Career Information for a Degree in Recreational and Leisure Activities

Oct 02, 2019

Degrees in recreational or leisure activities typically cover the fundamentals of leisure theory and human development. Find out about the curricula of these programs and learn about career options, job growth, and salary info for recreational or leisure activities graduates.

Recreation and leisure professionals include fitness trainers, recreation leaders, and parks and recreation directors. These professionals prepare for their careers by completing a degree in recreation and leisure activities. A bachelor's degree is required to be a fitness trainer or recreation leader, while parks and recreation directors need a graduate degree.

Essential Information

A degree program in recreational or leisure activities prepares students for a variety of careers. Depending on students' personal interests, they may work hands-on with groups and individuals or oversee a program from an administrative role. Some positions may require additional certifications or graduate schooling.

Career Titles Fitness Trainer/Instructor Recreational Leader or Supervisor Parks and Rec. Director
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Graduate degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 13% 8% 10% for all recreation workers
Median Salary $39,820 (2018)* $44,956 (2019)** $59,938 (2019)**

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

Career Options

A degree in recreational or leisure activities can prepare graduates for many careers in recreation fields. Some of these career fields include fitness training, recreational leader or supervisor, and parks and recreation director. These three careers, which are discussed below, are all set to experience growth throughout the next decade or so. Keep reading to find out if any of these could be the career for you!

Fitness Trainer or Aerobics Instructor

According to O*Net Online, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors help individuals and groups participate in fitness activities. These individuals design programs around the abilities of their participants. During a session, fitness trainers and aerobics instructors ensure that techniques are being performed correctly. O*Net indicates that these individuals may give nutritional or lifestyle advice.

Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors often need additional certifications, which are offered through different professional organizations. For example, the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) confers the PMA Certified Pilates Teacher designation to applicants who meet its training and experience requirements. Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors may also need to be certified in first aid or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors were expected to increase by 13% from 2018 to 2028. Two of the major factors that the BLS cites for the predicted increase are the growing interest in exercise to combat obesity and the growth of the aging population. In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual salary of a fitness trainer or aerobics instructor was $39,820, although self-employed trainers may earn more.

Recreational Leader or Supervisor

The BLS defines recreational leaders as the individuals who oversee a program's day-to-day activity, while supervisors manage recreational leaders and supervise an organization's operation. These professionals help coordinate activities in a variety of settings, including community centers and assisted living homes. The BLS reports that recreational leaders may still instruct classes. Recreational supervisors primarily work on administrative tasks with personnel and budgetary responsibilities.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS indicates that the employment of recreation workers was expected to increase faster than average by 8% from 2018 to 2028. While opportunities vary by specialty, the BLS states that individuals with the higher levels of college education may have an advantage in finding work. In September 2019, reported that recreational supervisors earned a median annual salary of $44,956. In 2018, recreation workers in general earned a median annual salary of $25,060, according to the BLS.

Parks and Recreation Director

Parks and recreation directors oversee the overall operation of a city's or district's parks. These professionals work to manage the existing facilities and make improvements or expansions when needed. Parks and recreation directors are responsible for organizing and approving issues related to the budget, which may include seeking additional funding. Because their work is tied to public funding, they often coordinate with public officials.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Some parks and recreation director positions may require or prefer industry experience and a graduate degree. In September 2019, reported that parks and recreation directors earned an annual median salary of $59,938. Among the factors that cited as influencing pay were experience, the size of an organization and the type of employer, such as a non-profit or government organization.

Degree Program Information

Recreational and leisure activities degree programs begin with fundamental topics in leisure theory, human development and planning. Other requirements include leadership coursework in recreational administration and management. Some programs offer concentrations in specific forms of recreation, such as outdoor, tourism or non-profit. Many curricula include experience-based learning through a practicum or internship.

Students may consider programs that are approved by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions, which is supported by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). According to the NRPA, accreditation ensures that a program is meeting established education standards and preparing students for the profession.

Fitness directors lead classes or individual sessions using various exercises to promote health and physical fitness. Parks and recreation directors oversee the parks in their city or district and ensure that the facilities are maintained, and recreational leaders implement daily programming with groups and individuals. With a degree in recreational and leisure activities, it is possible to pursue these career options, although graduate-level studies may be needed to become a parks and recreation director.

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