In the Money

Our Fifth Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping

The past year has seen gradual, if slight, improvement in the overall employment and economic situation in the United States. While some might say we've reached a standstill, the fact is that since May 2011, unemployment has fallen from 9.1 percent to 8.2 percent in May 2012.

But even though there has been progress, it has been slower than most would wish, and deep-rooted concerns about the U.S. economic and jobs situations continue to run rampant.

In light of this, our Fifth Annual Salary Survey delivers a relatively positive report. Salaries, for the most part, are up this year, and the outlook for our survey participants continues to improve, with some exceptions.

Who Are You?

If you took a snapshot of the average respondent out of more than 2,000 professionals who answered our survey questions, you'd find yourself looking at a 49-year-old white male working as a director for a public parks and recreation organization in a Midwestern suburb.

Nearly three in 10 respondents (28.7 percent) were from the Midwest. The next largest percentage—20.6 percent—were from the West. Another 18.8 percent were from the South Atlantic, while 17.8 percent were from the Northeast and 13.6 percent were from the South Central states. Just 0.5 percent said they were from outside the United States.

The suburbs were well represented, with 41.2 percent of respondents indicating they worked in this sort of community. Another third (33.5 percent) said they were from rural communities, while 25.3 percent were from urban areas.

More than two-thirds (67.7 percent) of respondents work for public organizations. Another 20.4 percent work for private nonprofits, and 11.1 percent work for private, for-profit organizations.

Nearly four in 10 (37.8 percent) respondents worked for parks and recreation departments or park districts. The next largest group (19.2 percent) worked for colleges and universities. They were followed by respondents representing schools and school districts (10.5 percent); community or private recreation and sports centers (6.2 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, and private or youth camps (5.7 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys and Girls Clubs (5 percent); sports, health and fitness clubs (3.6 percent); golf clubs and country clubs (2.7 percent); military installations (2 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.7 percent); waterparks and theme and amusement parks (1.6 percent); ice rinks (0.6 percent); corporate recreation and sports centers (0.4 percent); and racquet or tennis clubs (0.3 percent).

A substantial number of respondents—80.8 percent—were 40 years old or older. Just 4.8 percent were 20 to 29 years of age. Another 14.4 percent were 30 to 39. Nearly three in 10 (29.1 percent) were between 40 and 49 years old, and nearly four in 10 (39.3 percent) were between 50 and 59. Finally, 15.4 percent were 60 years old and older.

Slightly more respondents this year were male, compared with last year's survey population. Nearly seven in 10 (69.9 percent) of 2012 respondents were male, and 30.1 percent were female, compared with 66.1 percent and 33.9 percent in 2011.

Likewise, slightly more respondents in 2012 were white. Some 91.6 percent of respondents were white. The next largest ethnic group represented were black/non-Hispanic respondents, with 3.2 percent. They were followed by Hispanic (2 percent); Asian/Pacific Islanders (1.2 percent); American Indians/ Alaskan Natives (0.7 percent); and 1.2 percent who claimed other ethnicities.

Respondents held job titles that, for the most part, reflected a high level of responsibility and decision-making within their organizations. More than a third (36.1 percent) were directors. Another fifth (20.6 percent) held administration/management positions, such as administrator, manager or superintendent. Some 16.7 percent were in operations/facility management positions, such as operations manager, facility manager, building manager or supervisor. More than one in 10 (10.1 percent) were in program and activity administration, with job titles such as program director, manager, coordinator, specialist, coach or instructor. Some 7.6 percent were chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner for their organization. And just 0.6 percent said they were in services positions, such as planner, designer, architect and consultant. Some 8.3 percent listed their job title as something other than one of these categories. (See Figure 1.)

Job titles differed a great deal depending on which type of facility the respondents were reporting from. For example, respondents from YMCAs were more likely than others to give director as their job title. More than half (52 percent) of YMCA respondents were the director at their organization. Parks respondents were most likely to be in administration management positions, with more than a quarter (25.1 percent) of these respondents listing this as their job role. Respondents from community centers were most likely to be in operations and facility management positions. A quarter (25 percent) of these respondents held such job titles. Respondents from colleges, closely followed by community centers, were most likely to be in program and activity administration. Some 14 percent of college respondents and 13.7 percent of community center respondents held such job titles. Finally, camp respondents and YMCA respondents were most likely to hold the title of chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner, with 27.8 percent of camp respondents and 25 percent of YMCA respondents indicating this was their job title.

