USA Career Guide - Recreation Workers

Education & Training of Recreation Workers

Degrees in parks and recreation or in leisure studies may prepare a student better than a liberal arts degree. However, either type of degree may be enough for some jobs. There are different types of jobs in this field so is the education and training requirement.
Associate’s and Bachelor's Degree Programs in recreation studies or a related field is preferred for most recreation supervisor jobs in parks and recreation and other activities. Degree programs in Parks and Recreation and Leisure Studies, or related fields are available at colleges and universities
Master’s Degree:Employers hiring recreation workers in supervisory or administrative positions often prefer applicants with work experience and at least a master’s degree in parks and recreation, business administration, or public administration.
Doctoral Degree programs are also available, but are less common.

Part-time Recreation workers

Most seasonal and part-time workers learn through on-the-job training. Specialized training or experience in a particular field, such as art, music, drama, or athletics, may help in obtaining a job such as, camp counselors and activity specialists.


The National Recreation and Park Administration (NRPA) provides certification for recreation workers. To qualify for the certification exam, individuals must follow one of four pathways:
     Earn a bachelor’s degree in a major such as recreation, park resources, or leisure services from a program accredited by the NRPA
     Earn a bachelor’s degree in a related major from any institution and, if the program is not accredited, have at least 1 year of experience
     Earn any other bachelor’s degree and have at least 3 years of relevant full-time work experience
     Have at least 5 years of full-time experience in the field.
Some recreation jobs require certification. For example, a lifesaving certificate is required for teaching or coaching water-related activities. These certifications are available from organizations such as the YMCA or Red Cross. Specific requirements vary by job and employer.

Pay of Recreation Workers

As reported by BLS median annual wage of recreation workers was $22,260 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,470, and the top 10 percent earned more than $38,460.

Job Prospects of Recreation Workers

Employment of recreation workers is expected to grow by 19 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Awareness in societies to lead healthy lifestyle and to combat obesity is expected to spur the demand for recreation workers. The opportunities will be created in fitness centers, sports centers, and camps specializing in younger participants are expected to increase demand for recreation workers.
Job prospects will be best for those seeking part-time, seasonal, or temporary recreation jobs. Because workers in these jobs tend to be students or young people, they must be replaced when they leave for school or jobs in other occupations, thus creating many job openings.
Workers with higher levels of formal education related to recreation should have better prospects at getting full-time positions. Volunteer experience, part-time work during school, and a summer job also are viewed favorably for both full- and part-time positions.

Industrial Overview of Recreation Workers

Recreation workers held about 339,100 jobs in 2010. They are employed in a variety of settings, including summer camps, recreation centers, parks, and cruise ships. Many workers spend much of their time outdoors.

Industries employed the largest number of recreation workers  (2010)
Local government, excluding education and hospitals    31%
Nursing and residential care facilities    16%
Civic and social organizations    10%
Arts, entertainment, and recreation    9%
Fitness and recreational sports centers    4%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition

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