|98-99 Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|
Nature of the Work
(D.O.T. 153.137-010; 159.124-010; 187.167-238; 195.227-010, -014; 352.167-010)
* The recreation field has an unusually large number of part-time, seasonal, and volunteer jobs.
* Educational requirements range from a high school diploma, or sometimes less for many summer jobs, to a graduate degree in parks and recreation or leisure studies for some administrative positions.
* Competition will remain keen for full-time career positions; persons with experience gained in part-time or seasonal recreation jobs, together with formal recreation training, should have the best opportunities.
Many people spend much of their leisure time participating in a wide variety of organized recreation activities, such as aerobics, arts and crafts, water sports, tennis, camping and softball. Recreation programs, as diverse as the people they serve, are offered at local playgrounds and recreation areas, parks, community centers, health clubs, religious organizations, camps, theme parks, and most tourist attractions. Recreation workers plan, organize, and direct these activities.
Recreation workers organize and lead programs and watch over recreational facilities and equipment. They help people pursue their interest in crafts, art, or sports by leading activities. These activities enable people to share common interests in physical and mental activities for entertainment, physical fitness, and self-improvement. Recreation workers organize teams and leagues, and also teach the correct use of equipment and facilities.
In the workplace, recreation workers organize and direct leisure activities and athletic programs for all ages, such as bowling and softball leagues, social functions, travel programs, discount services, and, to an increasing extent, exercise and fitness programs. These activities are generally for adults.
Recreation workers hold a variety of positions at many different levels of responsibility. Recreation leaders are responsible for a recreation program's daily operation, and organize and direct participants. They may lead and give instruction in dance, drama, crafts, games, and sports; schedule use of facilities and keep records of equipment use; and ensure recreation facilities and equipment are used properly. Workers who provide instruction in specialties such as art, music, drama, swimming, or tennis may be called activity specialists. They conduct classes and coach teams in the activity in which they specialize.
Recreation supervisors plan, organize, and manage recreation activities to meet the needs of the population they serve, and supervise recreation leaders. A recreation supervisor serves as a liaison between the director of the park or recreation center and the recreation leaders. A recreation supervisor who has more specialized responsibilities may also direct special activities or events, and oversee a major activity, such as aquatics, gymnastics, or performing arts.
Directors of recreation and parks develop and manage comprehensive recreation programs in parks, playgrounds, and other settings. Directors usually serve as a technical advisor to State and local recreation and park commissions, and may be responsible for recreation and park budgets.
Camp counselors lead and instruct children and teenagers in outdoor-oriented forms of recreation, such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding, and camping. Activities are often intended to enhance campers' appreciation of nature and responsible use of the environment. In addition, counselors provide campers with specialized instruction in activities such as archery, boating, music, drama, gymnastics, tennis, and computers. In resident camps, counselors also provide guidance and supervise daily living and general socialization.
In a related occupation, recreational therapists help individuals recover or adjust to illness, disability, or specific social problems; this occupation is described elsewhere in the Handbook
Recreation workers must work while others engage in leisure time activities. While most recreation workers put in about 40 hours a week, people entering this field, especially camp counselors, should expect some night and weekend work and irregular hours. About 3 out of 10 work part time, and many jobs are seasonal. The work setting for recreation workers may be anywhere from a cruise ship, to a woodland recreational park, to a playground in the center of a large urban community. Recreation workers often spend much of their time outdoors and may work under a variety of weather conditions. Recreation directors and supervisors may spend most of their time in an office planning programs and special events. Because full-time recreation workers spend more time acting as managers than hands-on activities leaders, they engage in less physical activity. However, as is the case for anyone engaged in physical activity, recreation workers risk suffering an injury, and the work can be physically challenging.
