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Become A Recreation Counselor

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Working As A Recreation Counselor

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • $21,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Recreation Counselor Do

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

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.

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How To Become A Recreation Counselor

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 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

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

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.

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Recreation Counselor Career Paths

Recreation Counselor
Counselor Therapist Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Counselor Instructor Consultant
General Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Counselor Instructor Team Leader
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Consultant Assistant Manager
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Consultant Office Manager
Business Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Account Executive Store Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Office Assistant Executive Assistant Assistant Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Office Assistant Administrator Assistant Manager
Communications Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Office Assistant Executive Assistant Operations Manager
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Teacher Assistant Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Facilities Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Teacher Assistant Kindergarten Teacher Lead Teacher
Center Director
7 Yearsyrs
Teacher Assistant Instructor Lead Teacher
Education Director
7 Yearsyrs
Teacher Administrator Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Teacher Executive Assistant Property Manager
Communications Director
6 Yearsyrs
Teacher Administrator General Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Residential Counselor Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Residential Counselor Therapist Program Manager
Associate Director
8 Yearsyrs
Assistant Account Executive Principal
Athletic Director
5 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Program Lead Activities Director
Life Enrichment Director
6 Yearsyrs
Tutor Program Lead Activities Director
Director Of Therapeutic Recreation
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Head Counselor 2.0 years
Recreation Aide 1.8 years
Unit Counselor 1.8 years
Teen Counselor 1.6 years
Day Camp Counselor 1.4 years
Camp Assistant 1.2 years
Camp Counselor 1.2 years
Junior Counselor 1.1 years
Summer Counselor 1.1 years
Cabin Counselor 0.9 years
Top Careers Before Recreation Counselor
Cashier 13.2%
Volunteer 11.5%
Internship 11.1%
Counselor 3.8%
Server 3.3%
Assistant 3.1%
Teacher 2.9%
Instructor 2.7%
Tutor 2.3%
Top Careers After Recreation Counselor
Internship 11.8%
Cashier 8.3%
Counselor 6.4%
Volunteer 6.3%
Teacher 4.5%
Server 4.2%
Assistant 3.0%

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Top Skills for A Recreation Counselor

  1. Recreational Activities
  2. Ensure Safety
  3. Daily Activities
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Coordinated a variety of recreational activities and Holiday events for consumers on a monthly basis.
  • Communicate with parents and co-workers during child pick-up to ensure safety and to direct multiple vehicles.
  • Awarded children point additions and deductions throughout daily activities to adhere to behavior modification point system.
  • Oversee curriculum, materials, management and general supervision of an assigned group.
  • Supervised the direct activity of various age groups of school aged special education children.

Recreation Counselor Demographics

Gender

Female

47.4%

Male

38.1%

Unknown

14.6%
Ethnicity

White

61.6%

Hispanic or Latino

15.9%

Black or African American

12.8%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

3.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

67.2%

French

15.5%

Italian

5.2%

Chinese

3.4%

Korean

3.4%

Portuguese

1.7%

Carrier

1.7%

Mandarin

1.7%
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Recreation Counselor Education

Schools

Bergen Community College

9.1%

William Paterson University of New Jersey

7.1%

University of Central Florida

7.1%

New York University

6.5%

University of Phoenix

6.5%

Virginia Commonwealth University

5.8%

State University of New York College at Brockport

5.8%

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

4.5%

State University of New York College at Cortland

4.5%

Montclair State University

4.5%

Liberty University

4.5%

University of South Florida

3.9%

Moorpark College

3.9%

Fairleigh Dickinson University

3.9%

Springfield College

3.9%

Bridgewater State University

3.9%

Adelphi University

3.9%

Hofstra University

3.9%

Rockland Community College

3.2%

Mercy College - Dobbs Ferry

3.2%
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Majors

Psychology

15.5%

Business

9.8%

Criminal Justice

9.4%

Kinesiology

6.9%

Social Work

6.6%

Sociology

5.2%

Education

4.5%

Communication

4.5%

Liberal Arts

4.4%

Human Services

4.4%

Health Education

4.0%

Early Childhood Education

2.9%

Elementary Education

2.9%

Marketing

2.9%

School Counseling

2.7%

Rehabilitation Science

2.7%

Recreation Management

2.7%

Special Education

2.7%

General Studies

2.6%

Nursing

2.6%
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Degrees

Bachelors

47.3%

Other

20.1%

Masters

18.1%

Associate

8.5%

Certificate

4.0%

Doctorate

1.1%

Diploma

0.7%

License

0.2%
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