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Feature Article - July 2013

Measuring Up

Our Sixth Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


Unemployment in the United States has continued to gradually decline, from a peak of 10.1 percent in October 2009. Since we last reported on salaries for the managed recreation, sports and fitness industry, it has fallen from 8.2 percent (May 2012) to 7.6 percent as of May 2013.

At the same time, however, median household income has also seen a continual decline, from a peak in 2007 of $55,039 to $50,502 in 2011 (numbers for 2012 will not be released until the end of this year). So, it is perhaps good news to see a continuing rise in income for professionals responding to our survey. After reporting a slight drop in 2011, incomes have quickly recovered, rising 2.6 percent since our report in 2012.

Welcome to our annual salary survey report, where we take a peek behind the scenes of your career to see not only how your income is faring, but also how industry professionals are building experience and expertise in their various fields.

Who Are You?

There is plenty of diversity among the more than 2,100 professionals who responded to our survey questions, but if you took the average response from across the entire survey population and created a mythical survey respondent, you'd find yourself with a nearly 51-year-old white male, working as director of a public parks and recreation organization, managing 6.8 facilities in a Midwestern suburb.

Of course, the actual response varies a great deal. As usual, the largest number of respondents were from the Midwest, with 29.2 percent of respondents reporting in from those states. They were followed by the West, with 20.3 percent; South Atlantic, at 19.6 percent; Northeast, at 16.5 percent; and the South Central states, at 13.6 percent. Less than 1 percent of respondents were from outside of the United States.

Following a slight decline of 2.3 percent in our 2011 salary survey report, salaries showed a 1.9 increase to an average of $65,000 in 2012. This year, we can report a further increase of 2.6 percent to an average of $66,700 for 2013.

Some 40.2 percent of respondents indicated that they were located in suburban communities. A little more than one-third (33.8 percent) were from rural communities, and a little more than a quarter (26 percent) were from urban areas.

More than two-thirds (67.4 percent) of respondents indicated that they work for public organizations. Another 21.4 percent work for private nonprofit organizations; and just 10.1 percent work for private for-profit organizations.

As in past years, the largest number of respondents—37.3 percent—work for parks and recreation departments, park districts and similar entities. More than one in 10 work for colleges and universities (14.8 percent) or for schools and school districts (11.4 percent). Smaller numbers worked for community or private recreation and sports centers (7.6 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, private camps and youth camps (6.1 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (5.6 percent); sports, health and fitness clubs (3 percent); golf and country clubs (2.6 percent); military installations (1.7 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.4 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.4 percent); medical fitness and wellness facilities (1.3 percent); ice rinks (1 percent); racquet and tennis clubs (0.7 percent); stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.3 percent); or corporate recreation and sports centers (0.2 percent).

The average age of all respondents is 50.6 years old. Only 3.8 percent of respondents are less than 30 years old. And just 11.7 percent are between 30 and 39 years old. A little more than a quarter (25.5 percent) are between 40 and 49 years old. Nearly four in 10 (39.8 percent) are between 50 and 59 years old. And 19.2 percent are 60 years old or older.

The percentage of male respondents has been on the rise for the past three years. In 2011, 66.1 percent of respondents were men. This number rose to 69.9 percent in 2012, and to 70.2 percent in 2013. Less than three in 10 (29.8 percent) of this year's respondents are women.

Slightly fewer respondents in 2013 are white. However, the vast majority of respondents are white. With 90.9 percent of respondents indicating so. Another 4 percent were black/non-Hispanic (up from 3.2 percent in 2012). They were followed by Hispanic (2.7 percent, up from 2 percent); American Indian/Alaskan Native (1.3 percent, up from 0.7 percent); and Asian/Pacific Islanders (1.2 percent, no change from 2012).

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