Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation Industries

Significant Points

Nature of the Industry[About this section] [To Top]

As long as people have had free time, they have pursued leisure activities. Musical troupes, theaters, and sports have been a part of culture since ancient times. As leisure time and personal incomes have grown across the Nation, so has the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry.

Goods and services. The industry includes about 125,500 establishments, ranging from art museums to fitness centers. Practically any activity that occupies a person's leisure time, excluding the viewing of motion pictures and video rentals, is part of this industry.

Industry organization. The diverse range of activities offered by this industry can be categorized into three broad groups—live performances or events; historical, cultural, or educational exhibits; and recreation or leisure-time activities.

The live performances or events segment of the industry includes professional sports, as well as establishments providing sports facilities and services to amateurs. Commercial sports clubs operate professional and amateur athletic clubs and promote athletic events. All kinds of popular sports can be found in these establishments, including baseball, basketball, boxing, football, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling, and even auto racing. Professional and amateur companies that specialize in sports promotion also are part of this industry segment, as are sports establishments in which gambling is allowed, such as dog and horse racetracks and jai alai courts.

A variety of businesses and groups involved in live theatrical and musical performances are included in this segment. Theatrical production companies, for example, coordinate all aspects of producing a play or theater event, including employing actors, actresses, and costume designers as well as contracting with lighting and stage crews who handle the technical aspects of productions. Agents and managers, who represent actors and entertainers and assist them in finding jobs or engagements, and booking agencies, which line up performance engagements for theatrical groups and entertainers, are also included in this industry segment.

Performers of live musical entertainment include popular music artists, dance bands, disc jockeys, orchestras, jazz musicians, and rock bands. Orchestras range from major professional orchestras with million-dollar budgets to community orchestras, which often have part-time schedules. The performing arts segment also includes dance companies, which produce all types of live theatrical dances. The majority of these dance troupes perform ballet, folk dance, or modern dance.

The historical, cultural, or educational exhibits segment includes privately owned museums, zoos, botanical gardens, nature parks, and historical sites. Publicly owned facilities are included in sections on Federal, State, or local government. Each institution in this segment preserves and exhibits objects, sites, and natural wonders with historical, cultural, or educational value.

The recreation or leisure activities segment includes a variety of establishments that provide amusement for a growing number of customers. Some of these businesses provide video game and gaming machines for the public at amusement parks, arcades, and casinos. Casinos and other gaming establishments offering off-track betting are a rapidly growing part of this industry segment. This segment also includes amusement and theme parks, which range in size from small local or travelling carnivals to multiacre parks. These establishments may have mechanical rides, shows, and refreshment stands. Other recreation and leisure-time services include golf courses, skating rinks, ski lifts, marinas, day camps, gocart tracks, riding stables, waterslides, and establishments offering rental sporting goods.

The recreation or leisure activities segment of the industry also includes physical fitness facilities that feature exercise and weight loss programs, gyms, health clubs, and day spas. These establishments also frequently offer aerobics, dance, yoga, and other exercise classes. Other recreation and leisure-time businesses include bowling centers that rent lanes and equipment for tenpin, duckpin, or candlepin bowling.

These facilities may be open to the public or available on a membership basis. Many sports and recreation clubs, including community centers, are open only to members and their guests, including some golf courses, country clubs, and yacht, tennis, racquetball, hunting and fishing, and gun clubs. Unlike private clubs, public golf courses and marinas offer facilities to the general public on a fee-per-use basis.

Technology is a major part of producing arts, entertainment, and recreation activities; for example, lighting and sound are vital for concerts and themed events and elaborate sets often are required for plays. However, most of this work is contracted to specialized firms outside of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry.

Recent developments. Leisure activities compete for people’s time and money. Recent State and local budget constraint issues have resulted in the loss of some arts, entertainment, and leisure activities. As budget situations improve, many activities will return, particularly those that were previously in high demand. Furthermore, given the diverse interests of individuals, a greater number of sports-related events have been increasing in popularity, resulting in additional leagues and opportunities for fans.

Working Conditions[About this section] [To Top]

Hours. Jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation are more likely to be part time than those in other industries. In fact, the average nonsupervisory worker in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry worked 24.1 hours a week in 2008, as compared to an average of 33.6 hours for all private industry. Musical groups and artists were likely to work the fewest hours because of the large number of performers competing for a limited number of engagements, which may require a great amount of travel. The majority of performers are unable to support themselves in this profession alone and often supplement their income through other jobs.

