Recreation workers plan, organize, and direct leisure activities in a variety of settings. Their duties depend on their specific positions. Recreation leaders usually lead activities such as dance, drama, crafts, games, and sports. They maintain records of facility and equipment use, schedule recreation times, and ensure proper usage of recreation equipment and facilities. Activity specialists provide participants instruction in a specialty such as art, music, drama, swimming, or tennis. Recreation supervisors direct the work of recreation leaders and specialists and often act as liaisons between these workers and the management of the park or facility.
Directors of recreation and parks manage entire recreation programs in parks, playgrounds, and other types of facilities. They may serve as advisors to State and local recreation and park commissions. Some are responsible for recreation budgets. Camp counselors lead groups of children and teenagers in recreation that is usually outdoors-oriented, such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding, and camping. They may also lead programs in such specialties as archery, boating, music, drama, gymnastics, tennis, and computers. Camp directors oversee the camp counselors at a particular summer camp and plan the overall program.
Important qualities for recreation workers to possess include physical fitness and excellent mental health. They should have outgoing personalities. They should be adept at motivating people and at holding a group's interest in an activity. They need to be sensitive to the various needs of a diverse population of people.
In 2002, recreation workers earned a median hourly wage of $8.69. The following shows the median hourly wages in the industries employing the highest numbers of recreation workers:
- Nursing care facilities -- $9.30
- Local government -- $8.98
- Individual and family services -- $8.71
- Civic and social organizations -- $7.73
- Other amusement and recreation industries -- $7.53
Training and Education
Training and educational requirements for recreation worker positions vary greatly from job to job. Anything from a high school diploma to a master's degree may be required. Those planning a career in the field often have a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation or leisure studies. Many jobs require applicants to have specialized training in subjects like art, music, drama, or athletics. Water-related jobs may require a life-saving certificate. Some positions require an associate degree in parks and recreation, social work, or another human services discipline. Most supervisory positions require a bachelor's degree or related job experience.
Associate and bachelor's degree programs in parks and recreation can be found at hundreds of colleges and universities. Doctoral degrees are even offered in the field. Programs accredited by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) give students a broad exposure to the history, theory, and practice of park and recreation management. Graduates can become certified by the NRPA National Certification Board and requires continuing education to maintain certification.
In 2002, recreation workers held about 400,00 jobs. Many employees worked on a part-time or seasonal basis.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of recreation workers is expected to increase faster than the average. More people are expected to spend time and money on recreation and leisure services. Growth may be tempered by local government budget cutbacks. The field is very attractive and competition for these jobs are expected to by fierce. Opportunities will be best for those with experience and formal training.
To learn more about hospitality, retail, and travel related careers, please visit our section on Hospitality Schools for more information.