Feature Article - July 2014
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Moving On Up

Our Seventh Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping

The good news is the economy continues to grow, with unemployment sitting at 6.3 percent in May 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is down from 7.5 percent in May 2013, and a high after the economic downturn of 10 percent in October 2009.

In addition, after a decline from a peak in 2007 of $55,039 to $50,502 in 2011, median household income has finally seen a turnaround, rising to $51,371 in 2012, the latest data available, a 1.7 percent increase.

Our annual salary survey report also revealed a slight increase to average salaries for professionals in the field of recreation, sports and fitness, with salaries rising 1 percent from the average reported in 2013. Here, we break down the answers of more than 2,200 respondents to our annual survey to examine not only how salaries are growing, but also how industry professionals stack up in terms of education, experience and satisfaction with their career paths.

Who Are You?

While no single brush can paint a picture of the typical respondent to our survey questions, if you took the average responses from across the entire survey population, you'd find a 50-year-old white male, employed as a director of a public parks and recreation organization, managing 6.4 facilities in a Midwestern suburb and earning a salary of $67,500. The precise picture of each individual who responded is, of course, far more complex.

Regionally, the largest number of respondents were again from the Midwest, with 31.5 percent of respondents reporting in from that region. They were followed by the West (20.1 percent), the South Atlantic (17 percent), the Northeast (15.4 percent) and the South Central region (15.1 percent). Just 0.9 percent of respondents were located outside of the United States.

Some 38.9 percent of respondents indicated that they work in suburban communities. Another 35.8 percent are in rural areas, and just over a quarter (25.3 percent) said they work in urban areas.

Nearly two-thirds (65.6 percent) of respondents reported from public organizations. The next largest group—23.5 percent—indicated that they were with private nonprofit organizations. Another 10.7 percent said they worked for private, for-profit organizations.

When it comes to the type of organization they're working for, more than one-third (36.5 percent) of respondents indicated that they worked for a parks and recreation district or department. The next largest response came from colleges and universities (16.8 percent), followed by schools and school districts (11.5 percent). The remainder of the respondents reported that they work for community or private recreation and sports centers (7.1 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, and private and youth camps (6.6 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (5.7 percent); sports, health and fitness clubs (2.6 percent); golf or country clubs (2.6 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.5 percent); military installations (1.2 percent); medical fitness or wellness facilities (0.9 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (0.7 percent); ice rinks (0.6 percent); racquet or tennis clubs (0.5 percent); stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.4 percent); corporate recreation and sports centers (0.2 percent); or some other type of facility (3.6 percent).

A majority of respondents—83.4 percent—are 40 years old or older. Just 4.1 percent are less than 29, and another 12.6 percent are 30 to 39 years old. More than a quarter (25.3 percent) of respondents said they were between 40 and 49 years of age. Another 39 percent are 50 to 59 years old, and 19.1 percent are 60 or older.

More than seven in 10 (70.3 percent) of respondents are men, and 29.7 percent are women. A large majority (89.4 percent) are white, down from 90.9 percent in 2013. Just 5.1 percent of respondents are black/non-Hispanic (up from 4 percent in 2013 and 3.2 percent in 2012), while 3.3 percent are Hispanic (up from 2.7 percent in 2013), 1.4 percent are American Indian/Alaskan Native (up from 1.3 percent in 2013); and 1.4 percent are Asian/Pacific Islanders (up from 1.2 percent).