Recreation Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 recreation worker Jobs

  • Production Team Leader (Off Shift) - Nestlé Purina - Fort Dodge, IA

    As the Team Leader, you will supervise and coordinate activities of workers engaged in duties concerned with sanitation programs in food

  • Recreation Worker - Advancing Opportunities - Hackettstown, NJ

  • Mental Health Worker - Boulder Community Hospital - Boulder, CO

    JOB QUALIFICATIONS Education or Formal Training Bachelor's degree in mental health or related field preferred Special Qualifications (Licensure

See all recreation worker jobs

What Recreation Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Recreation workers design and lead recreational and leisure activities for groups in volunteer agencies or recreation facilities, such as playgrounds, parks, camps, aquatic centers, and senior centers. They may lead activities such as arts and crafts, dance, sports, adventure programs, music, and camping.

Duties of Recreation Workers

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 for Recreation Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Recreation workers held about 379,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most recreation workers were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 30%
Nursing and residential care facilities 15
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 14
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 11
Social assistance 9

Many workers spend much of their time outdoors. Recreation directors and supervisors, however, typically spend most of their time in an office, planning programs and special events.

All recreation workers risk injury while participating in physical activities.

Recreation Worker 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] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Recreation Workers near you!

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.

Recreation Worker 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 2014, the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions, a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), accredited 80 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 for Recreation Workers

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. Recreation workers need to 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 four certificates for various levels of camp staff, from Entry-Level Staff Certificate to 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, a lifesaving certificate is often required for teaching or coaching water-related activities. These certifications are available from organizations such as the YMCA or the American Red Cross. Specific requirements vary by job and employer.

Advancement for Recreation Workers

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.

Recreation Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for recreation workers was $23,320 in May 2015. 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 $17,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,880.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for recreation workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nursing and residential care facilities $25,390
Social assistance 23,540
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 23,380
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 21,360
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 20,740

Many recreation workers, such as camp counselors or activity specialists, work weekends or part time or irregular hours, or may be seasonally employed.

Job Outlook for Recreation Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of recreation workers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. In response to growing rates of childhood obesity, a number of federal, state, and local campaigns have been established to encourage young people to be physically active. As more emphasis is placed on the importance of exercise, more recreation workers will be needed to work in local government parks and recreation departments, fitness centers, sports centers, and camps specializing in younger participants. Additional recreation workers will be needed to work for fitness centers as some parks and recreation departments seek to cut costs by contracting out the services of activity specialists, especially those in fitness, from these centers.

In addition, as the baby-boom generation grows older, there will be more demand for recreation workers to work with older clients in social assistance organizations and in nursing and residential care facilities.

Recreation Workers Job Prospects

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 year-round 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.

Employment projections data for Recreation Workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Recreation workers 379,300 418,300 10 38,900


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: