Satisfaction Guaranteed

Our 2010 Salary Survey of the Managed Recreation, Sports & Fitness Industry

By Emily Tipping

Professionals working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry love their jobs, making them somewhat unique in the world of working Americans. It's just one of the findings from our annual Salary Survey that comes up consistently, year after year.

The Conference Board recently released a study that showed only 45 percent of 5,000 U.S. households surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs, a drop (again) from last year. But among respondents to Recreation Management's Third Annual Salary Survey, more than nine out of 10 (91.9 percent) of respondents reported that they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. This is a very slight decrease from 2009, when 92.4 percent reported they were satisfied, but still a significant increase over 2008, when just over three-quarters (77.6 percent) said they were satisfied.

Our annual report is based on a survey conducted for Recreation Management by Signet Research Inc., an independent research company. Respondents were invited to participate via an e-mail broadcast, and from Feb. 10 to Feb. 25, 2010, we received 2,230 responses.

This report represents the second part of our annual State of the Industry Report, which was reported in the June 2010 issue. You can read that report, as well as this one, at

Survey Methodology

This report is based on a survey conducted for Recreation Management by Signet Research Inc., an independent research company. An e-mail was broadcast and respondents were invited to participate on the Web site. From the launch of the survey on Feb. 10, 2010 to the closing of the survey on Feb. 25, 2,230 returns were received. The findings of this survey may be accepted as accurate, at a 95 percent confidence level, within a sampling tolerance of approximately +/- 2.1 percent.

Who Are You?

If a picture could be painted of the average respondent to our survey, here's what you would find: a nearly-49-year-old, white male with a college degree, 11.1 years in his current position and more than 21 years of industry experience, working for a parks and recreation organization in Midwestern suburbia.

But, of course, that's a generalization. Respondents came from across the country, from communities of all types, from diverse backgrounds, and with various levels of experience working in the industry.

Respondents were most likely to report working in the Midwest, with 30.9 percent hailing from that region. Nearly one-third came from the South (31.6 percent), and around a fifth came from the West (20.6 percent). Another 16.5 percent were from the Northeast. Suburban communities had the highest representation, with 41.5 percent of respondents, followed by rural communities (31.8 percent) and urban areas (26.7 percent).

As in years past, parks and recreation organizations were the largest percentage of respondents, with 39.5 percent working for these types of organizations. They were followed by colleges and universities (15.3 percent); schools and school districts (10.6 percent); community or private recreation and sports centers (10.6 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, or private or youth camps (6.1 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys and Girls Clubs (4.1 percent); sports, health and fitness clubs (3.5 percent); golf or country clubs (2.5 percent); military installations (2.4 percent); and resorts and resort hotels (2 percent).

There was virtually no change from the 2009 survey in terms of the job titles held by our respondents. The most commonly held title was director. More than a third (34.6 percent) of respondents said they were directors. This was followed by those in administration management positions (20.1 percent), operations/facility management (15.4 percent) and program and activity administration (11.8 percent). (See Figure 1.)

Respondents from colleges and universities and from schools and school districts were more likely than others to report that they were directors. Nearly half of college respondents (49.3 percent) and 40.1 percent of schools respondents were directors. On the other hand, respondents from health clubs and from YMCAs were far more likely than others to be chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner of their facility. Some 41 percent of health club respondents and 33.3 percent of YMCA respondents said they held this type of title.

Nearly three-quarters (72.7 percent) of respondents said they were male. The industry segments that included a higher proportion of female respondents included YMCAs (44.4 percent of respondents were female); health clubs (37.2 percent); and community recreation and sports centers (36.9 percent).

Likewise, respondents were overwhelmingly likely to be white, with 88.9 percent of respondents indicating they were. Another 4.3 percent said they were black, and 3.4 percent were Hispanic.

A majority of respondents reported in from the baby boomer generation, with 65.4 percent between the ages of 46 and 64. Just over a quarter (26.2 percent) were Generation Xers, between 30 and 45 years of age. Far fewer respondents were from the other ends of the generational spectrum: 5.2 percent were Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) and 3.3 percent were older than 65.

Education & Experience

With the heavier representation of baby boomers, it is not surprising that the average respondent can report having plenty of experience under his or her belt. On average, respondents have 11.1 years in their current position, and 21.1 years in the industry. In fact, 41.6 percent of respondents have at least a decade's worth of experience in their current position, and more than half (53.6 percent) have been in the industry for at least 20 years. (See Figures 2 and 3.)

There was only slight variation in terms of experience, when the numbers are broken down according to industry segment. Respondents from parks and recreation organizations, and schools and school districts reported the most years both in their current position and in the industry. (See Figure 4.)

A majority of respondents have a college degree to go along with their decades of experience. In fact, 79.1 percent of respondents said they have a bachelor's (44.1 percent), a master's (32.5 percent) or an advanced degree (2.5 percent), such as a Ph.D. Another 6 percent said they have a two-year associate's degree. Just over one in 10 (11.1 percent) have attended some college, but do not have a degree, and just 3.7 percent said they are high school graduates.

In addition to being very likely to have attended some college, respondents also were very likely to have earned at least one certification. Some 86.6 percent said they had at least one certification, with the most popular being CPR/AED/First Aid certifications (held by 65.2 percent of respondents). Around a fifth also said they had a coaching certification (21.5 percent) or an aquatic management/pool operations certification (19.3 percent). (See Figure 5.)

