What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Recreation and Fitness Worker?

If you’re an adventurous leader with natural abilities like communication skills, physical strength and a talent for problem-solving, guiding other people’s play could become your work. Recreation and fitness workers develop and lead recreation programs of all kinds. To attain a full-time job in recreation, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree.

Life as a Recreation Worker

The primary role of a recreation worker is to lead activities that range from the physical – like sports, camping and adventure programs – to the creative, like music and crafts. Recreation workers are responsible for planning and coordinating events, instructing participants, setting up equipment and guiding participants through the activity. They protect participants’ safety by developing and enforcing rules and performing first aid care if necessary.

Some specific types of recreation workers include:

  • Camp counselors
  • Camp directors
  • Activity specialists
  • Recreation leaders
  • Recreation supervisors
  • Directors of recreation and parks

Recreation workers find employment in a number of interesting places, from parks and camps to playgrounds and senior centers. About one-third of all recreation workers are employed by local government agencies, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

An Education in Recreation

To become a full-time recreation and fitness worker, you will most likely need an undergraduate college degree in a program like recreation or leisure studies, the BLS reported. Students should make sure their program is among those accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions (COAPRT), itself an offshoot of the National Recreation and Park Association. Students in accredited recreation degree programs complete coursework in subjects like community organization, administration, human development and management, according to the BLS.

In addition to learning the leadership and supervisory skills necessary to oversee recreational activities, students in these programs will also learn how to create recreation programs for different groups of participants. Some programs allow students to specialize in a certain area of recreation and leisure studies, like camp management, park management, outdoor recreation and commercial recreation, the BLS reported.

Beyond the Bachelor’s Degree

Recreation worker candidates who aspire to high-level roles should be prepared to earn a graduate degree in parks and recreation or a more general subject like public administration or business administration. They can also seek credentials such as certification from the National Recreation and Park Association, a certificate from the American Camp Association and lifesaving certification.

Recreation and fitness workers earn a median salary of $22,240, with about half of them working part-time, the BLS reported. The job outlook is positive, with the BLS predicting a 14 percent increase in opportunities for recreation and fitness workers over just a decade. Factors like above average upward mobility, a high level of flexibility and the opportunity to make a living instructing people in physical activity of various kinds led U.S. News & World Report to rank the occupation 11th on its list of the best social services jobs and 74th on its list of the 100 best jobs.

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