Recreation Worker: Education & Career

Mar 22, 2021

What Does a Recreation Worker Do?

You can work in a vast number of different sectors as a recreation worker: education, tourism, non-profit organizations, and the public sector. Recreation workers can be employed by private enterprises, local governments, nursing homes, schools, religious organizations, and so much more. They typically spend a lot of time outdoors, although there are many potential events and activities that can take place in large indoor spaces.

Many recreation, sport and tourism jobs are seasonal, meaning that workers are typically employed only during the summer months, although what is considered the 'summer' can be as many as nine months of the year (spring to autumn). However, there are many recreation workers who are employed all year round. Recreation and tourism management careers are typically year-round positions, and these professionals oversee other workers who devise and lead leisure activities while ensuring all health and safety requirements are met.

Recreation workers should have top-notch interpersonal and organizational skills. Having some level of expertise in finance, human resource management, and leadership is a bonus. For more hands-on jobs, it is necessary to be certified in occupational first aid. Many agencies also offer certification in niche fields; for example, the International Live Events Association (ILEA) offers a widely-recognized certification in event planning (Certified Special Events Professional).

Recreation Worker Education

In general, a bachelor's degree in an area like recreation studies or physical education is the minimum requirement for a job as a recreational worker. For some jobs, just as a career as a director of recreation and parks, graduate degrees are especially desirable. Some universities offer dedicated master's degrees in parks and recreation management. However, it is possible to become a resort administrator or an event planner with just a high school diploma, provided you have proven expertise in your field, whether through certification or extensive job experience.

What Is Recreation Studies?

Recreational studies degrees focus on leisure and wellness programs for both the individual and community. Courses include health, wellness, aging, motivation, parks and recreation programming, law and evaluation. A mandatory internship component is often part of the undergraduate curriculum and places students in community outreach centers, state parks, rehabilitation centers or military bases. Graduate-level degrees often include more business courses, such as statistics and human resource management.

Recreation Sport and Tourism Jobs

Parks and recreation major careers span a variety of fields, including parks and recreation, sports, recreational therapy, physical fitness, and tourism. The BLS notes that candidates who have a graduate degree in the field can expect the best opportunities for managerial positions. Below are several job options in the field.

Director of Recreation and Parks

Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that directors of recreation and parks set up activity schedules for events happening at community playgrounds, parks and other government-owned communal properties (www.bls.gov). Many careers in parks and recreation management involve working at the city level, but some directors may work for individual counties or for states. Apart from scheduling and coordinating activities, directors often have to hire new staff, train personnel, write-up budgets and determine ways of raising revenue.

The BLS predicts faster-than-average job growth of 10% for all recreation workers from 2019 to 2029, with a median salary of $26,350. PayScale.com reports a higher median salary of $60,105 for parks and recreation directors because of the additional managerial responsibilities.

Special Events Management

Workers involved in special events management work with clients to plan out events, including weddings, sporting events, ethnic festivals and music concerts. Individual workers within the special events management field are usually called event coordinators or event planners, according to the BLS. These individuals find an appropriate venue and any necessary additional services, such as caterers, decorators or photographers. Event planners often coordinate with clients to decide on event marketing and advertising, security protocols and guest transportation.

The BLS predicts a faster-than-average growth of 8% for event planners from 2019 to 2029. These professionals' median salary was $50,600 as of May 2019.

Resort Administrator

A resort administrator manages the administrative, financial, and operational aspects of a holiday resort. They are required to be present at the resort during the pre-season period in order to create timetables, meet with local suppliers, carry out inventories, and more. During the season, they are usually involved with general administrative duties, running staff meetings, and ensuring the resort is operating to guests' satisfaction.

The BLS reports that an accommodation manager made a median salary of $54,430 in 2019. However, employment in this field is set to decline by 12% between 2019 and 2029.

Visitors' Bureau Director

A visitors' bureau director is typically involved in promoting the city, region, or nation as an attractive destination to tourists. They do so by assisting in the development of marketing plans, overseeing finances of the bureau, and liaising with local organizations with which the bureau could potentially partner. They are usually also responsible for general administrative duties, such as preparing grant applications, coordinating trips and meetings, and assisting groups and individuals who are planning to visit the region by providing them with useful information.

While the BLS does not provide any specific information on the job outlook for visitors' bureau directors, it reports that administrative services and facilities managers in general earned a median salary of $96,940 in 2019. Employment is predicted to grow by 6% between 2019 and 2029.

Career Director of Recreation and Parks Event Planner Resort Administrator Visitors' Bureau Director
Education Requirements Undergraduate degree; graduate degree may be required for some positions Undergraduate degree preferred Minimum high school diploma; undergraduate degree preferred Undergraduate degree
Other Requirements Work experience required Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) Credential preferred Extensive experience in hospitality required if no undergraduate degree Work experience preferred
Projected Job Growth* (2019-29) 10% (for all recreation workers) 8% -12% (for all accommodation managers) 6% (for all administrative services and facilities managers)
Median Salary* (2019) $60,105** $50,600 $54,430 (for all accommodation managers) $96,940 (for all administrative services and facilities managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

Directors of recreation and parks, event planners, resort administrators, and visitors' bureau directors are some of upper-level year-round jobs available to recreation workers who graduated with a degree related to recreation studies.

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