Some types of certifications were more likely to be held by respondents working in specific industries. For example, while just 11.7 percent of the general survey population were Certified Parks and Recreation Professionals (CPRPs), nearly a quarter (23.7 percent) of parks and recreation respondents held this credential. And while 21.5 percent of all respondents held a coaching certification, among those from schools and school districts, that percentage rose to 51.9 percent. Likewise, personal training and fitness certifications were found among 7.8 percent of all respondents, but 44.9 percent of health club respondents.

When it comes to earning certifications in the future, 26.7 percent of respondents said they do have plans to pursue additional training and credentialing. The most popular planned certification is the CPRP certification, offered through the National Recreation and Park Association. More than 10 percent of respondents said they planned to pursue the CPRP. It was followed by CPR/AED/First Aid certification (7.8 percent); playground safety certification (4.1 percent); personal training/fitness certification (3.2 percent); and aquatic management/pool operations certification (3.1 percent).

Show Me the Money

This year's respondents reported an average salary that is 5 percent higher than that reported in 2009. Last year, the average salary among survey respondents was $62,200. Respondents in 2010 reported an average annual salary of $65,300. More than one in 10 (11.6 percent) reported earning at least six figures. But, the majority of respondents (56.5 percent) were earning between $50,000 and $100,000. (See Figure 6.)

When the averages are considered by industry segment, respondents from golf clubs and country clubs reported the highest average salary, at $91,600, but they also were among the only respondents to report that their salary level had fallen in 2010 from 2009. Respondents from golf clubs and from military installations reported a 5.9 percent drop in salaries in this time period.

The largest increase was seen among respondents from health clubs, who reported a 25.4 percent increase in their average salary. Relatively large increases were also reported by respondents from camps (18.5 percent); YMCAs (14.3 percent); and community sports and recreation centers (11.3 percent). (See Figure 7.)

When salaries are considered from a regional standpoint, respondents from the West and Northeast reported the highest averages. Respondents in the West reported an average annual salary of $71,000, and respondents in the Northeast reported an average of $69,700. The lowest number was reported by the Midwest, at $61,200. The regions with the highest salaries also saw the largest increases to their salaries in 2010. Respondents in the Northeast reported an 8.6 percent increase, while respondents in the West saw a 6.9 percent increase. (See Figure 8.)

Over the three years the survey responses have been collected, we have seen a falling number of respondents who believe that they will receive a raise in any given year. While a majority of respondents in 2008 and 2009 reported that they had received a raise in the past year (73.2 percent of those in 2008 had received a raise from 2006 to 2007; and 67 percent of those in 2009 had received a raise from 2007 to 2008), that number falls to less than half this year, with just 44.3 percent of respondents indicating they had received a raise in 2009. The outlook for this year is even more bleak, with just over a third (34.2 percent) of respondents expecting to receive a raise. (See Figure 9.)

Respondents from park agencies and from schools and school districts were the most likely to report that they had received a salary increase in 2009. More than half (50.3 percent of parks respondents and 50.2 percent of schools respondents) reported receiving such an increase, though the increases they reported were relatively low, with parks respondents earning a 3.2 percent increase, and schools respondents earning a 2.7 percent increase. The highest percentage increase in salaries in 2009 was seen among YMCA respondents, at 4.3 percent, though just 38.9 percent of these respondents reported earning such a raise.

In 2010, it is YMCA respondents and health club respondents who are most likely to be anticipating a salary increase, with 45.5 percent of YMCA respondents and 42.9 percent of health club respondents reporting they are expecting a raise this year. Health club respondents also are expecting the largest percentage increase to their salaries, at 5 percent. (See Figure 10.)

Working Life

Professionals in this industry tend to wear a lot of hats, managing staff, marketing programs, maintaining facilities and much more. And, they spend a lot of hours getting it all done. Nearly two-thirds (64.2 percent) of respondents said they work 45 hours of more per week, with more than a quarter (26.4 percent) working 50 to 59 hours, and another 8 percent working 60 or more hours weekly. (See Figure 11.)

Respondents from schools reported working the most hours per week, averaging 52.7 hours. The lowest number was seen among park respondents, who work an average of 45.9 hours per week. The average number of hours worked was virtually the same as last year in all industry segments. (See Figure 12.)

Given their current level of responsibility, slightly more than half (50.4 percent) of respondents feel their salary is appropriate. Another 48.9 percent believe their salary is too low, given their current responsibilities. Respondents from YMCAs and colleges and universities were the most likely to report that they believe their salaries are too low. Some 58.9 percent of YMCA respondents and 58.7 percent of college respondents said they feel their salaries are too low. On the other hand, respondents from schools and school districts, and parks and recreation agencies were the most likely to report their salaries were appropriate. (See Figure 13.)

A majority of respondents reported that their level of responsibility has increased over the past couple of years, and even more expect their responsibilities to increase further in 2010. In 2008, 69.1 percent of respondents said their responsibilities had increased, and in 2009, 68.7 percent reported an increase. In 2010, 70.1 percent of respondents said they expect their level of responsibility to increase. (See Figure 14.)

Despite the increasing level of responsibility and relative feeling that salary levels are inappropriately low, respondents are still overwhelmingly satisfied in the work they do. In fact, more than one-third (35.8 percent) reported that they are very satisfied with their jobs, and more than half (56.1 percent) said they are satisfied. (See Figure 15.)

Your Two Cents

How does your salary stack up against our survey results? What career concerns are you facing? Do you have a positive story to tell that goes against the grain of the negative economic news? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Drop us a line at to let us know what you think.

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