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National Parks & Summer Camps: Essential Sanctuaries in the Modern World

National Parks & Summer Camps: Essential Sanctuaries in the Modern World

August 25, 2016 marked the National Park Service’s Centennial (100th) anniversary. Some might say the National Park system is our nation’s “best idea” – for a great number of reasons; some of the most poignant of which can not be easily translated into mere words as a substitute for one’s presence amidst the sublime natural surroundings National Parks afford to those who cross their often frail boundaries into the unique ancient landscapes and habitats contained therein.

A long range historical perspective might reveal how the establishment of the National Park Service represented an effort to not only preserve our natural treasures, but to establish a foundation and cooperative framework to afford what might be considered the equivalent of large scale “communal camp facilities” for generations to engage and establish connections in perpetuity — amidst a contemporary world which often bombards us with a constant stream of trivial information and unending artificial stimuli.

Just as National Parks provide a physical venue for people to come together and perhaps form unseen yet enduring bonds with untrammeled natural landscapes and wildlife, summer camps might be thought of in a similar light in so far as providing a “sanctuary” from some of the more obtrusive aspects of modern life which might affect young people’s ability to better engage in meaningful social interaction and relationships with other individuals at a formative age.

As the sprawl of modern life has enveloped much of our natural surroundings, perhaps so too have technological advancements encumbered relationships among people – young and old.  As a society and individuals, we’ve seemed to have generally drifted further and further into the individualized compartments of virtual worlds, electronic devices, and gadgetry; often at the expense of establishing and developing meaningful bonds with others – in real time, in person.

Summer camps offer a forum for kids to establish real life relationships with one another; many of whom are experiencing similar issues in navigating the complicated waters of modern life. A camp environment may facilitate more thoughtful conversation and interaction with others “in the moment” vs. the often caricatured reclusive behavior of reflexively retreating to one’s mobile device or gadget.

In a similar light as National Parks, some camps are able to provide a direct connection to our natural environment at various levels of immersion. Given the apparent decreasing scope of nature (with a capital “N”) from our collective consciousness, the value of such a portal is immense; even as a simple reminder to all of us regarding our essence as human beings and what ultimately sustains us as creatures who inhabit the Earth.

Summer camps come in all shapes and sizes with respect to:  locale, facilities, and programming emphasis.  Likewise, not all camps take place outdoors in a natural setting; however, even camps that utilize an indoor facility(s) still offer a meaningful venue to congregate and interact with others in a positive fashion.

It is difficult to refute how technology has improved the human condition – offering tremendous breakthroughs and conveniences on a number of fronts. However, without the adoption and nourishment of constructs pertaining to real life bonds and relationships to people and the natural environment, technological improvements will invariably not live up to their potential to help people to prosper;  instead, perhaps even serve to perpetuate and amplify disconnects between people and nature alike.

In addition to such commonalities, the National Park Service and summer camps also share the same general historical era with respect to some of their early implementations. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, had extended federal protection to an unprecedented amount of land and wildlife during his terms in office from 1901-1909; a combined effort including: five National Parks, eighteen National Monuments, and the beginning of the United States Forest Service – totaling nearly 250 million acres.  It was on the heels the Roosevelt administration the National Park Service formally sprang into existence in 1916.

During the same approximate time frame, the first traditional residential summer camps in the United States started to appear in the early part of the 20th Century, such as the following summer camps which are still in operation to date:

Awosting (1900)

YMCA Camp Mason (1900)

Frost Valley YMCA (1901)

Surprise Lake Camp (1902)

Camp Highlands for Boys (1904)

Pok-O-MacCready Camps (1905)

YMCA Camp Lakewood (1905)

Camp O-AT-KA (1906)

YMCA Camp Copneconic (1915)

Fairview Lake YMCA Camps (1915)

Keystone Camp (1916)

For well over 100 years, enrollment in summer camp programs has been strong and durable; helping to provide children growing up in the midst of unbelievable technological advancements to be afforded the essential tools for establishing and improving interpersonal dynamics at a young age — holding great promise that such can be imparted from one generation to the next in the years to come.