Many types of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments dramatically increase employment during the summer and either scale back employment during the winter or close down completely. Workers may be required to work nights, weekends, and holidays because that is when most establishments are the busiest.

Work environment. Some jobs require extensive travel. Travelling fairs are common during summer months. Fair workers may only have brief periods off, usually between the completion of one fair and the start of the next, resulting in very little time off. Many work variable schedules, working 6 to 10 months a year.

Many people in this industry work outdoors; others may work in hot, crowded, or noisy conditions. Some jobs, such as those at fitness facilities or in amusement parks, involve some manual labor and require physical strength and stamina. Also, athletes, dancers, and many other types of performers must be in particularly good physical condition. Many jobs include customer service responsibilities, so employees must be able to work well with the public.

Risks of injury are high for some types of workers in this industry, such as athletes. Although most injuries are minor, such as sprains and muscle pulls, they may prevent an employee from working for a period.

Employment[To Top]

The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry provided about 2 million wage and salary jobs in 2008.

Most, 58 percent, of these jobs were in the other amusement and recreation industries segment, which include golf courses, membership sports and recreation clubs, and physical fitness facilities (table 1).

Table 1. Employment in arts, entertainment, and recreation by detailed industry, 2008 (Employment in thousands)
Industry segment Employment Employment
Arts, entertainment, and recreation, total 1,969.5 100.0
  Other amusement and recreation industries 1,136.9 57.7
  Amusement parks and arcades 151.9 7.7
  Gambling industries 142.5 7.2
  Museums, historical sites, and other institutions 131.8 6.7
  Spectator sports 128.8 6.5
  Performing arts companies 117.8 6.0
  Promoters of events, and agents and managers 109.4 5.6
  Independent artists, writers, and performers 50.4 2.6

Although most establishments in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry are small, 43 percent of all jobs were in establishments that employ more than 100 workers.

The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry is characterized by a large number of seasonal and part-time jobs and by workers who are younger than the average for all industries. About 45 percent of all workers are under 35 years old (table 2). Many businesses in the industry increase hiring during the summer, often employing high school-age and college-age workers. Some segments of the industry are heavily reliant on immigrant and guest workers. Most establishments in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry contract work out to lighting, sound, set-building, and exhibit-building firms not included in this industry.

Table 2. Percent distribution of employment, by age group, 2008
Age group Arts, entertainment, and recreation All industries
Total 100.0% 100.0%
16-19 10.5 3.8
20-24 14.0 9.4
25-34 20.0 21.6
35-44 18.9 23.0
45-54 18.7 23.8
55-64 11.9 14.3
65 and older 6.0 4.1

Occupations in the Industry[To Top]

Service occupations. About 59 percent of wage and salary workers in the industry are employed in service occupations (table 3). Amusement and recreation attendants—the largest occupation in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry—perform a variety of duties depending on where they are employed. Common duties include setting up games, handing out sports equipment, providing caddy services for golfers, collecting money, and operating amusement park rides.

Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors lead or coach groups or individuals in exercise activities and in the fundamentals of sports. These workers often are employed in fitness and recreation centers, but they may also work independently or at several fitness centers.

Recreation workers organize and promote activities, such as arts and crafts, sports, games, music, drama, social recreation, camping, and other hobbies. They generally are employed by schools; theme parks and other tourist attractions; or health, sports, and other recreational clubs. Recreation workers schedule organized events to structure leisure time.

Gaming services workers assist in the operation of games, such as keno, bingo, and gaming table games. They may calculate and pay off the amount of winnings, or collect players' money or chips.

Tour and travel guides escort individuals or groups on sightseeing tours or through places of interest, such as industrial establishments, public buildings, and art galleries. They may also plan, organize, and conduct long-distance cruises, tours, and expeditions for individuals or groups.

Animal care and service workers feed, water, bathe, exercise, or otherwise care for animals in zoos, circuses, aquariums, or other settings. They may train animals for riding or performance.

Other service workers include waiters and waitresses, who serve food in entertainment establishments; fast food and counter workers and cooks and food preparation workers, who may serve or prepare food for patrons; and bartenders, who mix and serve drinks in arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments.

Building grounds, cleaning, and maintenance occupations include building cleaning workers, who clean up after shows or sporting events and are responsible for the daily cleaning and upkeep of facilities. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers care for athletic fields and golf courses. These workers maintain artificial and natural turf fields, mark boundaries, and paint team logos on the playing field. They also mow, water, and fertilize natural athletic fields and vacuum and disinfect synthetic fields.