Learning and Growing

What path did our respondents take to get to their current job roles? For the most part, respondents are college educated, and have earned either a bachelor's degree (39.8 percent of respondents) or a master's degree (34.9 percent of respondents). A much smaller percentage indicated that they have attained a Ph.D. (3.7 percent). On the other end of the educational spectrum, fewer respondents said they had attained an associate's degree (5.9 percent); attended some college without earning a degree (11.9 percent); or had just a high school diploma (3.8 percent).

As you might expect, respondents from colleges and universities were the most likely to hold a Ph.D. or master's degree. Some 14 percent of these respondents indicated they had earned their Ph.D., and 62.4 percent had earned a master's. Respondents from camp facilities were the most likely to report that they had not earned a degree beyond a high school diploma. Some 5.2 percent of camp respondents had a high school diploma, and 18.1 percent had attended some college without earning a degree.

Many respondents had an impressive number of years in their current positions. Some 43.1 percent said they had been in their current position for at least 10 years. Another quarter (24.8 percent) had been in their current position for anywhere from five to nine years. (See Figure 2.)

Even more impressive was the many years most respondents have been working in this industry. More than half (51.4 percent) said they had been working in the industry for at least 20 years, with 24.1 percent of respondents having been in the industry for 30 years or more. (See Figure 3.)

Respondents from camps reported the highest number of years in the current positions. On average, camp respondents have 13.2 years in their current position. They were followed by those from schools and school districts (12.3 years); parks and recreation (11.4 years); colleges and universities (11.1 years); community centers (11 years); health clubs (9.5 years) and YMCAs (9 years).

When it comes to the average number of years spent working in the industry, respondents from parks and recreation organizations have the most under their belt, with an average of 22 years. They were followed by respondents from schools and school districts (21.8 years); colleges and universities (21.4 years); camps (19.9 years); health and fitness clubs (19 years); YMCAs (18.6 years); and community centers (18 years). Survey respondents were also very likely to indicate that they had earned various certifications, on top of their other education. A majority (71.7 percent) said they had earned certification in CPR, AED or First Aid. More than one in 10 had also earned coaching certifications (22.4 percent); aquatic management or pool operations certification (19.7 percent); teaching certification (17.1 percent); lifeguard certification (15.7 percent) or Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) (11.9 percent). Only 7.7 percent of respondents said they had not earned any certifications.

Show Me the Money

In 2011, we reported a slight decrease in salaries, from $65,300 in 2010 to $63,800 in 2011. This year, salaries recovered some of that loss, increasing 1.9 percent to an average of $65,000 in 2012. (See Figure 4.)


Some segments of the industry saw better gains than others, while other segments saw their salaries fall slightly in 2012. Increases were reported among respondents from colleges and universities, schools and school districts, health clubs, community centers, and resorts and resort hotels. The greatest increase was reported by respondents from health clubs, who saw their salaries increase by 23.7 percent from an average of $50,300 in 2011 to $62,200 in 2012. They were followed by resort respondents, with a 13.5 percent increase; community centers, with a 6.8 percent increase; colleges and universities, with 3.4 percent; and schools with 1.3 percent. (See Figure 5.)


Decreases were reported from 2011 to 2012 for respondents from parks, golf clubs and military installations. The greatest decrease was found among golf club respondents, who reported a 6.9 percent decrease from an average salary of $96,800 in 2011 to $90,100 in 2012. That said, golf club respondents are still by far the highest earners among all respondents. Respondents from military installations reported the second steepest drop of 6.7 percent, from an average salary of $71,300 in 2011 to $66,500 in 2012. Parks reported a 0.6 percent decrease in the same time period, while YMCA respondents reported no change to their salaries in the past year.

Respondents from the Midwest and Southern states saw their salaries rise from 2011 to 2012, while those in the Northeast and West reported decreases in that same time period. The greatest increase was found in the Midwest, where respondents reported 6.3 percent growth in average salaries, from $58,600 in 2011 to $62,300 in 2012. Those in the South reported a 4.7 percent increase, from an average of $61,800 in 2011 to $64,700 in 2012. Respondents in the Northeast reported the greatest decline, with average salaries falling 4.3 percent from $69,000 in 2011 to $66,000 in 2012. Western respondents reported a 1.7 percent decrease, from an average of $69,300 in 2011 to $68,100 in 2012. (See Figure 6.)

When salary is broken down by job title, one can see that some job roles had a better year than others. Directors, administration/management, and program/activity administrators reported an increase in average salary from 2011 to 2012, while operations/facility management and chairman/CEO/president respondents reported a decrease.

