6 Best Summer Camps to Work at for College Students

Top Summer Camp Opportunities for College Students

Group of happy camper teens at Camp Starfish

Are you a college student or recent graduate seeking an unforgettable summer experience filled with adventure, personal growth, and meaningful connections? Getting a job at a summer camp might be perfect for you.

Working at a summer camp offers the perfect blend of work and play, where every day is an opportunity to inspire, mentor, and learn. In this guide, we’ll explore the six best summer camps in the US tailored for young adults and college students. From specialized programs for children with special needs to camps focusing on sports, arts, STEM, and more, there’s a perfect fit for every passion. 

Discover why working at a summer camp isn’t just a job—it’s an enriching experience that will leave a lasting impact on both you and the campers you serve. Let’s delve into the world of summer camp employment and find out why Camp Starfish and other top camps are calling your name in 2024.

What are summer camps?

Summer camps are supervised programs typically held during the summer months, offering a range of activities, often outdoors, for children or teenagers to engage in recreational, educational, and social experiences away from home. They can take place anywhere and for any length of time, but most summer camps are based in rural or woodland areas to encourage time in nature, and will generally run for about a week at a time.

Summer camps are not just about enjoying the outdoors; they offer valuable opportunities for personal growth, skill development, and creating lifelong memories. For college students and recent graduates, working at a summer camp can be an enriching experience that combines work with adventure, and the ability to mentor and inspire young minds.

group of campers having fun on a water bouncer at Camp Starfish

6 Best Summer Camps in the U.S. to Work For

Best Special Needs Summer Camp to Work For: Camp Starfish

Campers smiling at Camp Starfish

Working at Camp Starfish is the perfect opportunity for those looking to make a difference. Camp Starfish is a special needs nonprofit organization that specializes in offering summer camps for kids with emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges, offering a transformative experience for both campers and staff. 

The thing that sets Camp Starfish apart from other camps is its 1:1 ratio, meaning that every camper has an adult that walks with them on their journey throughout camp. This is especially great for camp counselors (which we also call specialists) as this arrangement enables deep connections with each child. At Camp Starfish, counselors craft transformative experiences, leaving an indelible mark on campers’ lives. With a focus on special education and youth development, this position offers invaluable skills.  Camp counselors are just one of many awesome summer jobs for college students that Camp Starfish offers.

A day at Camp Starfish includes lots of time outdoors in beautiful New Hampshire, facilitating team-building and personal growth activities including high ropes, rock climbing, capture the flag, camp fires, and more. Camp Starfish is great for those with majors in education, social work, or counseling, looking to work with kids, while also offering summer internship opportunities by working with your college to ensure you get college credit for your service. If your dream is to work with special needs kids and make a massive difference in their lives, apply to work at Camp Starfish this 2024!

Best Christian Summer Camp to Work for: Damascus

Damascus is perfect for those looking to merge their faith with outdoor adventures. Damascus is a full time mission based near Columbus, Ohio, with a satellite campus in Brighton, Michigan. Each day, the counselors will lead their group through activities like high ropes, capture the flag, water games, and spiritual events like the Holy Mass and Adoration. Besides being a camp counselor, Catholic Youth Summer Camp has many other summer job opportunities for college students, including program staff which manages the overall structure of the camp, lifeguard roles, and support staff. If you’re looking for an opportunity to integrate your Christian and Catholic beliefs with community service, leadership, and adventure, Damascus might be the place for you. 

Best Fine Arts Summer Camp to Work for: Blue Lake Fine Arts

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, based in Twin Lake, Michigan, is perfect for individuals seeking summer jobs for music students, looking for a blend in their passion for the arts with a desire to inspire and mentor young talents. As a counselor at Blue Lake, you’ll have the chance to inspire young talents, facilitate workshops, and participate in a vibrant artistic community. You’ll lead the campers through their days: from  tailored classes to rehearsals fostering artistic exploration for campers. Blue Lake also offers hands-on experience at Blue Lake Public Radio. This program is an ideal summer camp for those passionate about inspiring a love of the arts in young minds.

Best Sports Camp to Work For: International Sports Camp

International Sports Camp offers the perfect summer job opportunity for sports enthusiasts. At International Sports Camp (ISTC), based in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, you’ll lead campers through three sports sessions each day and two free periods of “Rec Time,” guiding and joining them in a wide array of activities, from splashing around at the waterfront to conquering the climbing tower and ziplining through the trees. ISTC offers many different summer jobs for athletes, including camp counselor and coaching roles. ISTC requires an extensive 11-day orientation and ongoing training throughout the summer, ensuring their staff members are not only outstanding coaches but also role models, mentors, and leaders. If you dream of inspiring a love of sports in young athletes, ISTC might be the place for you.

