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Feature Article - July 2019
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On the Up & Up

Our 12th Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


The U.S. unemployment rate has continued to drop over the past year, reaching 3.6 percent in April 2019. Meanwhile, median household income reached an all-time high of $59,039 in 2016, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The overall employment outlook continues to look good, and respondents to our Salary Survey continue to be overwhelmingly positive about their careers and report salary increases, overall.

This year, more than 1,400 professionals working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry responded to the annual Industry Report survey, and the findings are once again positive in terms of salary. Average salaries among survey respondents rose 2.9 percent from 2018 to 2019, and job satisfaction continues to be positive among respondents.

Welcome to the 12th annual Recreation Management Salary Survey. Over the following pages, we'll give you a detailed picture of what respondents to the Industry Report survey had to say about their current salaries and experience, their careers and more.

About the Respondents

From park district directors to aquatic center managers to fitness club owners, there's a big range of career paths in recreation, sports and fitness facility management. A diverse cast of characters meet a wide range of community needs in many job roles that support the industry. All that said, we can paint a picture of the "average" respondent to the Industry Report survey: a nearly-50-year-old white male with a bachelor's degree, working as a director of a parks and recreation organization in the suburbs of the Midwest, earning $71,450 a year.

Some 28.8 percent of respondents are from the Midwest, the largest region represented in the survey. They were followed by the West (22.8 percent), the South Atlantic region (18.8 percent), the Northeast (16.5 percent) and the South Central states (13 percent). Another 0.1 percent of respondents reported from outside the United States.

Some 43.2 percent of respondents said they are located in suburban communities. Another 33.2 percent are located in rural areas, and 23.6 percent said they were located in urban communities.

A majority—73.6 percent—of respondents work for public organizations. Another 17.8 percent said they were with private nonprofit organizations, and 8.2 percent work with private, for-profit facilities. Some 0.4 percent of respondents said they work for "other" types of organizations.

When it comes to the type of facility respondents work for, almost half—47.9 percent—said they are with park and recreation districts and departments. Other more common facility types represented by survey respondents include: colleges and universities (10.6 percent); schools and school districts (9.8 percent); community or private recreation and sports centers (7.8 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, and private or youth camps (5.2 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (5.2 percent); and sports, health or fitness clubs and medical fitness facilities (3.4 percent). Other facility types that are home to smaller numbers of respondents include: golf and country clubs (1.9 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.3 percent); military installations (1.1 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.1 percent); ice rinks (0.8 percent); homeowners associations (0.6 percent); corporate recreation or sports centers (0.4 percent); racquet or tennis clubs (0.4 percent); and stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.1 percent). Another 2.4 percent said they work for other types of facilities.

The largest age group represented by survey respondents falls between 50 and 59 years. Nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of respondents said they are between 50 and 59 years old. They were followed by respondents between the ages of 40 and 49 (24.3 percent), 30 and 39 (16.8 percent), and 60 and 65 (15.8 percent). Just 5.6 percent of respondents said they are 65 or older, and 5.1 percent are 30 or younger.

Some 63.1 percent of respondents are male, and 36.9 percent are female, representing virtually no change from 2018. The survey audience is also predominantly white, with 88.4 percent of respondents. Another 4.8 percent are black/non-Hispanic, while 4.8 percent are

Hispanic, 1.6 percent are Native American or Alaskan Natives, 1.4 percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders, and the rest are of "other" or "unknown" ethnicity.

When it comes to the job titles held by survey respondents, a majority hold leadership positions, as is the case with the readership of Recreation Management. More than one-third (34 percent) hold the title of "director." Another 21.7 percent are in administration management, which includes job titles such as administrator, manager or superintendent. Some 15.9 percent of respondents are in operations and facility management, including such titles as operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors. More than one in 10 (12.3 percent) are in program and activity administration, including activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists, coaches and instructors. Another 6.1 percent of respondents are the chairman, CEO, vice president or owner of their organizations. Some 1.8 percent are faculty or teachers, and 0.6 percent are in services, which includes planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 7.6 percent said they were in "other," unspecified job roles. (See Figure 1.)