Establishments in this industry also employ workers in protective service occupations. Security guards patrol the property and guard against theft, vandalism, and illegal entry. At sporting events, guards maintain order and direct patrons to various facilities. Gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators observe casino operations to detect cheating, theft, or other irregular activities by patrons or employees.

Professional and related occupations. These workers account for 12 percent of all jobs in this industry. Some of the most well-known members of these occupations, athletes and sports competitors, perform in any of a variety of sports. Professional athletes compete in events for compensation, either through salaries or prize money. Organizations such as Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) sanction events for professionals. Few athletes are able to make it to the professional level, where high salaries are common. In some professional sports, minor leagues offer lower salaries, but give players a chance to develop skills through competition before advancing to major league play.

Coaches and scouts train athletes to perform at their highest level. Often, they are experienced athletes who have retired and are able to provide insight, based on their own experiences, to players. Although some umpires, referees, and other sports officials work full time, the majority usually work part time and often have other full-time jobs. For example, many professional sport referees and umpires also officiate at amateur games.

Musicians and singers may play musical instruments, sing, compose, arrange music, or conduct groups in instrumental or vocal performances. The specific skills and responsibilities of musicians vary widely by type of instrument, size of ensemble, and style of music. For example, musicians can play jazz, classical, or popular music, either alone or in groups that range from small rock bands to large symphony orchestras.

Actors entertain and communicate with people through their interpretation of dramatic, comedic, and other roles. There is a great range in performing venues—from community and local dinner theaters to full-scale Broadway productions. Dancers express ideas, stories, rhythm, and sound with their bodies through different types of dance, including ballet, modern dance, tap, folk, and jazz. Dancers usually perform in a troupe, although some perform solo. Many become teachers when their performing careers end. Choreographers create and teach dance, and they may be called upon to direct and stage presentations. Producers and directors select and interpret plays or scripts, and give directions to actors and dancers. They conduct rehearsals, audition cast members, and approve choreography. They also arrange financing, hire production staff members, and negotiate contracts with personnel.

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians play an important role in preparing museums for display. Archivists appraise, edit, and direct safekeeping of permanent records and historically valuable documents. They may also participate in research activities based on archival materials. Curators administer a museum's affairs and conduct research programs. Museum technicians and conservators prepare specimens, such as fossils, skeletal parts, lace, and textiles, for museum collections and exhibits. They may also take part in restoring documents or installing and arranging materials for exhibit.

Office and administrative support occupations. In this industry, about 10 percent of jobs are in office and administrative support occupations. Receptionists and information clerks, one of the larger occupations in this category, answer questions and provide general information to patrons. Other large occupations in this group include general office clerks and secretaries and administrative assistants. Gaming cage workers conduct financial transactions for patrons in gaming establishments. For example, they may accept a patron's credit application and verify credit references to provide check-cashing authorizations or to establish house credit accounts. Also, they may reconcile daily summaries of transactions to balance books, or they may sell gambling chips, tokens, or tickets to patrons. At a patron's request, gaming cage workers may convert gaming chips, tokens, or tickets to currency.

Sales and related occupations. About 8 percent of all jobs in this industry are in sales and related occupations. Cashiers—the largest occupation in this sector—often use a cash register to receive money and give change to customers. In casinos, gaming change persons and booth cashiers exchange coins and tokens for patrons' money. Counter and rental clerks check out rental equipment to customers, receive orders for service, and handle cash transactions.

Management, business, and financial occupations. These workers make up 5 percent of employment in this industry. Managerial duties in the performing arts include marketing, business management, event booking, fundraising, and public outreach. Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes represent their clients to prospective employers and may handle contract negotiations and other business matters. Recreation supervisors and park superintendents oversee personnel, budgets, grounds and facility maintenance, and land and wildlife resources. Some common administrative jobs in sports are tournament director, health club manager, and sports program director.

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations. These workers make up 4 percent of this industry's employment. General maintenance and repair workers are the largest occupation in this group. They perform maintenance on equipment to ensure safety and continuing operation.

Media and communication equipment workers. These workers set up and operate sound and lighting for shows and exhibits in theaters, amusement parks, and other arts and entertainment venues.

Audio and video equipment technicians set up and operate audio and video equipment—including microphones, sound speakers, video screens, projectors, connecting wires and cables, and sound and mixing boards—for theme parks, concerts, theaters, and sporting events. They may also set up and operate spotlights and other custom lighting systems.

Sound engineering technicians operate machines and equipment to produce or project sound effects, music, or voices in theater productions, sporting arenas, amusement parks, or other arts and entertainment locations. They set up and test sound equipment and work with producers, performers, and others to achieve the desired sound.

