Career Information for a Degree in Recreation Studies

Sep 28, 2019

Becoming a recreation and parks director is an option for those with a degree in recreation studies. Another option is to pursue work as an event planner. Curricula for recreation degrees include an internship, which provides students with hands-on experience and awareness of their career options.

Essential Information

Recreational studies degrees focus on leisure and wellness programs for both the individual and community. Courses include health, wellness, aging, motivation, parks & rec 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 are usually required for those who want to pursue management, director and leadership roles. The curriculum often includes more business courses, such as statistics and human resource management.

Career Recreation and Parks Director Event Planners
Education Requirements Undergraduate degree; Graduate degree may be required for some positions Undergraduate degree preferred
Other Requirements Work experience required Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) Credential preferred
Projected Job Growth* 8% for all recreation workers (2018-2028) 7%
Median Salary $59,938 (2019)** $49,370 (2018)*

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

Career Options

Recreation studies graduates might find employment in a variety of fields, including parks and recreation, sports, recreational therapy and physical fitness. 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 ( Some directors work at the city level, whereas others 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 8% for all recreation workers from 2018 to 2028, with a median salary of $25,060. As a parks & recreation director, reports a higher median salary of $59,938 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 7% for event planners from 2018 to 2028. These professionals' median salary was $49,370 as of May 2018.

A recreation and parks director manages government-owned properties, such as parks and playgrounds, and is responsible for organizing events, creating budgets and hiring and training staff. Event planners help clients put together events involving musical performances, sports competitions, weddings or ethnic celebrations. Both of these career options are available to graduates of recreation studies bachelor's degree programs. Those who opt to pursue graduate degrees in this field also take human resource management and business courses, which may be an asset when applying to management positions.

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