Feature Article - July 2008
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Our 2008 Salary Survey of the Managed Recreation, Sports & Fitness Industry

By Emily Tipping

As you might expect, the highest levels of education were seen among respondents from colleges and universities, as well as those from schools and school districts. At colleges and universities, more than three-quarters of respondents (77 percent) had a postgraduate degree, either a master's or a doctorate. Another 16.7 percent had a bachelor's degree. Among those at schools and school districts, 56.1 percent reported they had a postgraduate degree, and 19.7 percent had a bachelor's. Respondents from fitness clubs and health clubs were the most likely to report less education. Among these respondents, more than a third (34.2 percent) said they had either completed high school, some college, or had an associate's degree. More than three-quarters (76.9 percent) of respondents from parks and recreation departments said they had either a bachelor's degree or a post-graduate degree, and 83.5 percent of respondents from YMCAs reported that level of education.

Where It's At

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income varies widely across the regions of the country, with those in the Northeast and the West earning at least 8 percent more than the nationwide median, while those in the Midwest earn just 0.8 percent less, and those in the South earn 9.8 percent less than the median average.

Our survey reflected somewhat similar results, with those in the Midwest earning the lowest salary nationwide. At $58,200, Midwesterners' salaries are 5.8 percent lower than the nationwide average for recreation, sports and fitness professionals. In addition, Midwesterners saw the smallest pay increases in 2007, at just 3.5 percent, though nearly three-quarters (74.4 percent) of respondents in this region had received a raise.

Those in the South fare better working in the recreation industry than those in the Census Bureau's report. Our Southern respondents earned an average annual salary of $59,800, just 2.8 percent less than the nationwide average. Respondents from the South Atlantic states were also the most likely to report that they had received a raise in 2007. They also reported the highest percentage increase, at 4.7 percent. Respondents from the South Central states were the least likely to report that they had received a raise in 2007.

And while those in the Northeast and West earned more than average, their salaries were not quite as disparate as the Census Bureau's figures. The highest earners were in the West, earning 7.6 percent more than average, at $66,200. Participants in the Northeast earned $65,000—5.7 percent higher than average.