Although summer is considered a time for relaxing in the sun, many students find that they cannot live solely on student loans and ramen noodles. While a job may be a necessity, a blank resume and a summer of flipping burgers are not. Students across the country are discovering that they can earn much more than cash as a camp counselor—they can obtain resume-building experience or even academic credit.
In today's world, a degree as well as several internships are often necessary to land that job, and while competitive internships may just result in filling the boss's coffee, there are 2,400 American Camp Association (ACA)-accredited camps across the country hiring right now.
According to ACA CEO Peg L. Smith, there is approximately 1.2 million camp staff in the U.S. today, and camps are increasingly hiring interns for academic credit. A camp job or internship is quite different from a traditional job or internship as it provides students with the opportunity to gain resume-building skills, while working with children in the great outdoors—what may be a welcome environment compared to a cubicle. Smith also said that a camp job can allow students to travel or gain experience in a specialization, such as a sport, teaching or working with children with special needs.
From the age of seventeen, Adam Hotchkiss bypassed the typical summer job and has instead worked as a camp counselor at Tate's Day Camp in Knoxville, Tennessee. Hotchkiss continued working at the camp through his college tenure at the University of Tennessee, and he gained not only many skills, but also the opportunity to add the titles of administrative assistant and program director to his resume.
Through his experience working at a camp, he learned organizational skills, responsibility, problem-solving skills, how to work with kids, and teamwork. His experience seems to have paid off as he is currently a teacher at the Episcopal School of Knoxville and is also the director of summer camp programs at the school. Asked if his experience working at camp was beneficial to his career, he said, "Absolutely, if I hadn't done that stuff, I don't know if I would be here today."
To browse job postings or to post a resume, visit the ACA Employment Center at ACAcamps.org/jobs. This site also lists job fairs, which oftentimes take place on college campuses or even in conjunction with universities. Also, ACA provides Find A Camp, a searchable database of over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps at CampParents.org. Through this searchable database, those interested in a camp job can browse camps by location, specialty, special needs, gender, age ranges and other criteria. Smith said that the Find A Camp search is perfect for those looking for a specific camp, such as a camp with a specialty or at a certain geographical area.
When asked what students can do to land that perfect camp job, Smith said it is beneficial if students have experience with children, such as babysitting or daycare. She also said that applicants should mention any leadership positions held or if they are certified as a first responder or in CPR with the American Red Cross. She recommended visiting ACAcamps.org/students.
"All of these things are important, but of course counselors do receive ongoing training, in such areas as safety, leadership, time management, activity skills, and child and youth development," Smith said. "If someone is considering a camp job, I'd say go for it. Even if you only do it for the summer, you gain the experience and you can learn so much from the environment," Hotchkiss said. "You'll pick up skills you'll use in the future, and you will look back ten years later and realize how much it has benefited you."
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