Best Mountain Summer Camp: Teton Valley Ranch Camp

Teton Valley Ranch Camp is perfect for those looking to combine outdoor adventure with environmental education in the heart of the majestic Teton Mountains. Based in Wyoming, when you work as a counselor at Teton Valley Ranch Camp, you’ll lead hiking expeditions, teach outdoor skills, and foster a love for nature among campers aged 11 to 16. TVRC provides a 30-day program filled with horseback riding, fly fishing, archery, and more. With a focus on building resilience and fostering growth, you’ll not only guide outdoor adventures but also help campers discover their strengths and develop lifelong skills.

Smiling Camp Counselor and camper teen at Camp Starfish

Best STEM Camp: Astrocamp

Astrocamp, based in Idyllwild, California, is perfect for lovers of all things space and science. Astrocamp offers a unique blend of science, technology, engineering, and outdoor adventure. From stargazing to robotics, working at Astrocamp provides an immersive learning experience for both campers and staff, inspiring curiosity and exploration. Each day, staff will walk with the students through high adventure activities as well as core science labs, learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics through hands-on experience. With positions available for instructional staff, counselors, and support staff, Astrocamp provides an immersive learning experience for both campers and staff alike. If you are interested in working with young minds who are looking to cultivate their love of science, working at Astrocamp may be perfect for you. 

Are you interested in a summer camp job experience and what it’s like to work in a summer camp? Continue reading to learn more!

Things You Need to Know About Working at a Summer Camp

Two teen camp boys smiling at the camera at Camp Starfish

Working at a summer camp goes beyond just a job; it’s an opportunity to mentor, inspire, and learn. But there are a few things to keep in mind when you are thinking of working at a summer camp to help you decide if you are the right fit. 

You Have a Passion for Working with Kids

Most summer camps are kid focused, and many will have a range of ages as young as 5 all the way through high school. Sometimes camps will be specialized in working with different areas of youth, like athletics. Camp Starfish has a focus on working with kids in vulnerable and special needs populations. If you don’t love kids, working at a summer camp may not be the best fit for you.  

You Need Resilience

Working at a summer camp requires a great deal of resilience. You’ll encounter various challenges, from homesick campers to unpredictable weather conditions. It’s essential to remain calm and adaptable in such situations. You might have to deal with conflicts among campers or unforeseen logistical issues. Being resilient allows you to bounce back from setbacks and continue providing a positive experience for the campers.

You Love Adventure

If you’re someone who craves excitement and new experiences, working at a summer camp is perfect for you. Camps often offer a wide range of outdoor activities such as Camp Starfish which offers high rope activities, hiking, swimming, canoeing, and rock climbing. Embracing the spirit of adventure adds an extra layer of enjoyment to your summer camp experience.

You Thrive Being Outside

Working at a summer camp means spending the majority of your time outdoors. Whether you’re leading a nature hike, supervising a game of capture the flag, or simply enjoying the sunshine during free time, you’ll be immersed in nature. Sometimes this means embracing the specific environmental realities of humidity, wind, bugs, and lake water for extended hours. If you thrive in outdoor environments and feel energized by fresh air and natural surroundings, you’ll find working at a summer camp incredibly fulfilling.

You Are Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Camp life can be demanding, and it’s essential to be comfortable with discomfort. Some cabins may lack air conditioning, and you might find yourself dealing with insects, humidity, or occasional rainstorms. Additionally, sometimes the workload can be intense, with long hours and a fast-paced environment. However, the rewards of working at a summer camp—building meaningful relationships, fostering personal growth, and creating lasting memories—make the challenges worthwhile. Being able to adapt to less-than-ideal conditions allows you to focus on the positive aspects of the camp experience.

You Want to Live in Community

For those looking for jobs to do with friends, most camps offer a dynamic environment where staff members live and work closely together, forming strong bonds and friendships. Staff members usually stay in cabins or dormitory-style accommodations, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. Camps will have various amenities available, for example at Camp Starfish, all amenities including housing, all meals, Wi-Fi, and laundry are provided for free for their entire staff for the whole summer.

What Do You Do at a Summer Camp?

Two Campers smiling at Camp Starfish

The majority of the day is spent outdoors, engaging in various activities such as hiking, swimming, team sports, arts and crafts, and more. Meal times are often communal, providing opportunities for staff and campers to connect and bond over shared experiences. Evenings are usually filled with campfires, talent shows, and other special events, fostering a sense of community and belonging.

