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Beyond Summer Camp: Career Camps for Teenagers

Updated on June 3, 2013

Offering Advantage to the (Sometimes) Disadvantaged... and to All!

Summer camps are expensive, and day camp is for elementary kids only -- right? Well, not so fast! There are also career camps for high school students. These are programs designed to introduce young people to possible career choices. They often seek to entice them with unforgettable experiences and take-home mementos. Career camps are readily available in fields like nursing where there are workforce centers with think tanks pondering how best to entice bright minds and hearts. Think camaraderie and stethoscopes!

You can select an elite sleepover camp in another state and let your son or daughter have the full residential experience: an array of college prep and recreational activities that lasts for several weeks. But you may have the luck of finding a day camp in your locale that is absolutely free to all who attend. This happens frequently with healthcare, not uncommonly with STEM. They've got a purpose; they've got donors.

What if you have a low income or other educational disadvantages? If your child's ethnicity or gender is underrepresented in the particular field that calls to him? Or if you just live in the right service area? Sometimes there is an opportunity to do a residential program free -- yes, staying in a college dorm! It does depend on the career sector that the student is interested in.

Image courtesy of photostock /

Nursing Camp

Nursing camps are offered at both the middle school and high school level. Here the University of Arizona Medical Center introduces 7th and 8th graders to the field. In addition to learning about different career choices, the kids learn an important career and life skill: first aid. (This is actually pretty standard.) It looks like this camp is also vested in teaching kids the dangers of alcohol.

One thing to keep in mind about nursing. Unlike many health professions, a student can start with less than a four year degree and keep taking classes, ultimately (in many states) practicing at the level of a family doctor. Of course that first healthcare position can be stressful, and it's not for everyone. But you don't have to be able to put your daughter through medical school to help her wear a stethoscope.

Yes, I wrote the article below, and composed the list of nursing camps that appears down at the bottom. This is one of my... well, it's not my site in the strict sense of the word, but it's one of my babies. I have done some work on it from time to time. About a year ago, I was on the sites of a lot of different universities and medical centers, seeing what they had to offer kids... er, future nurse practitioners in the way of vacation time learning.

One of the Many Campuses... - Where Kids Can Attend Camp

This lovely campus is the University of Washington -- home of DAwG Diversity.

Image by the Author

Diversity (DAwG) - When Boys are in the Minority

Students who are either disadvantaged or underepresented are sometimes at an advantage when it comes to attending career camps for free. Does underrepresented signal minority race or female? Not always. In the case of the nursing field, one of the underrepresented groups is men.

Here is a sample eligibility guideline from a camp experience where diversity is valued. It is from the University of Washington in Seattle. They don't call the program Diversity DAwG for nothing. They don't want kids held back! They even give away some Metro bus tickets for kids who might have a hard time getting to camp otherwise.

You can see what the admission criteria are. Be aware: It is important to get started early. For programs like this, you often need a reference from a guidance counselor or other professional.

Healthcare Camps

Image courtesy of hin255 /

It's not just nursing. It's medical specialties, radiography, mental health. Who is it who's offering healthcare camps for free? Various stakeholders: hospitals, universities, medical centers, AHEC Centers. The latter are agencies charged with improving healthcare education, particularly in areas where healthcare needs a boost.

Be aware that while the experiences are mostly fee, there may be some associated charges (confirmation fee or material fee). There may also be scholarships for those who can't swing even that.

Here's a look at what Wisconsin AHEC is up to. Yes, some of their offerings are sleepover style!

Computer Camp: It Doesn't Always Cost a Megabyte

Computers -- and programming! This is another field where people are thinking hard about how to lure future talent.

And in computer fields, of course, it's women who are still underrepresented. Companies like Cisco help fund camps for girls. Here's a week long sleepover camp, held at the University of Texas - Austin.

Attend Fist Bytes - Or At Least Take a Virtual Tour

The first speaker here is a UT student -- and a former camper.

Like so many innovative residential experiences, First Bytes takes place on a college campus. This time it's the University of Texas. They're making good use of the dorm during the down times, don't you think?

California Does STEM!

Here's a look at innovative approaches to melding STEM and summer fun. What this very diverse set of programs has in common is California State University (and its multiple campuses). Some programs are designed to give kids academic skills for secondary and post-secondary math and science. Some introduce them to specific careers, from engineering to hands-on marine science.

Costs vary. CSU's marine science camp is just a little less than Sea World's. The girl's engineering internship/ camp carries a materials fee of $150, but does not charge for dorm, meals etc. One thing to remember: Earning a slot in the subsidized engineering program is a competitive process!

Exploratory Options

But maybe your child doesn't know what she wants to do on Saturday, much less all those years to come! Some options are more exploratory in nature. Do day camp: Be a chef one week, explore forensics another.

I remember when my brother did career exploration in junior high. He decided he wanted to be an air traffic controller. Now he sells real estate. And that's okay.

Thoughts to Share

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    • Rangoon House profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      What a great idea to introduce possible career choices to high school students at minimal cost. Thank you for sharing.

    • Monika Weise profile image

      Monika Weise 

      5 years ago from Indianapolis, IN USA

      I like the idea of career summer camps. My daughter would have benefited from that and probably would not have wasted a year in college in a major that turned out to not be what she wanted at all.

    • choosehappy profile image


      5 years ago from US

      I never attended any summer camps...unless you count band camp, lol. My nephew does a couple of them and enjoys them though.

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 

      5 years ago

      My youngest Sis attended a couple of these Summer Camps a long time ago when she was a teen and they were a great educational experience for her. I would definitely recommend these Camps to any teen interested in them. Thanks for sharing and shedding light on this beneficial program for Summer Camps. Have a Great Day!

    • squidoopets profile image

      Darcie French 

      5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

      What a great idea for teens - thanks for bringing these summer camps to my awareness.


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