Feature Article - July 2021
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Career Highlights

Our 14th Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


A year ago, when we reported the 2020 Salary Survey results, it was hard to know how the trends would play out. With many facilities temporarily closed or just tentatively opening, a lot of respondents to our Update Survey were relatively pessimistic, expecting a big hit to revenues and likely to their salaries as well. And while the State of the Industry Report did indicate that revenues in 2020 took a hit—and that most feel a full recovery won't be felt until 2022—salaries remained relatively unchanged.

This is a break from the trend of recent years, which has shown a majority of respondents seeing salary increases year-over-year, but it's not the dire news many were expecting. For the most part, and for most of the professionals in recreation, sports and fitness responding to the survey, salaries held steady, hours held steady and job satisfaction remained high.

Welcome to Recreation Management's 14th Annual Salary Survey. In these pages, we'll focus on what respondents to the Industry Report survey had to say about their salaries, experience, careers and expectations.

About the Respondents

Professionals working for facilities that provide recreation, sports, fitness and aquatic opportunities to their communities can follow a range of career paths, from park district directors and campground operators to athletic directors, health club managers, aquatic facility managers and much more. It takes a wide range of people with myriad viewpoints to cover the broad spectrum of programs, services and places where people go to get fit and have fun.

Nearly three in 10 respondents (29.3%) were located in the Midwest. This region was followed by the West, with 21% of the respondents, and the South Atlantic, at 19.9%. Smaller numbers of respondents were located in the Northeast (17.8%) and South Central (11.9%) regions.

Suburban communities dominated the response to the survey. Some 44.2% of respondents said they were from the suburbs. Another 32% were from rural communities, and 23.8% were from urban areas.

Two-thirds (66.6%) of respondents said they work with public or governmental organizations, such as parks departments, school districts and public universities. Another 23.4% work with private nonprofits, such as Ys, Boys & Girls Clubs and other nonprofit facilities. Some 9% of respondents work with private for-profit facilities, such as health clubs and privately owned sports centers.

When it comes to the type of facility represented, the largest number of respondents—42.7%—work with parks departments and districts. They were followed by respondents from colleges and universities (13.6%); schools and school districts (8.3%); community or private recreation centers (8.3%); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (8.2%); and campgrounds, RV parks and private or youth camps (5.3%). Smaller numbers of respondents reported from other types of facilities, including: golf facilities and country clubs (3.2%); sports, health, fitness and medical fitness facilities (2.6%); resorts and resort hotels (1.4%); homeowners associations (0.9%); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (0.7%); ice rinks (0.4%); racquet and tennis clubs (0.4%); stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.3%); military installations (0.2%); corporate recreation and sports centers (0.2%); and churches (0.2%). Another 3% of respondents said they work for "other" types of facilities.

Given that they tend to serve in higher-level management or director-level positions, it comes as little surprise that respondents tend to be older professionals. Nearly six out of 10 (57.6%) said they were at least 50 years old. Some 36.4% were between 50 and 59 years old, while 21.2% were 60 or older. Another 26.7% said they were between 40 and 49 years old, and 13.1% were between 30 and 39 years old. Just 2.6% were younger than 30.

Respondents to the survey were not tremendously diverse, with 62.7% being male and 86.2% being white. This represents very little change over the past few years. Just 37.3% of respondents were female. And when it comes to race and ethnicity, the remaining respondents were most likely to be either black (5.9%) or Hispanic (5.5%). Another 1.6% were Asian/Pacific Islanders, while 1% were Native American or Alaskan Natives. Finally, 2.3% represented "other" or "unknown" ethnicities.

When it comes to the job titles of survey respondents, most are in leadership positions. Nearly four out of 10 (38.8%) are directors. Another 19.8% are in administration management, which includes titles such as administrator, manager or superintendent. Some 14.8% are in operations and facility management, including titles such as operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors. Another 10.8% are in program and activity administration, which includes activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists, coaches and instructors. Some 9.4% of respondents are the chairman, CEO, vice president or owner of their organizations. Some 1.4% are faculty or teachers, and 0.1% are in "service" positions, including planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 4.9% said they were in "other," unspecified job roles. (See Figure 1.)