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Working as a Recreation Worker

What Does a Recreation Worker 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.

How To Become a Recreation Worker

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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Average Salary$28,926
Job Growth Rate8%

Recreation Worker Career Paths

Top Careers Before Recreation Worker

Cashier
14.3 %

Top Careers After Recreation Worker

Cashier
19.2 %

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Average Salary for a Recreation Worker

Recreation Workers in America make an average salary of $28,926 per year or $14 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $39,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $20,000 per year.
Average Salary
$28,926

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary
Santa Cruz, CA
Salary Range26k - 48k$36k$35,622
Waltham, MA
Salary Range26k - 46k$35k$34,853
Savannah, GA
Salary Range26k - 39k$32k$32,477
Denver, CO
Salary Range26k - 39k$32k$32,164
Casper, WY
Salary Range26k - 37k$32k$31,532
Bozeman, MT
Salary Range24k - 37k$30k$29,991
$20k
$48k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Senior Recreation Worker (Nonperm)
Senior Recreation Worker (Nonperm)
City of Tucson
City of Tucson
12/22/2020
12/22/2020
$26,29612/22/2020
$26,296
Parks and Recreation Worker I-(Hogadon)
Parks and Recreation Worker I-(Hogadon)
City of Casper
City of Casper
09/17/2020
09/17/2020
$19,59709/17/2020
$19,597
Kidco Recreation Worker (Nonperm)
Kidco Recreation Worker (Nonperm)
City of Tucson
City of Tucson
08/29/2020
08/29/2020
$25,04408/29/2020
$25,044
Seasonal Outdoor Golf Course Worker-Denver Parks & Recreation
Seasonal Outdoor Golf Course Worker-Denver Parks & Recreation
City of Denver
City of Denver
08/27/2020
08/27/2020
$29,21808/27/2020
$29,218
Seasonal Outdoor Golf Course Worker-Denver Parks & Recreation
Seasonal Outdoor Golf Course Worker-Denver Parks & Recreation
City of Denver
City of Denver
07/20/2020
07/20/2020
$29,21807/20/2020
$29,218
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Recreation Worker Demographics

Gender

male

47.6 %

female

44.1 %

unknown

8.2 %

Ethnicity

White

64.6 %

Hispanic or Latino

14.6 %

Black or African American

12.5 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

80.6 %

French

6.5 %

Portuguese

3.2 %
See More Demographics

Recreation Worker Education

Majors

Business
11.6 %

Degrees

Bachelors

39.8 %

High School Diploma

28.1 %

Associate

16.7 %

Top Colleges for Recreation Workers

1. SUNY College at Cortland

Cortland, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,536
Enrollment
6,325

2. Winona State University

Winona, MN • Public

In-State Tuition
$9,425
Enrollment
7,052

3. Minnesota State University - Mankato

Mankato, MN • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,184
Enrollment
11,675

4. Eastern Mennonite University

Harrisonburg, VA • Private

In-State Tuition
$37,110
Enrollment
1,030

5. University of Idaho

Moscow, ID • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,864
Enrollment
7,528

6. University of Alaska Anchorage

Anchorage, AK • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,580
Enrollment
10,482

7. Montreat College

Montreat, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$26,920
Enrollment
714

8. University of Alaska Southeast

Juneau, AK • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,092
Enrollment
1,216

9. Plymouth State University

Plymouth, NH • Public

In-State Tuition
$14,099
Enrollment
4,135

10. Northwest Nazarene University

Nampa, ID • Private

In-State Tuition
$29,800
Enrollment
1,268
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Recreation Worker

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 21.8% of recreation workers listed recreational activities on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and flexibility are important as well.

  • Recreational Activities, 21.8%
  • Safety Procedures, 13.1%
  • Maintenance Tasks, 8.1%
  • Proper USE, 7.1%
  • Safety Rules, 5.4%
  • Other Skills, 44.5%
  • See All Recreation Worker Skills

Best States For a Recreation Worker

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a recreation worker. The best states for people in this position are New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, and North Dakota. Recreation workers make the most in New York with an average salary of $42,443. Whereas in Rhode Island and Oregon, they would average $39,032 and $38,710, respectively. While recreation workers would only make an average of $36,675 in North Dakota, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. New York

Total Recreation Worker Jobs:
88
Highest 10% Earn:
$78,000
Location Quotient:
1.02
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Washington

Total Recreation Worker Jobs:
56
Highest 10% Earn:
$60,000
Location Quotient:
1.17
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Minnesota

Total Recreation Worker Jobs:
73
Highest 10% Earn:
$53,000
Location Quotient:
1.95
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Recreation Worker Employers

1. City of Tucson
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$29,358
Recreation Workers Hired: 
73+
2. Johnson City
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$27,286
Recreation Workers Hired: 
9+
3. Delano Park
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$26,978
Recreation Workers Hired: 
9+
4. City of Saint Paul
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$32,971
Recreation Workers Hired: 
6+
5. Brehm Preparatory School
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$29,079
Recreation Workers Hired: 
5+
6. YMCA of Greater Indianapolis
3.6
Avg. Salary: 
$20,345
Recreation Workers Hired: 
5+
Updated October 2, 2020