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Feature Article - July 2017

Slow and Steady

Our 10th Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


In April 2017, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent, reaching its lowest level since May 2007. Median household income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, hit $55,775 in 2015 (the most recent year for which data is available). This is still 3.84 percent lower than 2007, when median household income peaked at $58,003, but represents a 5.17 percent increase from the number's post-peak low of $53,031, in 2012.

So, while the average American is still working to recover income lost during the Great Recession, things are looking up. This is especially true for respondents to our annual Salary Survey.

This year, more than 1,700 professionals working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry responded to our survey, which found that salaries in the industry are up 1.6 percent from last year, on average. On top of that, job satisfaction continues to be overwhelmingly positive among respondents.

Welcome to our 10th annual Salary Survey. Over the course of the next few pages, we'll take a closer look at what respondents to our survey had to say about their careers, salaries and more.

Who Are You?

Recreation, sports and fitness facility management is a varied field, and a diverse array of people are called to join the profession. But if you're a fan of averages, know that the "average" respondent to the annual survey is a 50-year-old white male working in the Midwestern suburbs as a director of a parks and recreation department or district, earning $68,400.

Some 29.9 percent of respondents were from the Midwest, the largest region represented in the survey. They were followed by the South Atlantic states (20.2 percent), the West (18.6 percent), the Northeast (16.3 percent) and the South Central region (14.2 percent). Another 0.7 percent of respondents reported from outside the United States.

Some 42.4 percent of respondents said they work in suburban communities. Another third or so (33.7 percent) are located in rural areas, and 23.9 percent are in urban areas.

Nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) of respondents work for public organizations. Another 23.1 percent are with private nonprofit organizations, and 10.8 percent said they work with private, for-profit facilities.

When it comes to the type of facility or part of the industry respondents were working in, the largest number—41.1 percent—were with parks and recreation organizations. Other more prominent facility types included: colleges and universities (12.4 percent), schools and school districts (9.9 percent), community or private recreation and sports centers (7.4 percent), YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (7 percent), campgrounds, RV parks, and private and youth camps (6.6 percent), and sports, health, fitness clubs and medical fitness facilities (4.4 percent). Others that were home to smaller numbers of respondents included: golf or country clubs (2.5 percent), resorts and resort hotels (1.6 percent), homeowners associations (1 percent), waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (0.8 percent), military installations (0.6 percent), churches (0.5 percent), ice rinks (0.5 percent), racquet and tennis clubs (0.5 percent), corporate recreation or sports centers (0.5 percent), and stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.2 percent). Another 2.7 percent of respondents said they worked for other types of facilities.

Well over a third (36.3 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 (24.1 percent), 30 to 39 (15.4 percent) and 60 to 65 (14 percent). Just 4.4 percent of respondents said they were younger than 30, and 5.9 percent were 65 or older.

Some 62.2 percent of respondents were male, while 37.8 percent were female. In addition, the survey audience is predominantly white, with 89.2 percent of respondents identifying as such. Another 4.3 percent are black/non-Hispanic, while 4 percent are Hispanic, 1.5 percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders, 1.1 percent are Native American or Alaskan Natives, and 2.1 percent are of "other" or "unknown" ethnicity.

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. Nearly one-third (32.7 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 16.5 percent of respondents were in operations and facility management, including operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors. Another 9.3 percent are in program and activity administration, which includes activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists, coaches and instructors. Some 8.9 percent of respondents were the chairman, CEO, vice president or owner of their organizations. Some 3.3 percent were faculty or teachers, and 0.7 percent were in services, which includes planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 7.8 percent were in "other," unspecified job roles. (See Figure 1.)