Recreation workers design and lead activities to help people stay active, improve fitness, and have fun.
What they do
Recreation workers work with groups in summer camps, fitness and recreational sports centers, nursing care facilities, nature parks, and other settings. They may lead such activities as arts and crafts, sports, music, dramatics, or games.
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.
Many workers spend much of their time outdoors. Others provide instruction indoors, for activities such as dance or karate. Still others typically spend most of their time in an office, planning programs and special events.
Recreation workers may face some injury risk while participating in physical activities.
Many recreation workers, such as camp counselors or activity specialists, work weekends or part-time or irregular hours, or may be seasonally employed. Seasonal workers may work as few as 90 days or as long as 9 months during a season, depending on where they are employed and the type of activity they lead. For example, in areas of the United States that have warm winters, outdoor swimming pools may employ related recreation workers for a majority of the year. In other areas of the country, they may work only during the summer.
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.
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 2017, the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions, a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), accredited more than 70 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.
The median annual wage for recreation workers was $26,350 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,860, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $44,000.
Employment of recreation workers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As more emphasis is placed on the importance of lifelong well-being, more recreation workers will be needed to work with children and adults in a variety of settings.
Additional recreation workers are expected to be needed to work for fitness and recreational sports centers, youth centers, sports clubs, and other for- and not-for-profit organizations because some parks and recreation departments may seek to cut costs by contracting out the services of activity specialists.
Similar Job Titles
Activities Assistant, Activities Director, Activity Aide, Activity Assistant, Activity Coordinator, Activity Director, Program Assistant, Recreation Assistant, Recreation Coordinator, Recreation Supervisor
Directors-Religious Activities and Education, Preschool Teacher (except Special Education), Coaches and Scouts, Recreational Therapist, Residential Advisor
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Alzheimer's Association
- American Art Therapy Association
- American Therapeutic Recreation Association
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association
- National Certification Council for Activity Professionals
- National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
- Resort and Commercial Recreation Association
- United States Professional Tennis Association
- United States Racquet Stringers Association
Magazines and Publications
- Parks and Recreation Business Magazine
- Parks and Recreation Therapy
- Campus Recreation Magazine
- Recreation Management Magazine
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org