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Feature Article - July 2012

In the Money

Our Fifth Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


The past year has seen gradual, if slight, improvement in the overall employment and economic situation in the United States. While some might say we've reached a standstill, the fact is that since May 2011, unemployment has fallen from 9.1 percent to 8.2 percent in May 2012.

But even though there has been progress, it has been slower than most would wish, and deep-rooted concerns about the U.S. economic and jobs situations continue to run rampant.

In light of this, our Fifth Annual Salary Survey delivers a relatively positive report. Salaries, for the most part, are up this year, and the outlook for our survey participants continues to improve, with some exceptions.

Who Are You?

If you took a snapshot of the average respondent out of more than 2,000 professionals who answered our survey questions, you'd find yourself looking at a 49-year-old white male working as a director for a public parks and recreation organization in a Midwestern suburb.

Nearly three in 10 respondents (28.7 percent) were from the Midwest. The next largest percentage—20.6 percent—were from the West. Another 18.8 percent were from the South Atlantic, while 17.8 percent were from the Northeast and 13.6 percent were from the South Central states. Just 0.5 percent said they were from outside the United States.

The suburbs were well represented, with 41.2 percent of respondents indicating they worked in this sort of community. Another third (33.5 percent) said they were from rural communities, while 25.3 percent were from urban areas.

More than two-thirds (67.7 percent) of respondents work for public organizations. Another 20.4 percent work for private nonprofits, and 11.1 percent work for private, for-profit organizations.

Nearly four in 10 (37.8 percent) respondents worked for parks and recreation departments or park districts. The next largest group (19.2 percent) worked for colleges and universities. They were followed by respondents representing schools and school districts (10.5 percent); community or private recreation and sports centers (6.2 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, and private or youth camps (5.7 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys and Girls Clubs (5 percent); sports, health and fitness clubs (3.6 percent); golf clubs and country clubs (2.7 percent); military installations (2 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.7 percent); waterparks and theme and amusement parks (1.6 percent); ice rinks (0.6 percent); corporate recreation and sports centers (0.4 percent); and racquet or tennis clubs (0.3 percent).

A substantial number of respondents—80.8 percent—were 40 years old or older. Just 4.8 percent were 20 to 29 years of age. Another 14.4 percent were 30 to 39. Nearly three in 10 (29.1 percent) were between 40 and 49 years old, and nearly four in 10 (39.3 percent) were between 50 and 59. Finally, 15.4 percent were 60 years old and older.