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

By Emily Tipping

For some professionals, in addition to attending college and earning an education, additional post-college education is warranted. In many industries, certification programs serve as a tool to further educate professionals and verify their knowledge in specific fields. The recreation, sports and fitness markets are no exception.

More than three-quarters (77.3 percent) of respondents to this year's salary survey indicated that they have earned a CPR, AED or First Aid certification—by far the most commonly held credential among our participants. Other common certifications included: aquatic management or pool operations certification (held by 21.8 percent of respondents), coaching certification (held by 20.3 percent of respondents), teaching certificates (held by 18.6 percent of respondents), and Certified Parks & Recreation Professional (CPRP) and lifeguard certifications (held by 16.8 percent of respondents each). (See Figure 14.)

More than a quarter of respondents indicated that they intend to earn additional certifications within the next three years. The most common certification these participants were planning to add was the CPRP certification. Nearly 40 percent of respondents who are planning to earn a certification within the next three years were planning to add the CPRP to their title.

Other credentials found among the top five planned certifications were: CPR, AED and First Aid; playground safety; aquatic management and pool operations; and turf and grounds management certifications.

Another marker of higher salaries is always level of experience, and the recreation, sports and fitness industry is no exception. The average survey participant has been working in his or her current position for 8.5 years, and has been in the industry for 18.8 years. Salary levels tended to climb alongside these professionals' growing experience.

More than a third (35.4 percent) of respondents indicated that they had been working in their current position for at least a decade. Nearly half (45.4 percent) have been in their current position for at least 3 years, but less than 10. The lowest salaries were reported among those who had been in their positions for less than a year. (See Figure 15.)

For the most part, similar trends are seen relative to time spent working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry. A third (33.2 percent) of respondents to our survey reported that they have been working in the industry for at least 25 years, and among those with this level of experience, average salaries exceeded $70,000 annually. More than 44 percent of respondents indicated that they had at least a decade but less than 25 years of experience in the industry. And just 22.6 percent indicated that they had 10 years of experience or less. (See Figure 16.)

Despite a gloomy economic outlook, with the United States either already in or teetering on the brink of a recession (depending on which economist you talk with), the salary news for professionals in the recreation, sports and fitness market is relatively positive. Most are anticipating their salaries will grow, and as long as inflation rates do not climb too steeply, those salary increases should keep those in the profession at least breaking even, if not earning more. A majority of professionals in this industry feel positive about their jobs, and report that they are satisfied or highly satisfied with their work, even though many feel they are not paid enough, given their level of responsibility. And the great news is that: the more you learn and grow in the industry, the greater your earning potential!