Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Recreation Worker

Job Outlook: 8% (Faster than average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Recreation Workers Do About this section

Recreation workers
Recreation workers lead groups in activities such as arts and crafts.

Recreation workers design and lead activities to help people stay active, improve fitness, and have fun. They work with groups in summer camps, fitness and recreational sports centers, nursing care facilities, nature parks, and other settings. They may lead such activities as arts and crafts, sports, music, dramatics, or games.

Duties

Recreation workers typically do the following:

  • Plan, organize, and lead activities for groups or recreation centers
  • Explain the rules of activities and instruct participants at a variety of skill levels
  • Enforce safety rules to prevent injury
  • Modify activities to suit the needs of specific groups, such as seniors
  • Administer basic first aid if needed
  • Organize and set up the equipment that is used in recreational activities

The specific responsibilities of recreation workers vary greatly with their job title, their level of training, and the state they work in.

The following are examples of types of recreation workers:

Activity specialists provide instruction and coaching primarily in one activity, such as dance, swimming, or tennis. These workers may work in camps, aquatic centers, or anywhere else where there is interest in a single activity.

Recreation leaders are responsible for a recreation program’s daily operation. They primarily organize and direct participants, schedule the use of facilities, set up and keep records of equipment use, and ensure that recreation facilities and equipment are used and maintained properly. They may lead classes and provide instruction in a recreational activity, such as kayaking or golf.

Camp counselors work directly with youths in residential (overnight) or day camps. They often lead and instruct children and teenagers in a variety of outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding, or nature study. Counselors also provide guidance and supervise daily living and socialization. Some counselors may specialize in a specific activity, such as archery, boating, music, drama, or gymnastics.

Work Environment About this section

Recreation workers
Activity specialists who teach dance usually provide instruction indoors.

Recreation workers held about 279,600 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of recreation workers were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 30%
Nursing and residential care facilities 21
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 12
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 11
Social assistance 7

Many workers spend much of their time outdoors. Others provide instruction indoors, for activities such as dance or karate. Still others typically spend most of their time in an office, planning programs and special events.

Recreation workers may face some injury risk while participating in physical activities.

Work Schedules

Many recreation workers, such as camp counselors or activity specialists, work weekends or part-time or irregular hours, or may be seasonally employed. Seasonal workers may work as few as 90 days or as long as 9 months during a season, depending on where they are employed and the type of activity they lead. For example, in areas of the United States that have warm winters, outdoor swimming pools may employ related recreation workers for a majority of the year. In other areas of the country, they may work only during the summer.

How to Become a Recreation Worker About this section

Recreation workers
Recreation workers maintain order and safety.

Education and training requirements for recreation workers vary with the type of job, but workers typically need at least a high school diploma or the equivalent and receive on-the-job training.

Education and Training

Recreation workers typically need at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. Many receive on-the-job training that typically lasts less than a month.

Entry-level educational requirements vary with the type of position. For example, an activity leader position working with the elderly will have different requirements than a position as a summer camp counselor working with children.

Some positions may require a bachelor’s degree or college coursework. In 2017, the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions, a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), accredited more than 70 bachelor’s degree programs in recreation or leisure studies. A bachelor’s degree in other subjects, such as liberal arts or public administration, may also qualify applicants for some positions.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Recreation workers must be able to communicate well. They often work with large groups of people and need to give clear instructions, motivate participants, and maintain order and safety.

Flexibility. Recreation workers must be flexible when planning activities. They must be able to adapt plans to suit changing environmental conditions and participants’ needs.

Leadership skills. Recreation workers should be able to lead both large and small groups. They often lead activities for people of all ages and abilities.

Physical strength. Most recreation workers should be physically fit. Their job may require a considerable amount of movement because they often demonstrate activities while explaining them.

Problem-solving skills. Recreation workers need strong problem-solving skills. They must be able to create and reinvent activities and programs for all types of participants.

For recreation workers who generally work part time, such as camp counselors and activity specialists, certain qualities may be more important than education. These qualities include a worker’s experience leading activities, the ability to work well with children or the elderly, and the ability to ensure the safety of participants.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The NRPA offers four certifications for recreation workers:

  • Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP)
  • Certified Parks and Recreation Executive (CPRE)
  • Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO)
  • Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI)

Applicants may qualify for certification with different combinations of education and work experience. They also must take continuing education classes to maintain their certification.

The American Camp Association offers certificates for various levels of camp staff, including Entry-Level Program Staff Certificate and Camp Director Certificate. Individuals who complete online courses may show their advanced level of knowledge of core competencies.

Some recreation jobs require other kinds of certification. For example, first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certifications may be required for leading camp or sports activities. These certifications are available from organizations such as the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

Jobs for recreation workers may also require a valid driver’s license and the ability to pass a background check.

Specific requirements vary by job and employer.

Advancement

As workers gain experience, they may be promoted to positions with greater responsibilities. Recreation workers with experience and managerial skills may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Eventually, they may become directors of a recreation department or may start their own recreation company.

Pay About this section

Recreation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Recreation workers

$29,680

Personal care and service occupations

$29,450

 

The median annual wage for recreation workers was $29,680 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,730, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,660.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for recreation workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Social assistance $30,100
Nursing and residential care facilities 29,920
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 29,630
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 29,620
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 28,560

Many recreation workers, such as camp counselors or activity specialists, work weekends or part-time or irregular hours, or may be seasonally employed. Seasonal workers may work as few as 90 days or as long as 9 months during a season, depending on where they are employed and the type of activity they lead. For example, in areas of the United States that have warm winters, outdoor swimming pools may employ related recreation workers for a majority of the year. In other areas of the country, they may work only during the summer.

Job Outlook About this section

Recreation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Personal care and service occupations

14%

Recreation workers

10%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of recreation workers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 61,700 openings for recreation workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

An increased emphasis on the importance of lifelong well-being is expected to create demand for recreation workers in a variety of settings, including fitness and recreational sports centers, country clubs, and other organizations. Parks and recreation departments may contract out the services of activity specialists.

In addition, there will be more demand for recreation workers to work with older clients, especially in continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities.

Employment projections data for recreation workers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Recreation workers

39-9032 279,600 307,700 10 28,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information on careers, certification, and academic programs in parks and recreation, visit

National Recreation and Park Association

For more information about a career as a camp counselor, visit

American Camp Association

For more information on first aid and CPR certifications, visit

American Heart Association

American Red Cross

CareerOneStop

For a career video on recreation workers, visit

Recreation Workers

O*NET

Recreation Workers

Video

Go back and forth. ADD and DELETE on your career planner. Then, make a decision. CHOOSE YOUR DREAM CAREER.