Table 3. Employment of wage and salary workers in arts, entertainment and recreation by occupation, 2008 and projected change, 2008-2018. (Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2008 Percent Change,
2008-18
Number Percent
All Occupations 1,969.5 100.0 15.5
Management, business, and financial occupations 105.0 5.3 13.7
Professional and related occupations 233.3 11.8 17.5
  Designers 7.2 0.4 18.3
  Actors 19.0 1.0 14.8
  Producers and directors 9.3 0.5 16.8
  Athletes and sports competitors 12.4 0.6 13.4
  Coaches and scouts 35.3 1.8 21.3
  Dancers 7.2 0.4 8.8
Service occupations 1,161.3 59.0 16.5
  Security guards 39.4 2.0 15.5
  Cooks 47.9 2.4 13.4
  Bartenders 38.7 2.0 11.4
  Waiters and waitresses 91.7 4.7 10.6
  Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 113.1 5.7 12.0
  Amusement and recreation attendants 166.4 8.5 14.8
  Recreation and fitness workers 188.9 9.6 37.5
Sales and related occupations 154.2 7.8 11.2
Office and administrative support occupations 187.3 9.5 14.3
NOTE: Columns may not add to totals due to omission of occupations with small employment.

Training and Advancement[About this section] [To Top]

About 37 percent of all workers in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry have no formal education beyond high school. In the case of performing artists or athletes, talent and years of training are more important than education. However, upper-level management jobs usually require a college degree.

Service occupations. Most service jobs require little or no previous training or education beyond high school. Many companies hire young, lesser skilled workers, such as students, to perform low-paying seasonal jobs. Employers look for people with the interpersonal skills necessary to work with the public.

In physical fitness facilities, positions such as fitness trainer and aerobic instructor usually are filled by persons who develop an avid interest in fitness and then become certified to teach. Certification from a professional organization generally requires knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); an associate degree or experience as an instructor at a health club; and successful completion of written and oral exams covering a variety of areas, including anatomy, nutrition, and fitness testing. Sometimes, fitness workers become health club managers or owners. To advance to a management position, a degree in physical education, sports medicine, or exercise physiology is useful.

Professional and related occupations. In the arts and professional sports, employment in professional and related occupations usually requires a great deal of talent, desire, and dedication. There are many highly talented performers and athletes, creating intense competition for every opening. Professional athletes usually begin competing in their sports during elementary or middle school. They play in amateur tournaments and on high school teams to get the attention of scouts. In some sports that are deemed hazardous, special licenses or certifications are required. Performers such as musicians, dancers, and actors often study their professions most of their lives, taking private lessons and spending hours practicing. Usually, performers have completed some college or related study.

Musicians, dancers, and actors often go on to become teachers after completing the necessary requirements for at least a bachelor's degree. Musicians who complete a graduate degree in music sometimes move on to a career as a conductor. Dancers sometimes become choreographers, and actors can advance into roles such as producer and director.

Management, business, and financial occupations. Almost all arts administrators have completed 4 years of college, and the majority possess a master's or a doctoral degree. Experience in marketing and business is helpful because promoting events is a large part of the job.

Entry-level supervisory or professional jobs in recreation sometimes require completion of a 2-year associate degree in parks and recreation at a community or junior college. Completing a 4-year bachelor's degree in this field is necessary for high-level supervisory positions. Students can specialize in such areas as aquatics, therapeutic recreation, aging and leisure, and environmental studies. Those who obtain graduate degrees in the field and have years of experience may obtain administrative or university teaching positions. The National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) certifies individuals who meet eligibility requirements for professional and technical jobs. Certified park and recreation professionals must pass an exam; earn a bachelor's degree with a major in recreation, park resources, or leisure services from a program accredited by the NRPA or by the American Association for Leisure and Recreation; or earn a bachelor's degree and have at least 3 years of relevant full-time work experience, depending on the major field of study.

The education and experience of top executives varies widely, but many have a bachelor's degree or higher in business administration or liberal arts. Many positions are filled from within the organization by promoting experienced managers. They may help their advancement by participating in company and outside training programs to learn management techniques. Top executives must have excellent interpersonal skills, an analytical mind, a decisive manner, and leadership ability.

Media and communication equipment workers. There are multiple training and education options for these workers, including technical school, an associate degree, an apprenticeship, and on-the-job training. Sound engineering technicians can best prepare by getting training at a technical school, community college, or college in broadcast technology, sound engineering technology, communications technology, electronics, or computer networking. They may then begin working and learn from more experienced technicians. Less formal training is required for audio and video equipment technicians. Many workers have community college degrees, but they are not always required. Workers may substitute on-the-job training for education and may gain experience by working as an assistant to audio and video equipment technicians.

