How to become a camp counsellor in 6 steps (with key skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Camp counsellor positions allow you to gain professional experience before you enter the workforce full-time. Depending on your potential and skills, you can work directly with children to help them learn new skills or concentrate on helping camp organisers with administrative tasks. Regardless of the type of job you do, knowing how to effectively manage campers and having strong leadership skills can help you succeed as a counsellor. In this article, we explore what a camp counsellor does, explain how to become one and list key skills for success in this role.

What is a camp counsellor?

A camp counsellor is a person who ensures the safety of children at summer camps. Counsellors help children develop new and improve their existing abilities, like motor skills. They do this by organising various indoor and outdoor activities for campers. Counsellors may only work during the day or provide assistance day and night if they work at overnight camps. Working in this role is usually available to people with previous experience in leading tours or working with children, including young adults and, for some part-time jobs, even secondary school students. Common responsibilities of counsellors at camps include:

  • helping plan and lead group events

  • monitoring camp participants

  • assessing risks, like behavioural problems

  • quickly responding to incidents and accidents

  • maintaining camp logs and documentation

  • communicating with campers' parents

Related: 16 summer job ideas for teachers to earn extra income

How to become a counsellor at a camp

Working as a counsellor can be a great idea if you want to improve your leadership skills and work with children. Here are some essentials steps to take to become a counsellor at a camp:

1. Determine how much education is necessary

There are various work opportunities for counsellors available at camps all around the world. Depending on whether you wish to secure a job locally or travel to a different destination, employers may have different requirements and expectations for their counsellors. Typically, entry-level roles at camps require at least some experience working with children or teenagers. For more responsible positions, where you'd also lead a team of junior counsellors, it may be necessary that you have at least a Bachelor's Degree in Education or a related field. To determine what's necessary, make sure to visit a specific camp's website.

2. Get practical experience

Regardless of the location and a position's focus area, having practical experience in leadership and camp organisation is beneficial for your recruitment. To build skills necessary for working with children, it's helpful to engage in various practical experiences locally. For example, you can volunteer at your local community centre or pre-school.

Related: 7 careers with children you can apply for right now

3. Gain safety certifications

Common certifications you can obtain are cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid. CPR training concentrates on teaching you how to resuscitate someone properly if they aren't breathing. Understanding how to administer this procedure improves your qualifications as a counsellor because it prepares you for quickly reacting to unexpected accidents at work. Knowing that you underwent medical training also makes campers' parents more comfortable leaving their children in your care.

Related: How to list certifications on a CV: template and examples

4. Create a job application

Once you feel like you've got the skills and qualifications necessary for working as a counsellor and have selected a camp where you'd like to work, it's time to start preparing your job application. A standard camp application includes a CV and a cover letter. Camps with more strict requirements may also expect that you provide a letter of recommendation that serves as proof that you have experience working with children.

Related: Different types of job applications and how to apply

5. Demonstrate your skills in an interview

Meeting candidates in person is important for camp organisers. Asking about their background and experience and the specific knowledge the role requires helps recruiters determine if a candidate is prepared for handling various tasks at once while ensuring the safety of campers. Counsellor interviews may sometimes involve a practical element, during which recruiters ask interviewees to, for example, use their creativity and communication skills to come up with interesting game ideas.

As you're preparing for an interview, it's helpful to review frequently asked counsellor interview questions and prepare example answers. You can practise your answers with a friend. Remember to pay attention to your body language. With the right movements and facial expressions, you can demonstrate your openness and confidence.

Read more: Body language in an interview: importance and tips

6. Complete a background check

Background checks are common for roles that require working with confidential information or children. During a check, employers usually check the information you provided in your application, including your full name, work history and educational background. They also review your public records and access more detailed information, such as documents that confirm that you have no criminal record. Once you pass the check, employers clear you to work with children as a counsellor.

Skills for camp professionals and counsellors to develop

To impress camp organisers and recruiters, it's helpful that you develop a strong skill set to work with children, their parents and other camp professionals. Here are some useful skills for counsellors at all types of camps:

Communication and empathy

Communication and empathy are two of the most important skills of counsellors at camps. On a daily basis, exchange information with other professionals, communicate updates with children's parents and share activity rules with campers. For example, they may communicate the path to the children when they're on a hike together.

Related: Practising empathy at work (with definition and FAQs)

Creativity

Creativity is essential when you want to come up with interactive game ideas during a rainy day at camp. You can also use this skill to make regular activities, like lessons, more entertaining for your campers. As a counsellor who's highly creative, you may find it easier to find a common ground with children of all ages.

Related: 15 tips for improving your creativity in the workplace

Leadership and conflict resolution

Counsellors' main responsibility at a camp is to take care of children and make sure their camp experience is positive. To do that, counsellors use their leadership skills to offer children guidance and support. They also explain game and event rules to them. Senior counsellors who have previous camp experience may be responsible for overseeing the work of other camp leaders and professionals, for which conflict resolution is also necessary.

Related: The top 5 essential leadership behaviours every leader needs

Being a role model

As a counsellor, it's important that you give your campers a good example in any situation. As their role model, you can help them understand difficult life challenges and be the person they look up to when overcoming day-to-day obstacles at the camp. For instance, you may encourage them to follow other counsellors' instructions and treat each other with respect. When you notice that campers trust and respect you, it's important that you use your advantage to remind them about the basic camp rules that they can follow to keep themselves safe.

Types of camps for aspiring counsellors

If you aspire to work as a counsellor, you can take into consideration your skills and interests to decide at which type of camp you'd like to work. In addition to traditional summer camps, there are camps that cover specialised topics, including:

  • Sports camps: Sports camps concentrate on keeping children active by offering them a variety of physical activities. This includes teaching them to play individual and team sports, like volleyball or running.

  • Arts and crafts camps: Camps of this type focus on children's manual abilities, including their drawing, sketching and painting skills. They're great for children of all ages, including young children who are yet to fully discover their artistic creativity.

  • Performing arts camps: These camps offer children activities related to dance, theatre, playing instruments and singing. They're great for more adventurous and confident campers who want to learn how to perform in front of different audiences.

  • Science camps: Science camps combine outdoors activities with classroom learning to offer campers the opportunity to develop their scientific skills. They may be great for you if you're passionate about learning and sharing knowledge with others.

Related:

  • What does a counsellor do? (With responsibilities)


Explore more articles