Likewise, National Parks have been a huge success – especially in recent times – with an ever increasing number of park visitors from year to year.  Even in spite of the potential detrimental impact to park infrastructure from high visitor usage, it is a heartening sign in a contemporary life filled with distractions to see our National Parks being “loved to death” – for it might very well represent the heartbeat of a society trying to maintain its way in quickly changing and fast paced world.


New Feature: Lightbox for Photos

A new tool has been recently installed to allow visitors to more effectively look at photos and other multi-media elements housed within camp listings and search results.

The lightbox photo interface is a more elegant system to display photos; helping to minimize viewer distraction by isolating the target image from other elements which may appear within the viewer’s display. �Upon clicking a smaller “thumbnail” photo, a larger full-sized version of the image is presented; overlayed & centered upon an opaque background — providing an optimal contrast to facilitate an improved focus of attention in regard to the photo content.

Viewing photos on a mobile device via lightbox is now more user friendly than our previous system – which had relied upon opening a new browser popup window to display multi-media.

Please note: it is necessary to have JavaScript activated within your web browser in order to engage and fully experience the lightbox interface and related effects.

Are you a director seeking to include photos within your listing on the Camp Channel? Visit our camper recruitment listing options page, or contact us if you have any questions or need assistance.

Improvements to Keyword Search

We are excited to announce the release of a new feature to our Keyword Search: the ability to filter & narrow search results according to location, camp type, and gender. This new feature is especially useful when trying to wade through a long list of results on a mobile device and generally improves efficiency for all platforms – including desktop computers.

Please keep in mind: in addition to our Keyword Search, the Camp Channel offers several different methods and search tools designed to locate and discover programs which match your particular criteria and interests:

Full Camp Search
Search or Browse by State
Browse by Specialty / Program Emphasis

At one end of the spectrum, our Full Camp Search offers the ability to define your search criteria with great detail and precision. Alternatively, you are also able to peruse the Camp Channel’s directory structure by browsing according to location or program emphasis. Likewise, within any given U.S. State or Canadian Province page, you are able to perform an in depth state/province specific search.

Located somewhere in the “middle” of the spectrum of search tools offered on, our Keyword Search allows you to enter keywords and phrases of your choice – resulting in matches when corresponding listings contain such language within their descriptive text. Likewise, the Keyword Search allows you to look up the particular name of any given camp (be sure to check corresponding box). Generally speaking, the Keyword Search is a versatile and free form method which works “outside of the box” of our defined directory structure and is just one of several tools to assist in your camp search efforts.

New Responsive Web Design: Mobile Friendly

Over the past six months, the Camp Channel has been rolling out a new Responsive web design (RWD) interface designed to improve viewing and functionality for visitors who utilize mobile devices and tablets to access the Camp Channel. In a nutshell, RWD adjusts how information is arranged and displayed on various sized screens.

We are excited to to be able to provide a more robust user experience for individuals who access the Camp Channel on devices other than desktop computers. While the initial launch of our new interface was both a significant and major overhaul to our directory of summer camps and programs, we anticipate several more subsequent releases to improve and refine appearance and functionality over the upcoming weeks and months leading up to the summer of 2016.

If you have any general or particular suggestions / thoughts you’d like to convey to us regarding our new design, please feel free to send us an email and we’ll be happy to consider your ideas for future implementation into our website design.

Cell Phone Policies at Summer Camps

While many summer camps are located in relatively remote locations, there are nonetheless very few areas which are completely off the grid these days regarding cell phone service areas. Regardless of coverage, it seems the majority of camps have adopted a “no cell phone” policy of one form or another; providing a distinct set of rules and guidelines which might prohibit campers to possess or use cell phones (as well as other particular personal electronic devices) while at summer camp.

As a parent, it is important to learn about out your camp’s cell phone policy and the rational behind it. Hopefully, the camp director has communicated your camp’s policy – one way or the other – regarding cell phones usage. If not, be sure to check the “what not to bring to camp list” or inquire directly with the camp office … since many camps which have a no cell phone policy will confiscate all mobile devices until the camp session has concluded.

While it might be tempting for a parent to try and circumvent a camp’s no cell phone policy, there are many reasons to observe and respect such rules. For starters, compliance with all camp policies — not simply picking & choosing only those which one likes — provides children with a good example of how to follow rules at camp which have been designed for everyone to get along with one another. Perhaps most importantly, a cell phone represents a tether to one’s parents and may serve as an impediment for a child to learn how to solve problems on their own in what might otherwise be a structured and supportive environment for growth and independence.

