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Become A Recreation Specialist

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Working As A Recreation Specialist

  • 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

  • $56,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Recreation Specialist 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 Specialist

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 Specialist Career Paths

Recreation Specialist
Substitute Teacher Teacher Consultant
General Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Consultant Assistant Manager
Assistant General Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Substitute Teacher Consultant Office Manager
Business Office Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Recreation Coordinator Teacher Adjunct Professor
Assistant Principal
10 Yearsyrs
Teacher Administrator Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Executive Assistant Owner
Marketing Director
7 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Executive Assistant Assistant Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Program Coordinator Executive Assistant Operations Manager
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Recreation Coordinator Recreation Therapist Therapist
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Recreation Therapist Therapist Supervisor
Facilities Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Recreation Therapist Therapist Owner
Development Director
9 Yearsyrs
Counselor Team Leader Assistant Manager
Communications Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Counselor Team Leader Service Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Counselor Instructor Lead Teacher
Center Director
7 Yearsyrs
Coordinator Team Leader Director
Education Director
7 Yearsyrs
Coordinator Accountant Property Manager
Communications Director
6 Yearsyrs
Coordinator Lead Teacher Assistant Director
Director Of Admissions
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Adjunct Professor Assistant Principal
Athletic Director
5 Yearsyrs
Instructor Lead Teacher Program Director
Unit Director
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Senior Technician Specialist Activities Director
Life Enrichment Director
6 Yearsyrs
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Recreation Specialist Demographics

Gender

Female

45.7%

Male

41.9%

Unknown

12.4%
Ethnicity

White

59.9%

Hispanic or Latino

17.5%

Black or African American

12.0%

Asian

6.7%

Unknown

3.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

68.3%

French

7.1%

Chinese

4.0%

Navajo

4.0%

Italian

3.2%

German

2.4%

Portuguese

1.6%

Mandarin

1.6%

Arabic

1.6%

Khmer

0.8%

Filipino

0.8%

Cantonese

0.8%

Carrier

0.8%

Tagalog

0.8%

Polish

0.8%

Korean

0.8%

Cebuano

0.8%
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Recreation Specialist Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

12.1%

San Jose State University

7.4%

Texas State University

6.7%

Old Dominion University

6.0%

California State University - Long Beach

6.0%

Norfolk State University

5.8%

San Diego State University

4.9%

Liberty University

4.9%

Florida State University

4.5%

Arizona State University

4.0%

University of Florida

4.0%

University of Central Florida

4.0%

State University of New York College at Brockport

4.0%

University of North Texas

3.8%

University of Maryland - University College

3.8%

Temple University

3.8%

Southern Connecticut State University

3.6%

Ashford University

3.6%

University of Utah

3.6%

Kent State University

3.4%
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Majors

Kinesiology

13.7%

Business

13.2%

Recreation Management

11.4%

Health Education

7.3%

Psychology

6.5%

Rehabilitation Science

6.4%

Criminal Justice

5.8%

Education

4.1%

Liberal Arts

3.5%

Communication

3.5%

Sociology

3.4%

Social Work

3.1%

Management

2.9%

General Studies

2.6%

Human Services

2.4%

Elementary Education

2.3%

Health Care Administration

2.1%

Human Development

2.0%

Natural Resources Management

1.8%

Parks And Recreation Management

1.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

50.3%

Masters

18.1%

Other

17.4%

Associate

9.4%

Certificate

3.3%

Doctorate

0.7%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$56,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$25,000
Min 10%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$56,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Management and Training
Highest Paying City
Anchorage, AK
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
2.9 years
How much does a Recreation Specialist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Recreation Specialist in the United States is $56,198 per year or $27 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $25,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $122,000.

Real Recreation Specialist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Recreational Specialist China Travel Ca Inc. Diamond Bar, CA Aug 26, 2014 $39,027
Recreation Specialist University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI Dec 01, 2010 $37,311
Youth Outdoors Recreation Specialist Board of Park Commissioners of The Cleveland Metropolitan Park Distric Cuyahoga Heights, OH Oct 20, 2014 $36,523 -
$53,865
Golf Recreation Specialist Niagara Falls Country Club Lewiston, NY Sep 29, 2015 $35,208
Recreation Specialist Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, Inc. Gaithersburg, MD Sep 01, 2015 $33,747
Recreation Specialist Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, Inc. Gaithersburg, MD Sep 09, 2015 $33,747
Recreation Specialist University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI Dec 01, 2010 $32,808
Golf Recreation Specialist Niagara Falls Country Club Lewiston, NY Aug 30, 2016 $31,305
Recreation Specialist Club Sports Liberty University Lynchburg, VA May 20, 2016 $24,000
Recreation Specialist 320 Ranch Inc. Gallatin Gateway, MT Sep 06, 2013 $22,957
Recreation Specialist Mountain Sky Guest Ranch LLC Emigrant, MT Jan 05, 2016 $21,392

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Top Skills for A Recreation Specialist

  1. Recreational Activities
  2. Special Events
  3. Customer Service
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Coordinated and organized facility wide inmate recreational activities while insuring the safety of both offenders and staff.
  • Developed and organized recreation, athletic, educational programs and special events.
  • Worked collaboratively with a team - Conducted customer service duties - Administered bowling lane assignments and performed maintenance tasks
  • Enforced safety procedures in accordance with facility policies and government regulations.
  • Demonstrated clear written and oral communications skills while interacting physical fitness professionals and gym patrons.

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Top 10 Best States for Recreation Specialists

  1. Alaska
  2. South Dakota
  3. North Dakota
  4. District of Columbia
  5. Oregon
  6. Idaho
  7. Minnesota
  8. Wyoming
  9. Montana
  10. Kentucky
  • (34 jobs)
  • (32 jobs)
  • (37 jobs)
  • (72 jobs)
  • (184 jobs)
  • (117 jobs)
  • (271 jobs)
  • (52 jobs)
  • (99 jobs)
  • (139 jobs)

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