Recreation workers held about 233,000 jobs in 1996, and many additional workers held summer jobs in this occupation. Of those who held year-round jobs as recreation workers, about half worked in park and recreation departments of municipal and county governments. Nearly 2 out of 10 worked in membership organizations with a civic, social, fraternal, or religious orientationthe Boy Scouts, the YWCA, and Red Cross, for example. About 1 out of 10 were in programs run by social service organizationssenior centers and adult daycare programs, or residential care facilities such as halfway houses, group homes, and institutions for delinquent youth. Another 1 out 10 worked for nursing and other personal care facilities.
Other employers included commercial recreation stablishments, amusement parks, sports and entertainment centers, wilderness and survival enterprises, tourist attractions, vacation excursion companies, hotels and resorts, summer camps, health and athletic clubs, and apartment complexes.
The recreation field has an unusually large number of part-time, seasonal, and volunteer jobs. These jobs include summer camp counselors, lifeguards, craft specialists, and after-school and weekend recreation program leaders. Teachers and college students take many jobs as recreation workers when school is not in session.
Many unpaid volunteers assist paid recreation workers. The vast majority of volunteers serve as activity leaders at local day-camp programs, or in youth organizations, camps, nursing homes, hospitals, senior centers, YMCA's, and other settings. Some volunteers serve on local park and recreation boards and commissions. Volunteer experience, part-time work during school, or a summer job can lead to a full-time career as a recreation worker.
Education needed for recreation worker jobs ranges from a high school diploma, or sometimes less for many summer jobs, to graduate education for some administrative positions in large public recreation systems. Full-time career professional positions usually require a college degree with a major in parks and recreation or leisure studies, but a bachelor's degree in any liberal arts field may be sufficient for some jobs in the private sector. In industrial recreation, or "employee services" as it is more commonly called, companies prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree in recreation or leisure studies and a background in business administration.
Specialized training or experience in a particular field, such as art, music, drama, or athletics, is an asset for many jobs. Some jobs also require a certification. For example, when teaching or coaching water-related activities, a lifesaving certificate is a prerequisite. Graduates of associate degree programs in parks and recreation, social work, and other human services disciplines also enter some career recreation positions. Occasionally high school graduates are able to enter career positions, but this is not common. Some college students work part time as recreation workers while earning degrees.
A bachelor's degree and experience are preferred for most recreation supervisor jobs and required for most higher-level administrator jobs. However, increasing numbers of recreation workers who aspire to administrator positions are obtaining master's degrees in parks and recreation or related disciplines Also, many persons in other disciplines, including social work, forestry, and resource management, pursue graduate degrees in recreation.
Programs leading to an associate or bachelor's degree in parks and recreation, leisure studies, or related fields are offered at several hundred colleges and universities. Many also offer master's or doctoral degrees in this field.
In 1997, 93 bachelor's degree programs in parks and recreation were accredited by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Accredited programs provide broad exposure to the history, theory, and philosophy of park and recreation management. Courses offered include community organization, supervision and administration, recreational needs of special populations, such as older adults or the disabled, and supervised fieldwork. Students may specialize in areas such as therapeutic recreation, park management, outdoor recreation, industrial or commercial recreation, and camp management.
The American Camping Association offers workshops and courses for experienced camp directors at different times and locations throughout the year. Some national youth associations offer training courses for camp directors at the local and regional levels.
Persons planning recreation careers should be outgoing, good at motivating people, and sensitive to the needs of others. Good health and physical fitness are required. Activity planning calls for creativity and resourcefulness. Willingness to accept responsibility and the ability to exercise good judgment are important qualities since recreation personnel often work without close supervision. Part-time or summer recreation work experience while in high school or college may help students decide whether their interests really point to a human services career. Such experience also may increase their leadership skills and understanding of people.
Individuals contemplating careers in recreation at the supervisory or administrative level should develop managerial skills. College courses in management, business administration, accounting, and personnel management are likely to be useful.