Working at a summer camp requires flexibility, patience, and a genuine love for working with children and young people. Staff members are often called upon to handle various challenges and situations, from homesickness to minor injuries, with compassion and professionalism. While the work can be demanding, the rewards are immeasurable, as staff have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of young campers, helping them learn new skills, build confidence, and create lifelong memories. 

Why You Should Work at a Summer Camp in 2024

Campers smiling and having a goof time while covered in whipped cream at Camp Starfish

2024 presents a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people while gaining valuable skills and experiences. Whether you’re passionate about the outdoors, arts, sports, or STEM, there’s a summer camp waiting to welcome you into its vibrant community.

For example, Camp Starfish offers a unique opportunity to work with children facing emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges, while being surrounded by a supportive community who are there for you. Through meaningful interactions and genuine care and attention, you’ll make a lasting impact on the lives of campers while gaining valuable experience in youth development, special education, and social work. Working at Camp Starfish in 2024 is not just a job—it’s a chance to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most while growing personally and professionally.

Why Working at a Summer Camp is a Great Internship

Campers in a conga line

For those seeking summer camp jobs or summer camp internships, opportunities abound for college students and recent graduates looking to gain valuable experience in education, recreation, or counseling fields. Positions such as camp counselor, activity specialist, lifeguard, or program coordinator offer the chance to develop leadership skills, work in a team environment, and make a positive impact on the lives of young campers.

A summer camp job offers more than just a paycheck; it provides hands-on experience in leadership, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving—skills that are invaluable in any career path. Moreover, it’s a chance to immerse oneself in a supportive community and build lasting connections.

Does Working at a Summer Camp Look Good for College?

Campers and counselors at Camp Starfish smiling for a photo

Absolutely! Working at a summer camp demonstrates leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills—qualities that colleges and employers value. Moreover, it showcases your ability to work in diverse environments, adapt to challenges, and mentor others.

For example, many people who worked at Camp Starfish credit it for shaping their success, leading them to careers in teaching, mental health services, and advocacy for differently-abled individuals. This immersive journey paved the way for a fulfilling and impactful future.

Summer Camp Job vs Regular Summer Job: Which is Best?

Group of boys in a group huddle at Camp Starfish

While a regular summer job may offer immediate financial benefits, a summer camp job provides a more enriching experience with opportunities for personal and professional growth. It’s a chance to make a lasting impact, forge meaningful connections, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Working at a camp like Camp Starfish not only allows you to make a positive impact on others but also enhances your resume with valuable skills and experiences. Camp counselors develop strong leadership, communication, and teamwork abilities as they navigate the challenges of working with diverse groups of campers with hands-on experience in areas. Future employers often value the adaptability and resilience demonstrated by those who have worked at summer camps, recognizing the commitment required to succeed in such roles. This makes summer camp jobs excellent jobs for building out your resume. Ultimately, a summer camp job not only enriches your personal life but also strengthens your professional profile, making it a rewarding investment in your future.

What is it Called When You Work at a Summer Camp?

Usually when people think of working at a summer camp, they are often thinking of the role of a camp counselor. Camp counselors are responsible for supervising campers, leading activities, and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all. 

However, there are a variety of roles at a summer camp, which allows for individuals to find the role that is best suited to their gifts, passions, and strengths. At Camp Starfish for example, some of these job positions include: 

  • Group Specialist 
    • Group Specialists reside in camp cabins, engaging alongside youth campers in daily activities, while also fostering participation, providing support, and implementing behavioral plans.  They might be assigned to different areas, such as spearheading curriculum and instruction of program areas as a Program Specialist, or taking over water activities as a Water Specialist.
  • Leadership Staff
    • The leadership staff are responsible for more advanced behavior management, program direction, staff and camper supervision, and logistics management.
  • Health Assistants
    • Nurses oversee health care, medication administration, and coordinate doctor visits, while Health Assistants, under Nurse supervision, provide first aid, triage, and ongoing care
  • Chef & Kitchen Staff
    • The Camp Chef/Kitchen Manager leads the Kitchen team, overseeing the entire food service operation to ensure a seamless and high-quality dining experience for all.
  • Office Assistant & Store Manager
    • The office assistant is responsible for various administrative duties including monitoring camp’s phone line, managing camper and staff paperwork, assisting with opening and closing day operations, and assisting in the camp store as needed.
  • Maintenance Staff
    • Site & Maintenance Staff ensure that camp is safe, clean, and looking great. In addition to helping with sanitizing camp spaces, they also do landscaping, painting, and general upkeep. 