The greatest increase was seen by those in program and activity administration. These are the lowest earners among respondents, but saw the greatest increase, with average salaries rising 5.5 percent from $45,200 in 2011 to $47,700 in 2012. Directors, among the highest paid, saw the second greatest increase, reporting a 4.5 percent jump from an average salary of $72,800 in 2011 to $76,100 in 2012. Administration/management professionals reported a 3.1 percent increase from $66,800 in 2011 to $68,900 in 2012.

Respondents who held leadership positions, such as chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner, reported the highest salary in 2012, but also the greatest year-over-year decline. These respondents saw their average salary fall 5.4 percent from $91,400 in 2011 to $86,500 in 2012.

Respondents in operations and facility management positions saw virtually no change to their salaries from 2011 to 2012. They reported a slight decrease of 0.4 percent, from $52,200 in 2011 to $52,000 in 2012. (See Figure 7.)


As you would expect, higher levels of education are coupled with higher average salaries across the board. However, salary increases were a mixed bag for those with college degrees and more this year. The greatest increase in salary was actually found among respondents with some college, but no degree under their belts. Their average salary increased 12.1 percent from $50,600 in 2011 to $56,700 in 2012. Those with master's degrees and associate's degrees also reported increases, of 3.2 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Respondents with high school diplomas, bachelor's degrees and doctorates saw slight decreases to their average salary, of 0.6 percent, 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively. (See Figure 8.)


A much smaller number of respondents in 2012 reported that their salaries had increased from 2011 to 2012, compared with those reporting an increase from 2010 to 2011. While nearly four in 10 (39.9 percent) saw an increase from 2010 to 2011, just over two in 10 (23.1 percent) saw such an increase from 2011 to 2012. At the same time, respondents this year were about half as likely to report a lower salary. From 2010 to 2011, 10.4 percent of respondents said their salary fell, but that number drops to 5.4 percent who saw such a decrease from 2011 to 2012. The majority (71.5 percent) said their salaries had not changed from 2011 to 2012. (See Figure 9.)


Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to report that they anticipated a salary increase from 2011 to 2012, with three in 10 (30.9 percent) of these respondents indicating they had such expectations. They were followed by respondents from parks and from community centers, 24.1 percent of whom expected their salaries to increase from 2011 to 2012. Respondents from health clubs were least likely to expect such an increase. Just one in 10 (10.5 percent) of these respondents were expecting salaries to rise from 2011 to 2012. (See Figure 10.)


On the Job

When it comes to their jobs, most respondents are putting in a good number of hours. In fact, the percentage of respondents working 50 or more hours a week rose in 2012, from 30.5 percent in 2011 to 33.2 percent. Nearly two-thirds (62.6 percent) reported that they work at least 45 hours per week. Very few respondents work less than 40 hours, with just 4.9 percent working 30 to 39 hours weekly, and only 2.6 percent reporting that they put in less than 30 hours a week. (See Figure 11.)


Respondents from schools and school districts, as well as YMCAs put in the longest weeks, averaging 51.4 hours weekly and 50 hours weekly, respectively. Respondents from parks and community centers had the shortest work weeks, though parks respondents put in 45.5 hours a week on average, and community center respondents work an average 45.8-hour week. (See Figure 12.)


For the most part, respondents feel that their salaries are too low, given their current level of responsibility. Respondents from colleges and from schools were the least likely to report that they feel their current salary is appropriate, with just 39.5 percent of school respondents and 38.9 percent of college respondents indicating they felt this was so. Respondents from community centers and camps were most likely to feel their salaries were appropriate, though just 54 percent of community respondents and 53.6 percent of camp respondents indicated they believed this was true.

Respondents in 2012 were slightly less likely to report that they were taking on a greater level of responsibility. While 68.7 percent saw their responsibilities increase in 2011, that number fell to 65.3 percent in 2012. Nearly one-third (32.5 percent) in 2012 said they had seen no change in their level of responsibility. (See Figure 13.)


The percentage of respondents who are satisfied with their jobs changed very little from 2011 to 2012. While 2011 saw a jump in the number who were very satisfied with their work, this year, that number only increased slightly. In 2011, 38.2 percent of respondents were very satisfied with their jobs. This year, 38.7 percent were very satisfied. Very few respondents reported being either unsatisfied (6.3 percent) or very unsatisfied (1.9 percent) with their work. (See Figure 14.)




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