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Feature Article - July 2015

Hold Steady

Our Eighth Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


The Great Recession continues to fade, with unemployment continuing to fall over the past six months to its lowest levels in seven years, reaching as low as 5.4 percent in April 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is down from 6.3 percent in May 2014, and a high after the economic downturn of 10 percent in October 2009.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show no statistical change in median household income from 2012 to 2013—the latest years for which data are available. However, though it has yet to match its peak of 2007, median household income has increased 2.8 percent since its low in 2011 of $50,502 to $50,939 in 2013.

This year's Industry Report survey revealed a slight decrease of 2.7 percent to the average salary reported by respondents. However, overall job satisfaction continues to be high, and some industry segments have reported growth to salaries.

Keep reading to discover how more than 2,300 respondents to our annual survey answered questions regarding not only their salaries, but also their education, career paths and more.

Who Are You?

Just as the wide variety of job roles and organizations covered by Recreation Management cannot be pigeonholed into a single overarching image, there is no "typical" respondent to our survey. That said, the average respondent is a 49.7-year-old white male working as a director of a parks and recreation organization in a suburban community in the Midwest and earning $65,600.

Some 30.7 percent of respondents were from the Midwest, the largest group represented in the survey. They were followed by the West (20.4 percent), South Atlantic (18.7 percent), Northeast (17.4 percent) and South Central region (12.4 percent). Just 0.4 percent of respondents were from outside the United States.

More than four in 10 (42.3 percent) of respondents said they worked in suburban communities. They were followed by those in rural communities (33.8 percent). Less than a quarter (23.9 percent) said they were located in urban areas.

Nearly two-thirds (65.1 percent) of respondents work for public organizations. Another 21.8 percent are with private nonprofits, and 12.2 percent work for private for-profit facilities.

When it comes to the segment of the industry they are working for, the largest number of respondents—38.7 percent—work for parks and recreation organizations. Other more common industry segments represented include colleges and universities (13.8 percent), schools and school districts (9.3 percent), campgrounds, RV parks, and private and youth camps (7.5 percent), community or private recreation or sports centers (7.3 percent), YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (5.8 percent), golf and country clubs (3.3 percent), and sports, health and fitness clubs (3.2 percent). Less commonly represented types of facilities include: resorts and resort hotels (2 percent), waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.3 percent), medical fitness and wellness facilities (0.9 percent), military installations (0.8 percent), ice rinks (0.6 percent), racquet and tennis clubs (0.5 percent), stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.4 percent), and corporate recreation and sports centers (0.3 percent). Some 4.2 percent of respondents work for other types of facilities, such as homeowners associations, churches and more.

Nearly four in 10 respondents (37.1 percent) are between 50 and 59 years old, the largest group. They were followed by respondents who are between 40 and 49 years old (23.7 percent). Less than one-fifth of respondents are younger than 40 (19.8 percent), or 60 or older (19.5 percent).

This year's survey population was more diverse in terms of gender than former years. Some 36.5 percent of respondents were women, up from 29.7 percent in 2014. At the same time, the survey audience continues to be primarily white, with 90.3 percent of respondents identifying as such. Another 4.1 percent are black/non-Hispanic; 3.2 percent are Hispanic; 1.7 percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders; 1.4 percent are Native Americans or Alaskan Native; and 1.4 percent are of "other" or "unknown" ethnicities.

When it comes to job titles represented by the survey, a majority of respondents are in leadership positions. Some 32.2 percent said they hold the title of "director." Some 20.8 percent are in administration management, which includes job titles such as administrator, manager or superintendent. Some 16.4 percent of respondents were in operations and facility management, including operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors. Some 12.3 percent of respondents were in program and activity administration, which includes such job titles as activity or program director, manager, coordinator, specialist, coach or instructor. Some 8.6 percent of respondents were chairman, CEO, vice president or owner of their organization. Around 1 percent were in services, which includes planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 8.7 percent were in "other," unspecified job roles. (See Figure 1.)

Respondents who hold the title of director were most likely to be from colleges and universities, where 41.8 percent of respondents had this title. They were followed by parks, where 36 percent of respondents were directors. Those who were in administration management were most likely to be from golf facilities (28.9 percent) and parks (27.9 percent). Respondents in operations and facility management were most common among community recreation centers (27.2 percent) and health clubs (21.6 percent). Those who were program and activity administrators were more commonly found among colleges and universities (17.9 percent) and schools and school districts (17.5 percent). Finally, CEOs, presidents, etc., were most commonly found among health clubs, where 35.1 percent of respondents held this type of title, followed by YMCAs (23.7 percent).