Not only are cell phones expensive and can get stolen or lost, but their usage can interfere with and sabotage a child’s overall experience at camp … such that a child may immerse oneself in technology or communications from a far at the expense of getting to know one’s fellow campers and counselors in the immediate here and now. Summer camp offers a great opportunity to learn about and navigate social situations while not being constantly connected to & immersed within a digital/virtual world. A no-electronics policy at camp might actually be one of the very few occasions a child has to take a real hiatus from their prized gadgets and the constant drone of repetitively using the controls of an electronic device. It might actually be a welcome surprise for a child to know they are able to connect with other humans without busily moving their fingers over a screen, or simply being able to enjoy physically turning the pages of a book while reading on a rainy day. In the end, most campers agree it’s well worth it.

For those especially anxious parents who simply want to keep in touch, there is always the old fashioned way to connect via letter writing. At the end of the day, nothing beats a letter from home! Likewise, it can only be helpful to a child in this modern digital age to reinforce the traditional skill of sitting down with a simple piece of paper and pen in hand to communicate one’s thoughts. If immediacy of contact is of importance, many camps offer the ability to email campers at camp. Likewise, some camps will publish photos of campers during camp to their website.

Cell phone policy for staff? Many camps also have restrictions for cell phone usage by camp counselors and staff such that they are only to be used off duty and not in the presence of campers. Likewise, campers are also typically prohibited from making calls or sending text messages on counselor’s cell phones.

While it seem the majority of camps generally prohibit cell phones outright, other personal electronic devices (i.e. iPods, MP3 players, mobile gaming devices, etc.) have a much greater variance of rules from camp to camp. It is important to specifically inquire with the camp office about rules governing any given electronic device your child is considering taking to camp.

In the cases of camps or programs where cell phones are allowed, it is important to understand and respect rules which stipulate when, where, and how often a camper is permitted to use their cell phone.

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.


Winter Camps & Programs

With the winter solstice and holiday season quickly approaching, it might be of interest to know there are many “camps” which are gearing up for their winter sessions; designed to provide programming options for youth during winter break from school.

While some winter camps might be tailored specifically for winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, etc., many will extend their same core programming activities offered in the summer, but packaged for a condensed session during winter break.  Depending upon the location in the country and the nature of any given “winter camp”, such sessions may be held outside; however, many will be held entirely indoors … especially with respect to camps which are located in cold weather climates or those which offer programming which can easily be held at a more generic indoor venue or facility such as:   arts, academics, computers, dance, drama, music, martial arts, etc.

Winter camps which engage in more specialized athletic activities may also be held at indoor facilities specifically designed for particular sports or activities such as:  tennis, hockey, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, skateboarding, etc.

If you happen to live in a region of the country where the year round weather is suitable for outdoor activities such as Southern California, Florida, etc., you might find a wider selection of outdoor winter camps and related activities available.

A keyword search for “winter camps” on the Camp Channel currently reveals upwards of about 75 different listings which have made mention of some form of winter activities offered.  It is important to note that many of these camps and organizations may provide a winter session as an option in light of a much larger array of summer session program offerings.  In other words, camps which are primarily engaged in summer programming might not necessarily advertise their winter camp in the forefront and you might need to inquire further to obtain more information or details.

Many religious based camps offer winter retreats and other programming options, which may include programming for the entire family.

Another common program appears to be “Winter  Zoo Camps” which take place at various Zoos; providing a fun, interesting, and educational experience for kids.

It is important to note that winter camps come in all shapes and sizes in terms of the type of programming offered, facilities, and other important aspects you may wish to consider.   Some might be more akin to a class or workshop, while other programs might be setup more along the lines of a traditional camp in so far as social activities and interactions are concerned.   Similarly, some winter camps are designed to be mini-vacations or getaways – whereby you or your child will sleepover at the camp or excursion, while other programs might occur during the day only and it would be necessary to go back home (or to one’s accommodations) at night.   Regardless, winter camps allow kids and older individuals to engage in both fun and educational activities in a social setting during a time of the season which often limits interaction with others due to the seasonal nature of winter weather being typically much colder/harsher.

