization as a whole.   An Executive Director might serve as a liason between a camp owner (or governing body) and other camp directors and staff.   While executive directors might generally be accustomed to administrative roles at camps, this is not to say many will not engage in day to day in the field management and oversight of camp operations during camp as well as events during the off-season.

Program Director

A Program Director’s role will vary from camp to camp; however, such a position is usually closely intertwined with the formulation, implementation, and management of a summer camp’s program as well as direct administration and supervision of camp staff.   Often times, the Program Director is simply referred to as the “Camp Director”.   Such a position generally involves a critical “boots on the ground / life blood” connection between the day to day activities of how a camp operates in real time in relation to a camp’s general and specific programming architecture.   As a Program Director, it may be necessary to wear several hats during the course of a camp’s primary session(s):  one might be charged with developing schedules, procedures, and other camp routines.  A Program Director may also be directly involved with assigning campers and staff to particular groups, units, or cabins.  Organization of general records and inventories, as well as supervision of the provision of food services might also be shouldered by the Camp Director.    Additional responsibilities might include the oversight and management of facilities during the “shoulder” and off-seasons (i.e. pre and post-camp programs such as mother-daughter/father-son, family camp, alumni events, etc.).   Duties will also often involve preparing the camp grounds and facilities for use by campers and other attendees, pre-camp training of new and existing staff, as well as coordination of closing day procedures.   Lastly, but of the utmost importance, the safety and well being of the entire camp ultimately falls squarely upon the shoulders of the camp director; who is charged with generally establishing a safe camp environment across the board and insuring adequate medical services are available – along with a comprehensive crisis management plan.

Marketing Director

Mostly found in larger camp organizations, the role of a Marketing Director is often similar to marketing positions in other non-camp related business settings; typically responsible for promotional campaigns and activities involving both online and print advertising, branding, and public relations.   Such a role may also involve establishing and/or continuing relations with alumni and families.

Assistant Director

Just as the title implies, an assistant director is a camp staff position which incurs a delegation of authority from either the primary Camp Director  or possibly a role in tandem with one of the other special directors (i.e. Assistant Marketing Director, Assistant Executive Director).    Assistant directors will often serve as an extra set of hands in the field for the camp director.  The level of authority granted to assistant directors can vary tremendously depending upon the situation.  In many scenarios, assistant directors are crucial leaders in the day-to-day operations of a camp and often serve as a “first contact” (of authority) for all camp counselors and camp staff in the field.  Similarly, some camps empower assistant directors to take the initiative with respect to implementing camp programming on a daily basis.     In the setting of a small summer camp, there might be only or two  Assistant Directors – one of which might considered the “second in command” or the Camp Director’s “right hand”.  At the other end of the spectrum, in the context of a larger camp organization there might be quite a number of assistant directors which have authority greater than most camp staff; however, work in concert as more of a coordinated team of assistants with a well defined system of division of labor.   In such cases, given the hectic pace during camp and the great range of projects and responsibilities facing a Camp Director during the off-season,  an Assistant Directors are often tasked with a lot of the “busy work” to keep the system humming along.

 Qualifications for various director positions will vary depending upon the scope of the particular position and may include:

  • A degree in camp administration or related programming or educational field
  • A Director certification by the American Camp Association
  • Experience in camp administration such as head counselor
  • Demonstrate an ability to supervise both campers and staff.
  • Ability to interact with camp families and the general public.
  • Various other certifications (i.e. first aid, CPR, etc.)
  • Organizational skills

While it might be convenient to try to distinguish camp director positions on paper, the fact of the matter is that each situation regarding how a particular director position is defined at any given camp will be different.  To this end, it is important to have an open and in depth discussion with the camp owner (or individual in charge of hiring) about the scope of the director position you have an interest for being hired.    Sometimes situations are more fluid than others in terms of overlap of duties and if you excel in a particular skill set, it is possible you might be given responsibilities which might not otherwise have been afforded to others in the same position.