Paying Enough and Training Right! A Snapshot of Salary, Benefits, and Professional Development Practices in Camps

Troy Bennett, MBA; and Barry A. Garst, PhD

Read the full article at www.ACAcamps.org/research/improve/compensation-benefits/snapshot.   

This article provides some key findings from ACA’s recent study, the Camp Compensation, Benefits, and Professional Development Survey, as well as some trends over time. These findings are an important guide for camp employment practices. From increasing employee retention to maintaining a competitive edge, these data provide necessary benchmarks for what is actually happening in camps. Camps can access the 2013 ACA Camp Compensation, Benefits, and Professional Development Report to compare themselves with other camps based on sponsorship, revenue, size, and region. Stay competitive! Get the full report for day camps and resident camps at www.ACAcamps.org/research/improve/compensation-benefits.  

The “Typical” Camp Director

  • Fifty-six percent of day camp directors are female, compared to only 35 percent of resident camps.
  • In general, day camp directors were younger than resident camp directors.
  • Day camp directors are most likely to be between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four and have been working in a director-level position for five to nine years. Resident camp directors tend to be a little older, with the highest percentage of camp directors in the range of thirty-five to forty-four years old.
  • Resident camp directors also tend to have more years of experience, with the highest percentage of camps reporting ten to nineteen years.

Director Salaries

Day camp directors, on average, earned $56,500 compared to an average of $64,600 earned by resident camp directors. The median salary of each group was lower at $45,000 for day camps and $52,000 for resident camps. Figure 1 shows data from 2007 to 2013.

Seasonal Camp Staff Wages

Seasonal summer day camp directors tended to earn more per week than their seasonal counterparts in resident camps, although resident camps have experienced a continuous upward trend, while day camp seasonal director wages decreased from 2010 to 2013. Program directors received similar salaries in 2013, as did nurses. Camp counselors earned a higher median weekly wage in day camps compared to resident camps. Maintenance staff received higher weekly wages in resident camps. (See Figures 2 and 3.)

Professional Development Benchmarks for Directors

In the 2012 survey, professional development included staff training, continuing education, self-directed learning, or other learning opportunities that allow the learner to make progress toward career goals. Forty-one percent of day camps required more than ten hours of professional development. Twenty-seven percent of resident camps required their full-time, paid staff to complete professional development, but did not have a mandatory number of hours. (See Figure 4.)

Professional Development Benchmarks for Seasonal Staff

Of the day camps with seasonal paid staff in 2012, more than half (60 percent) required completion of prearrival professional development for specialty programming, such as waterfront, horsemanship, adventure/challenge, shooting, and so on). About half (51 percent) of day camps required prearrival professional development for their other seasonal staff. These percentages are markedly higher in resident camps. (See Figure 5.)

Troy Bennett is an ACA research assistant working at the University of Utah. He is pursuing a doctoral degree in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Department. Barry A. Garst, PhD, is ACA’s director of program development and research application and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. His current research interests include the multiple meanings of nature-based experiences and the workforce development outcomes of camp experiences. Contact: bgarst@ACAcamps.org.

Originally published in the 2013 September/October Camping Magazine.

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