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Feature Article - July 2016

Things Are Looking Up

Our Ninth Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


Unemployment reached its lowest level in nearly nine years in May 2016, hitting 4.7 percent, well under the high of 10 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for October 2009. The last time employment numbers were this positive was in 2007, before the onset of the Great Recession.

The most recent numbers available from the U.S. Census Bureau show median household income was 8 percent lower in 2013 than in 2007. That said, our annual Salary Survey shows that for professionals who manage and operate recreation, sports and fitness facilities, things are looking up.

This year, respondents reported a 2.6 percent increase in average annual salary. At the same time, job satisfaction remains overwhelmingly positive, with 92.1 percent of respondents reporting that they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.

Read on to learn more about how more than 2,100 respondents to our annual survey are doing in their careers, from education and salaries to career paths and more.

Who Are You?

Within the realm of recreation, sports and fitness facilities, there is a tremendous number of job roles and responsibilities, just as there is a wide variety of organizations and facility types providing myriad activities and programs. In other words, it would be folly to report that there is a "typical" respondent to our survey. However, if you take the averages and majorities, the "average" respondent is a 50.1-year-old white male working in the Midwestern suburbs as a director of a parks and recreation department or district, earning $67,300.

Some 31.2 percent of respondents were from the Midwest, the largest region represented in the survey. They were followed by the West (21.4 percent); Northeast (17.6 percent); South Atlantic (16.8 percent); and South Central (12.1 percent) regions. Another 1 percent of respondents reported from outside the United States.

Nearly half (45.2 percent) of respondents said they worked in suburban communities. Another third (33.6 percent) were from rural communities, while 21.1 percent were from urban areas.

Two-thirds (66.6 percent) of respondents work for public organizations. Another 21.4 percent are with private nonprofit organizations, and 11.3 percent said they work with private, for-profit facilities.

When it comes to the type of facility or part of the industry respondents were serving, the largest number—41.9 percent—were with parks and recreation organizations. Other more prominent facility types included: colleges and universities (11.9 percent); schools and school districts (10.5 percent); community or private recreation or sports centers (7.9 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, and private or youth camps (6.5 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs, and Boys & Girls Clubs (5.5 percent); and sports, health, or fitness clubs (3 percent). Others that were home to smaller numbers of respondents included: golf or country clubs (2.9 percent); resorts and resort hotels (2 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.7 percent); military installations (1 percent); medical fitness or wellness facilities (0.8 percent); ice rinks (0.6 percent); racquet or tennis clubs (0.5 percent); corporate recreation or sports centers (0.4 percent); and stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.1 percent). Another 3.4 percent work for other types of facilities, including homeowners associations, churches and more.

Well over a third (35.8 percent) of respondents said they were between 50 and 59 years old, the largest age group represented. They were followed by respondents between the ages of 40 and 49 (24.7 percent). Around one-fifth of respondents were 60 or older (20.4 percent) or younger than 40 (19 percent).

Nearly two-thirds (64.2 percent) of respondents were male, with 35.8 percent female. In addition, the survey audience is overwhelmingly white, with 91 percent of respondents identifying as such. Another 3.8 percent are black/non-Hispanic, while 3 percent are Hispanic, 1.4 percent are Native Americans or Alaskan Natives, 1.4 percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 1.4 percent are of "other" or "unknown" ethnicities.

When it comes to job titles represented by the survey, a majority of respondents—as is the case with the Recreation Management readership—are in leadership positions. More than one-third (34.4 percent) hold the title of "director." Another 20.8 percent are in administration management, which includes such job titles as administrator, manager or superintendent. Some 15.5 percent of respondents were in operations and facility management, including operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors. Another 11.2 percent are in program and activity administration, which includes activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists, coaches and instructors. Some 8.1 percent of respondents were the chairman, CEO, vice president or owner of their organizations. Some 2.5 percent were faculty or teachers, while 0.5 percent were in services, which includes planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 6.9 percent were in "other," unspecified job roles. (See Figure 1.)

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