Certification for this field is offered by the NRPA National Certification Board. The National Recreation and Parks Association, along with its State chapters, offers certification as a Certified Leisure Professional (CLP) for those with a college degree in recreation, and as a Certified Leisure Technician (CLT) for those with less than 4 years of college. Other NRPA certifications include Certified Leisure Provisional Professional (CLPP), Certified Playground Inspector (CPI), and Aquatic Facility Operations (AFO) Certification. Continuing education is necessary to remain certified.
Certification is not usually required for employment or advancement in this field, but it is an asset. Employers choosing among qualified job applicants may opt to hire the person with a demonstrated record of professional achievement represented by certification.
Competition will remain keen for full-time career positions in recreation. All college graduates are eligible for recreation jobs, regardless of major. Also, many high school and junior college graduates are eligible, so the number of full-time career jobseekers often greatly exceed the number of job openings. Opportunities for staff positions should be best for persons with experience gained in part-time or seasonal recreation jobs, together with formal recreation training. Those with graduate degrees should have the best opportunities for supervisory or administrative positions.
Prospects are better for the large number of temporary seasonal jobs. These positions, typically filled by high school or college students, do not generally have formal education requirements and are open to anyone with the desired personal qualities. Employers compete for a share of the vacationing student labor force, and, while salaries in recreation are often lower than those in other fields, the nature of the work and the opportunity to work outdoors is attractive to many. Seasonal employment prospects should be good for applicants with specialized training and certification in an activity like swimming. These workers may obtain jobs as program directors.
Employment of recreation workers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006 as growing numbers of people possess both the time and the money to enjoy leisure services. Growth in these jobs will also stem from increased interest in fitness and health and the rising demand for recreational opportunities for older adults in senior centers and retirement communities. However, overall employment in local governmentwhere half of all recreation workers are employedis expected to grow more slowly than in other industries due to budget constraints, and some local park and recreation departments are expected to do less hiring for permanent, full-time positions than in the past. As a result, this sector's share of recreation worker employment will vary widely by region, since resources as well as priorities for public services differ from one community to another. Thus, hiring prospects for recreation workers will be much better in some park and recreation departments, but worse in others.
Recreation worker jobs should also increase in social servicesmore recreation workers will be needed to develop and lead activity programs in senior centers, halfway houses, children's homes, and daycare programs for the mentally retarded or developmentally disabled. Similarly, the increasing elderly population will spur job growth in nursing homes and other personal care facilities where recreation activities are becoming more important.
Recreation worker jobs in employee services and recreation will continue to increase as more businesses recognize the benefits to their employees of recreation programs and other services such as wellness programs and elder care. Job growth will also occur in the commercial recreation industry, composed of amusement parks, athletic clubs, camps, sports clinics, and swimming pools, for example.
Median annual earnings of recreation workers who worked full time in 1996 were about $18,700, significantly lower than the median of $25,600 for workers in all occupations. The middle 50 percent earned between about $12,900 and $28,900, while the top 10 percent earned $37,500 or more. However, earnings of recreation directors and others in supervisory or managerial positions can be substantially higher.
Most public and private recreation agencies provide full-time recreation workers with typical benefits; part-time workers receive few, if any, benefits.
Recreation workers must exhibit leadership and sensitivity in dealing with people. Other occupations that require similar personal qualities include recreational therapists, social workers, parole officers, human relations counselors, school counselors, clinical and counseling psychologists, and teachers.
For information on jobs in recreation, contact employers such as local government departments of parks and recreation, nursing and personal care facilities, and YMCA's.
Ordering information for materials describing careers and academic programs in recreation is available from:
National Recreation and Park Association, Division of Professional Services, 2775 South Quincy St., Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22206. Homepage: http://www.nrpa.org
For information on careers in employee services and corporate recreation, contact:
National Employee Services and Recreation Association, 2211 York Rd., Suite 207, Oakbrook, IL 60521.
For information on careers in camping and summer counselor opportunities, contact:
American Camping Association, 5000 State Rd. 67 North, Martinsville, IN 46151.
|98-99 Handbook Contents...||UMSL Govt. Docs...||UMSL Libraries...||UMSL Home...|