Feature Article - July 2015
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Hold Steady

Our Eighth Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


Career Paths

Respondents to the survey, as a whole, are better educated than the population of the United States. While nearly 49 percent of Americans 25 or older had earned a bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctorate or other professional degree as of 2014, some 78.6 percent of Industry Report survey respondents had achieved this level of education. The largest number (44.5 percent) reported that they had a bachelor's degree. Another 31.3 percent have earned their master's degree, and 2.8 percent have earned a Ph.D. or other advanced degree. Smaller numbers of respondents said they had attended some college without earning a degree (12.1 percent), had a two-year, associate's degree (6.9 percent), or had a high school diploma (2.5 percent).

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to report that they had earned a bachelor's degree. Some 66.4 percent of YMCA respondents had done so. They were followed by parks respondents, where 54.9 percent had earned a bachelor's degree. Master's degrees and Ph.D.s were most common among respondents from colleges and universities, and schools and school districts. Some 66.7 percent of college respondents and 48.8 percent of schools respondents said they had earned a master's degree; while 13.8 percent of college respondents and 4.7 percent of schools respondents had earned a Ph.D. Interestingly, more schools respondents reported having only earned a high school diploma than a Ph.D. Some 5.1 percent of school respondents had their high school diploma. They were followed by health clubs, where 4.1 percent reported having earned a high school diploma.

On average, respondents have been working in their current position for 11.3 years. Some 42.7 percent of respondents have been in their current position for at least 10 years, with 16.4 percent of respondents indicating they've been in their current jobs for 20 years or more. More than one-quarter (25.6 percent) of respondents have been in their current jobs for between five and nine years. (See Figure 2.)

Respondents from schools and school districts have been in their current positions for the longest period of time, with an average of 12.7 years. They were followed by those from health clubs (12.3 years), camp facilities (11.9 years), colleges and universities (11.6 years), parks (11.2 years), community and private recreation and sports centers (10.4 years), golf facilities (10.1 years) and YMCAs (9.6 years).

On average, respondents have been working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry for 21.3 years. More than half (52.4 percent) said they have been in the industry for at least 20 years, and 24.4 percent have been in the industry for 30 years or more. Those with less than 10 years of industry experience make up 19.2 percent of the survey population. (See Figure 3.)

Respondents from golf facilities have the longest industry tenure, with an average of 24 years of experience in the recreation, sports and fitness industry. They were followed by colleges (22.1 years), parks (21.8 years), schools (21.5 years), community rec centers (20.2 years), YMCAs (19.7 years), camps (19.3 years) and health clubs (19 years).

Continuing education is important in most careers, and this industry is no exception. For many within the industry, earning certifications is a way of demonstrating their industry-specific knowledge and skill. For that reason, we asked respondents which certifications they had earned. By far, the most common was certification in CPR/AED/First Aid, which 73.6 percent of respondents said they had. Other common certifications include aquatic management and pool operations (19.9 percent), coaching (19.2 percent), lifeguard (16.6 percent) and teaching (15 percent). (See Figure 4.)