Camp Starfish Might be Your Perfect Fit

two Campers smiling at Camp Starfish

If you’re passionate about making a difference in the lives of children with special needs, Camp Starfish could be the perfect summer job for you. Join our dedicated team of counselors and experience the joy of creating meaningful connections and fostering growth in a supportive and inclusive environment.

Ready to embark on an unforgettable summer adventure? Sign up for more information about Camp Starfish and discover how you can make a difference while gaining valuable skills and experiences.

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Photo of Danielle Lubbers

Danielle Lubbers

Danielle joined Camp Starfish in the spring of 2023 as Camp Director. Originally working with the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, Danielle has ten years of experience providing programming to children, outdoor skills training for adults, and directing overnight summer camp experiences.

In her spare time, Danielle enjoys spending time with her two-year old Dalmatian, Mia. Danielle’s favorite activity at camp is raft building, as she enjoys seeing campers and staff work together to complete a team goal. Her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is “We are here to learn, grow, and have fun!”

Staff photo of David

David Mahnken

David Mahnken is Camp Starfish’s Mental Health Consultant. He provides staff training each summer on topics such as self-care, trauma-informed care practices, and health & wellness. David also provides support and consultation to the organization throughout the year. David holds a BA from St. Olaf College and an MSW from Simmons University. David is a LICSW who works in emergency services in addition to his own private practice in Massachusetts.

Prior to becoming a social worker, David’s first experience at camp was as a counselor in the early 2000s before becoming an administrator and member of the year-round team. His favorite camp activity is swim-I (swim instruction), and his favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “We make camp a safe place.”

Staff photo of Joe

Joe Clark

As the Assistant Director at Camp Starfish, Joe is a seasoned professional who is well-versed in all aspects of camp life. With five years of summer work at Starfish, he brings extensive experience and expertise to the camp year-round. Joe is from the UK, and holds a degree from Keele University. Joe works as a support worker in the UK, providing care to individuals with disabilities, since 2019. Joe also engages in volunteer work, including spending three months in Abrobiano, Ghana.

Joe is known at camp for his charming English accent, which campers often try to replicate! His favorite camp activity is playing soccer (football) on the field, and his favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “I take responsibility for my actions.”

Staff photo of Rachel

Rachel Roberts

Rachel Roberts is the Director of Staff Experience at Camp Starfish, responsible for all things staffing and groups. With a degree in Anthropology, and a Certificate in Global Citizenship from Franklin Pierce University, Rachel brings a unique perspective to her role. She oversees hiring, onboarding, retention, and staff appreciation for the 100+ seasonal staff at Camp Starfish each summer. Rachel has been a part of the Starfish team since 2016, working in various seasonal roles. She joined the Year-Round Team full-time in 2022.

As a lifelong New Hampshire resident, Rachel enjoys hiking in the woods with her dog, Clover. Her favorite camp activity is Free Play, and her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “We respect each other’s differences.”

Staff photo of Kristie

Kristie Martin

Kristie Martin is Camp Starfish’s Program Director, responsible for ensuring that each camper receives a structured, supportive, and fun program during both summer and year-round weekends. With her degree in Applied Psychology & Human Development from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, Kristie has a deep understanding of child development and uses this knowledge to create a nurturing environment for all campers.

Kristie grew up in the Monadnock region and takes pride in being a local. Kristie’s favorite camp activity is the Camper Talent Show, which she believes is the perfect opportunity for campers to showcase their skills and feel comfortable sharing with the community. Her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is, “I try my best, I do not have to be the best.”

Staff photo of Sarah

Sarah York

Sarah York is the Director of Operations at Camp Starfish, joining the team in the Spring of 2022. She brings with her a wealth of professional experience working in both mental health and human resources. Sarah’s role at Camp Starfish is crucial in ensuring that camp runs smoothly, and she is available to assist families every step of the way through the registration process. If you call the Starfish office, Sarah will likely be who you speak with first!

With her dedication to helping others and her commitment to creating a positive camp experience for every child, it’s no wonder that her favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “We are members of a team.”

Staff photo of Jamie

Jamie Mahnken

Jamie Mahnken is Camp Starfish’s Executive Director, and has been an integral part of the Camp Starfish community since 2010, serving in a variety of roles. With a degree in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership from Southern New Hampshire University, Jamie is committed to creating a safe and positive environment for every camper, staff member, and volunteer.

As a North Carolina native, Jamie enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. Her favorite camp activity is kayaking to Blueberry Island, which is a meaningful and memorable experience for many campers, as well. Jamie’s favorite Camp Starfish Tool is: “I am flexible and open to change.”