Regardless of what type of winter camp you might be interested in attending or sending your child, it is important to inquire with the camp director about the specific nature of a winter program you might be considering.


Annual Camp Reunions & Off-Season Gatherings

It doesn’t have to be summer for children who have attended the same camp to get together.  In fact, during the so-called “off-season” (when camp is not in session), many summer camps will hold reunions to allow kids a chance to catch up with one another in a fun setting.

Adults might be most familiar with high school reunions – which occur once every five or ten years (long past being a student); however, annual camp reunions or other related social gatherings are often geared to kids who have attended camp the previous summer and perhaps plan on going back for the next.   This is not to say there aren’t long-term camp alumni reunions geared mainly toward adults who attended camp long ago (which we will address reunions of this type in another article).

While some day camps will hold off-season reunions or other social gatherings, residential camps will typically be most apt to promote and host such events given the nature of an overnight camp being more of a continuous “home away from home” where campers and counselors may have spent upwards of 8 weeks together as an extended family.  Likewise, residential camps may attract campers from all over the country (or world), whereas campers who attend day camps typically live in the same or adjacent neighborhoods and see one another regularly in school during off-season.  Nonetheless, day camp reunions provide an opportunity for kids who may have spent considerable time together during the course of the summer to assemble in the context of their “camp family” which shares a common bond away from school.

Although it varies from camp to camp, reunions may incorporate:  a meal or snacks (such as an ice cream social), a photo slideshow or short video, as well as fun games, activities and camp traditions which allow campers to interact with one another and re-establish bonds created during the course of the previous summer.  Sometimes small prizes, mementos, and other memorabilia are awarded during reunions to reflect achievements.   Often times, previous or future counselors who live the area where the reunion takes place may attend the event.   Most of all, reunions are meant to be a shared fun experience for campers while camp is not in session.

It is also possible to see an “open house” run in conjunction with an annual reunion to allow future or prospective campers to gain a first hand experience of the social fabric which binds the camp community together.

If a residential camp has several different main locations across the country where campers reside, there might be several reunions located in different cities.    Not all camps hold reunions, so you might want to contact your camp’s director to inquire as to whether your camp holds a reunion or any other sort of off-season gathering; however, if they do, chances are you’ll be informed of the date, location, and other pertinent details.



Camp Directors: Keeping Your Web Listings Current

There are invariably a number of different locations your camp might have information published about itself on the internet:  on one extreme, there is your camp’s official website where you have complete autonomy and control.  On the other extreme, there are locations where information might appear about your camp which is completely beyond your control … such as user submitted review sites.     Somewhere in the middle of these extremes, your camp might be listed within several specialty niche directories (i.e.,, etc.).   You may also find articles about your camp which appear inside online newspapers, magazines, and trade publications.   It is possible you might not even be aware of all the various nooks and crannies information has surfaced on the web about your camp.   In some cases, you might be able to easily update such information; however, in other instances you might be left with very little recourse.

The purpose of this article is to focus on sites which are typically under your control to some extent:  in particular, web directories for summer camps.    Given that information on the web can “live forever”, you might come across info about your camp on a directory site which is severely outdated or perhaps no longer applicable / relevant to your camp’s current program (i.e. – dates, rates, programs, etc.). Most camp directories will likely seek to maintain accurate information about all of it’s member camps, so there is in all likelihood a method provided to update your camp’s individual listing.

There is normally a link found on most camp directories specifically intended for Camp Directors which will typically provide details about how to update your listing.  It is important to keep in mind that specialized camp directories operate differently in so far as how they’re setup in terms of:  data structure, listing options, what information can be included within the listing, how specific fields are displayed, limits on the number of selections which can be denoted, what information can be displayed, whether multi-media elements can be included, free or paid, etc.   So, while you might have a desire to simply email a fact sheet with all of your marketing material to all directories in hopes they’ll simply make the necessary modifications for you, it is important to understand that most directories don’t process info in such a way and more than likely will ask that you follow their specific procedure.  So, it is ultimately up to you, as an authorized representative of your camp, to visit each directory individually in order to submit your information and be sure it is included appropriately according to the parameters of the respective website’s “way of doing things”.

