Spend a summer in a Summer Camp in the USA

Every USA summer around 9 million children aged between 6-16 years head off to summer camps. You may have seen movies about summer camps including Camp Rock. With around 12,000 camps this tradition requires people of varying ages, mostly 18-35 year olds to join the camps for the summer doing a variety of jobs. Ranging from cooking to running activities like kayaking, swimming, arts and crafts, archery, music, etc.

There are 3 main types of summer camp. Private camps which can be quite exclusive and may be specific such as a music camp. Traditional Residential Camps which are long established and cater to children from middle to high income families. And which are situated in scenic places and offer a wide variety of water and land activities. Agency Camps which are run by organisations such as the YMCA, scout organisations and church groups. Campers are usually from a wide variety of backgrounds at these camps. No matter which camp you find yourself at they need staff to help them run smoothly and to ensure the kids enjoy their summer.

Types of jobs in USA Summer Camp

Most find a position as a camp counsellor where you will be assigned a cabin full (usually 8-10) kids to look after. It will be up to you to ensure they do the right things at the right times and you will be responsible for your group 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will be your responsibility for planning and leading all the experiences and activities plus general safety of your charges. You eat with them, spend all your time with them and even sleep in the same cabin as them.

You may also be in charge of certain activities. So if you have specialist skills in karate, sewing, hiking, windsurfing, sailing, horse riding, playing a musical instrument, etc. these skills will stand you in good stead for a specialist counsellor position.

If you would like to work in a camp but not as a counsellor there are other opportunities. There are positions in catering (cooking, serving the food) and maintenance (gardening, laundry assistant, cleaning).

Camps are found in many places across the USA. Mostly in very scenic locations like beside a lake or in the mountains allowing for many outdoor activities.

Is being a camp counsellor for you?

Being a counsellor isn’t for everyone. There are long hours, living conditions are basic and looking after kids may not be your thing! I had one friend who just loved being a counsellor and has spent a number of summers being a camp counsellor. Then another friend hated it and won’t say why he left after only 2 days.

What’s in it for you?

Apart from being offered a great experience you will get a J1 visa allowing you to work in a summer camp. You will also receive a weekly wage (around $250), accommodation and meals and be allowed 6 weeks to travel around the USA after the camp concludes on the J1 visa. So after you finish working on the summer camp ensure you have your travel sorted. You will definitely need accommodation. My two go-to sites are HostelWorld for a bed in a hostel and Booking.com if I am feeling I want something more upmarket. If you don’t want to travel independently on trains and buses you may consider taking a tour with a tour company such as Contiki.

How do you find a summer camp in the USA to work on?

There are a number of organisations that can arrange a placement. Have a look at the following:

Camp Counsellors USA www.ccusa.com
Camp America: www.campamerica.com.au, www.campamerica.co.uk
IEP: www.iep.com.au, www.iep.com.nz
USIT: www.usit.ie

Enjoy your time working in a summer camp in the USA.


  • About the Author

    Sharyn McCullum has travelled most of her life thanks to her dad who worked at Sydney Airport. In her 20’s she left Australia and spent 4 years on a working holiday in London and the UK before working and travelling in other countries. She is the founder of the LiveWork&Play series of working holiday guides, this website and others. She currently calls Melbourne home.


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  • Thanks for sharing!

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