Recreation Worker Career Outlook and Salary

Recreation workers spend their time planning and leading activities that are designed to help individuals and groups enjoy the outdoors, stay active and engaged, and improve their fitness. These professionals may focus on outdoor sports or lead arts and crafts, music, games and other recreational pursuits.

Recreation workers are often employed by child development centers, camps, senior care centers, community groups, and municipalities and other local governments. Their job titles include camp counselor and director, activity coordinator and specialist, and recreation leader and supervisor.

Daily duties vary according to the employer and position. In general, recreation workers are responsible for planning, organizing and supervising activities for groups ranging from preschoolers to summer camp attendees and senior center residents. Specific duties may include:

  • Explaining rules and instructing participants in games
  • Leading music activities
  • Directing arts and crafts projects
  • Leading group hikes, camping trips, boating and swimming activities, and other outdoor pursuits

In addition, recreation workers are expected to modify activities to suit the needs and abilities of participants, and to interact with family members and guardians. They are charged with enforcing safety rules, maintaining discipline and administering first aid. Some manage the daily operations of a recreational department, completing administrative tasks and preparing reports for owners, managers and other stakeholders.

Some recreation workers supervise and train other staff. They may also be responsible for designing and implementing activity calendars, as well as promoting interest in the organization to recruit new participants.

Job Outlook and Salary Range for Recreation Workers

According to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2016, recreation worker jobs should be on the increase in the coming years. In fact, job growth of 10% nationwide is projected through 2024, a rate that exceeds the 7% average for all occupations.

An aging population and an emphasis on youth exercise to combat obesity are expected to spur growth in sports and fitness centers, increasing the demand for recreation workers. The BLS reports job prospects are expected to be stronger for individuals with higher levels of recreation-related education.

According to the BLS, recreation workers earned a median annual wage of $23,870 in May 2016, with the top 10% earning $41,660 or more.

Employment opportunities and salary potential can vary depending on location, work experience, educational qualifications and other factors.

Education and Training for Recreation Workers

Some employers will prefer recreation worker applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, particularly for supervisory positions, and senior administrative positions may require an advanced degree. Other positions, such as camp counselor and activity coordinator, may require an associate’s degree or experience working with children or the elderly.

A degree in parks and recreation, leisure studies or health and fitness may be preferred by employers, along with coursework in management, administration or community organization. Training in music, sports, drama or art may be beneficial.

Among the attributes typically required of recreation workers are leadership and communication skills, solid problem-solving abilities and physical fitness.

A career in the recreation field may begin with a position such as activities aide or program assistant. With experience, it is possible to advance to activities director or recreation supervisor. Management experience and an advanced degree can lead to a job such as parks and recreation director.

Military Occupational Specializations

Certain military roles utilize similar skills and knowledge as those of recreation workers in the civilian job market. For example:

  • In the U.S. Air Force, similar roles include services officer.
  • U.S. Navy roles include teaching and education.
  • In the U.S. Marine Corps, similar roles include musician.
  • U.S. Army roles also include musician and band officer.


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