For this reason (and others), it is recommended that you start a spreadsheet of all directory locations your camp might be listed and include the following columns (at a minimum):

  • Directory Name
  • Web Address of Directory
  • Date of Last Update (of your listing)
  • Method or Location To Update (and any login credentials)
  • Listed Contact Name (of camp representative)
  • Listed Email Address (of camp)
  • Date of Any Photos or Logo (that appear within your listing)
  • Camp Listing URL (as it appears within directory)
  • Directory Email Address (for support)
  • Special Restrictions, Allowances, General Notes
  • Free or Paid

If you maintain a paid listing, you may also want to also include columns for:

  • Start of Term
  • End of Term
  • Type of Listing
  • Renewal Terms
  • Cost

Obviously, there are many other columns you can opt to include which might assist you in managing your camp’s online presence within the directory space.

While you might be aware of several directory sites under which your camp appears, it is very possible there might be some which you are unaware.  To help discover sites which might not be readily apparent, it is suggested that you perform at least a minimal “audit” to determine the extent to which information associated with your camp might be present on the web.    Even spending an hour or two searching your camp’s exact name on your favorite search engine will likely reveal much useful information.   TIP:  if your camp’s actual name is somewhat generic (i.e. “Volleyball Camp”), it might be necessary to include a more specific identifier in your audit searches such as the city your camp resides (i.e. “Volleyball Camp Portland, OR”) in order to be able to better reveal information on the web about your camp.

In the course of your audit, try to harvest and include within your spreadsheet as much information as possible under the suggested column names listed above.   It is up to you whether you’d like to update your directory listings “as you go”, or simply compile the information at first then go back and address each directory individually.   Regardless, having this consolidated information will assist you in the near term and ultimately into the future … since invariably there will be a minimum of SOME information which changes about your camp which will need to be updated in subsequent seasons.  Similarly, having such a spreadsheet to hand off to a new camp director can prove to be an invaluable peice of informatin in the case of staff turnover within your camp.

While looking through camp directory sites, one very common theme you might encounter is the case of a previous camp director or staff member having used their contact information – especially, their specific email address within your listing.   Obviously, situations will vary from camp to camp; however, the summer camp market in general does reflect a relatively moderate to high degree of turnover at the senior staff level over the long term.  So, it’s very possible you may have inherited the task of updating 6-12 different directory sites which currently reflect the old director’s email and other contact information.   This is actually a relatively common issue if the camp or respective staff member made it a policy to utilize an individual’s email address ( vs. that of “role” email address (,,, etc.).    The use of a “role” email address can reduce a lot of such issues related to turnover … since you can simply leave “” in place throughout the web and simply internally route all email destined to -> (or whomever if Jane no longer works at camp in the future).

Another common issue relates to replacing an antiquated logo, video clips, or photos which might display campers or staff from several years ago (who are now much older), or who might be engaged in activities which are no longer offered or perhaps under a different set of safety regulations which might now require more stringent safeguards.    So, it is important to keep track of your camp’s images and videos which appear on directories and be sure to evaluate their present day suitability and/or effectiveness.

While there are certainly many individual issues, perhaps the most important aspect of maintaining an organized and consolidated inventory of your camp’s presence on directory sites is ultimately being able to present camp families with accurate, up-to-date, and non-conflicting information about your camp.

If you haven’t already done so, please take a few minutes to update your camp’s listing on the Camp Channel.

Summer Camp Jobs: What To Expect For Compensation

Being a summer camp counselor can be a very rewarding experience for young adults which pays off numerous intangible dividends on many fronts for both counselors and campers alike; however, the question of what form and level of compensation one should expect from a summer camp job can vary tremendously across different situations and circumstances.

At one end of the spectrum, some camps – such as some special needs programs – may rely entirely upon volunteers or interns to comprise the bulk of their staff and perhaps only provide “room and board”.   On the other side of the coin, a year round camp director position at a large private facility may require a substantial and full time investment along with a very high level of responsibility; which might entail signficant monetary compensation along with a full benefits package.