Outlook[About this section] [To Top]

Rising incomes, leisure time, and awareness of the health benefits of physical fitness will increase the demand for arts, entertainment, and recreation services. Opportunities should be available for young, seasonal, part-time, and lesser skilled workers, but there will continue to be intense competition for jobs as performing artists and professional athletes.

Employment change. Wage and salary jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation are projected to grow about 15 percent over the 2008-18 period, compared with 11 percent for all industries combined. Rising incomes, leisure time, and awareness of the health benefits of physical fitness will increase the demand for arts, entertainment, and recreation services.

Employment in fitness centers and similar establishments will grow based on several factors. Aging baby boomers are concerned with staying healthy, physically fit, and independent, and they have become the largest demographic group of health club members. The reduction of physical education programs in schools, combined with parents' growing concern about childhood obesity, has rapidly increased child health club membership. Membership among young adults has also grown steadily, driven by concern about physical fitness and funded by rising incomes. The proliferation of group exercise classes and the focus on overall wellness in health clubs should also increase the demand for workers in this industry.

Moderate employment growth is expected in the gaming industry, spurred by the recent growth in the number of casinos on American Indian reservations and the introduction of slot machines at racetracks. Many States have relaxed gambling regulations so that they can increase State revenues from gaming establishment taxes.

Employment in museums, historical sites, and similar institutions is expected to grow as these institutions increasingly create exhibits and provide services that appeal to the public. Bolstered by healthy public support and increasing funding in recent years, many museums have recently or are currently expanding their facilities.

Because of competition from competing forms of entertainment, employment in the performing arts is not expected to grow significantly.

Job prospects. Employment opportunities should be available in a wide range of settings, including golf courses, parks and outdoor recreational facilities, and amusement parks. The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry has relied heavily on workers under 25 years old to fill seasonal and lesser skilled positions. About 25 percent of all jobs in this industry are held by workers under age 25, compared to 13 percent in all industries combined. Opportunities should be available for young, seasonal, part-time, and lesser skilled workers. In addition, the industry is expected to hire a growing number of workers in other age groups. Because of the appeal of jobs as performing artists and professional athletes, the supply of workers in these occupations will expand, ensuring continued intense competition.

Earnings [About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

Industry earnings. Earnings in arts, entertainment, and recreation are relatively low, reflecting the large number of part-time and seasonal jobs. Nonsupervisory workers in arts, entertainment, and recreation averaged $355 a week in 2008, compared with $608 throughout private industry.

Earnings vary according to occupation and segment of the industry. For example, some professional athletes earn millions, but competition for these positions is intense, and most athletes are unable to reach even the minor leagues. Many service workers make the minimum wage or slightly higher. Actors often go long periods with little or no income from acting, so they are forced to work at second jobs. Wages in selected occupations in arts, entertainment, and recreation appear in table 4.

Table 4. Median hourly wages of the largest occupations in arts, entertainment, and recreation, May 2008
Occupation Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries Museums, historical sites, and similar institutions Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries All industries
Receptionists and information clerks $11.75 $9.84 $9.35 $11.80
Security guards 11.06 11.32 11.18 11.28
Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 10.47 11.59 10.03 11.13
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners 10.33 10.03 9.40 10.31
Cashiers 9.47 8.92 8.32 8.49
Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers 9.10 9.02 8.56 8.35
Bartenders 8.92 10.40 8.75 8.54
Waiters and waitresses 8.88 10.18 8.75 8.01
Amusement and recreation attendants 8.40 8.67 8.19 8.40
Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors - - 14.69 14.04

Because many amusement and theme parks dramatically increase employment during peak vacation periods, employment for a number of jobs in the industry is seasonal. Theme parks, for example, frequently hire young workers, often students, for summer employment. Also, many sports are not played year-round, so athletes and people in the service jobs associated with those sports often are seasonally employed.

Benefits and union membership. Employers in some segments of this industry offer benefits that are not available in other industries. For example, benefits for workers in some theme parks include free passes to the park, transportation to and from work, housing, scholarships, and discounts on park merchandise.

Although unions are not common in most segments of this industry, they are important in professional sports and the performing arts. Many professional athletes, actors, and performers are members of unions. Consequently, earnings of athletes and performers are often determined by union contracts that specify minimum salary rates and working conditions.



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

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