While the above extremes do exist, the compensation levels for the majority of camp jobs fall somewhere in the middle and typically depend upon several factors such as:

  • Type of Position
  • Level of Authority
  • Number of Years at a Camp
  • Level of Prior Experience:  Qualifications, Certifications, Past Experience
  • Demand for particular positions
  • Length of Camp Session(s)
  • Profile of Camp Program

As a general activity counselor, one’s pay scale is typically determined by one’s prior experience or number of years at a given camp.   While it might be viewed as a “entry level position”, general camp counselors are the backbone of any given camp’s operations in so far as direct interactions with campers.

Kitchen staff, office, and facility maintenance positions are all necessary components of many camp operations and are essential to allowing the overall system to function smoothly in many respects.   It is important to distinguish levels of responsibility among such positions in so far as compensation expectations.  For example, an individual who’s duties are confined to washing dishes and tables in the mess hall should expect to receive less pay vs. the head cook/chef who’s responsibilities might include selecting, ordering, and preparing food for the entire camp.  There can be similar distinctions within both office and maintenance departments of a camp.  By the same token, if you have acquired a great deal of experience regarding any particular facet, you might be rewarded with a higher level of compensation.

Many residential camps will have a registered nurse on the premises and some will have a doctor.   Since the level of experience and qualifications for either of these positions is relatively high compared to most other positions, the relative pay scale will typically reflect such a distinction.  With respect to doctors, some camps may try to offer individuals the ability to bring their families up to camp for an extended amount of time as part of a compensation package.

In a similar light, other qualified speciality positions such as certified Lifeguards, Horseback Riding Instructors, Musicians, Sailing Instructors, Computer Instructors, etc. also have specific areas of expertise and unique qualifications which might be in high demand for a particular summer camp situation.   Some camps offer certification training; however, it is important to learn whether or not you will be responbible for payment for any given course you might elect to take … as some camps will foot the bill and others will not necessarily.

Laundry facilities are often made available as well, but it is important to inquire about particulars.

Room and board are also typically factored into the overall compensation package.   Residential camps typically provide staff with some form of sleeping arrangements as well as three meals a day.  While day camps normally do not provide housing for counselors, they often provide at least lunch.

The use of camp facilities can also be considered a benefit.   Some camps might allow counselors the ability to water-ski, sail, and participate in other camp related activities on their days off if it does not interfere with the regular day-to-day operations of camp and campers.

Transportation to and from camp depends a lot upon the particular nature of the camp.   Day camps require counselors and staff to commute to and from camp on a daily basis.  Depending upon one’s particular position, one might be able (or required) to ride the bus and assist with supervision of children who are being picked up and dropped off to and from camp.  On the other hand, you might need to arrange for transportation independently.

Time off is another factor to consider.   It is important to understand the allocation of time off – especially at a residential camp – prior to committing to a full summer.  Some camps might offer a single day per week, while others might not have any time available beyond an hour here or there during the days/nights.

Pre-camp is often a required training period prior to camp as well as post camp – the period directly after camp sessions end where facilities and equipment are “broken down” and put away – might also be factored into the equation.  If you are expected to appear at camp for duties prior to or after the primary camp session, your compensation may or may not reflect your time investment during these periods.

So, at this point you might be wondering about the actual wages you might be able to earn at a summer camp?  It is difficult to answer this question with any sort of consistency or authority given the great number of different camp job situations which exist.  However, to give you a very broad and general idea about what to possibly expect regarding direct wages, we’ve compiled some data from the Camp Channel Job Board with respect to reported direct monetary wages for the summer of 2013:

  • the average (mean) range was $1443 – $2207
  • the highest wage offered was $6,000

It is important to note the data regarding wages above were solicited by asking camp directors to report the lowest and highest wages for “an entire camp season”.  Since the length of a season can vary greatly among camps (typically from one to eight weeks), the average range does not reflect a consistent unit of time and should be interpreted as only a very loose approximation to give you an idea of direct monetary compensation.  Along the same lines, it is also difficult to flush out the various other forms of non-monetary benefits (as noted above) which might also be included in a compensation package in so far as being able to compare “apples to apples” of an overall compensation package.

Bonuses are always possible, but unless explicitly detailed in your work agreement should always be looked upon as an unexpected additional income.

Given the wide variety of different types of summer camp jobs, it is important to inquire with the camp director as to the particulars of your situation.