Feature Article - July 2022
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Ups & Downs

Our 15th Annual Salary Survey

By Emily Tipping


Just as the State of the Industry Report, featured in our June 2022 issue, revealed a return to normalcy for much of the recreation, sports and fitness industry, so too, our Salary Survey results also show a pivot back to business as usual. After the pandemic's major effects on everything from revenues and costs to staffing and programming, 2022 shows facilities beginning to recover some balance. Likewise, while salaries saw some effect during the pandemic, respondents also appear to be relatively positive about the year to come.

Welcome to our 15th Annual Salary Survey! Over the next several pages, we'll examine what respondents to the Industry Report survey had to say about their salaries, experience, careers and satisfaction with their work.

Who Are You?

If you're reading this magazine, you likely wear one of the many hats donned by professionals in the recreation, sports and fitness industry. Perhaps you're a park district director, or a fitness club CEO, or an aquatic park manager, or an athletic director for a local school district. Whatever hat you wear, you probably will find at least a few folks who play a similar role covered here in our survey data, who represent a diverse range of job titles and facility types.

So, where are you from? Nearly one-third (32.1%) of survey respondents were from the Midwest. The next largest regions, in terms of representation, were the Northeast (20.9%) and West (20.9%). The South Atlantic (14.1%) and South Central (12.1%) regions had smaller numbers of respondents.

If you're from the suburbs, you're in good company, as 44.3% of our survey respondents were also from suburban communities. But not to worry: 35.5% of respondents were located in rural areas, and 19.2% said they were located in urban communities.

More than half (52.9%) of respondents are with public or governmental organizations. Another 28.8% were with private nonprofit organizations, such as YMCAs, and 17.6% were with private, for-profit organizations, like health clubs.

A wide variety of facility types were represented, with the largest number of respondents—31.6%—working for parks and recreation departments and districts. They were followed by respondents from schools and school districts (11.2%), campgrounds, RV parks and private or youth camps (11.2%), colleges and universities (10.1%), community or private sports or recreation centers (9.9%), YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (8.3%), and health, fitness and medical fitness facilities (5.7%). Smaller numbers responded to the survey from other types of facilities, including: resorts and resort hotels (2%); golf facilities and country clubs (1.8%); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.8%); racquet and tennis clubs (0.9%); stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.5%); ice rinks (0.5%); churches (0.5%); homeowners associations (0.4%); corporate recreation and sports facilities (0.2%); and military installations (0.2%). Another 3.2% of respondents work for "other" types of facilities.

The readership of Recreation Management magazine tends to hold higher-level management or director-level positions, in keeping with their role as the decision-makers for their organizations, so it comes as little surprise that respondents to the survey tend to be older professionals. In fact, nearly six in 10 (57.3%) said they were at least 50 years old, with a third of respondents (33.7%) in the 50-to-59 age range, and nearly a quarter (23.6%) at least 60 years old. Another quarter (25.5%) said they were between 40 and 49 years of age, and 13.9% were between 30 and 39 years old. Just 3.3% were younger than 30.

Survey respondents were somewhat less ethnically diverse than in 2021, with 89% of respondents being white (up from 86.2% in 2021). Just 3.9% of respondents were Hispanic, 3.7% were black, 2.2% were Native American or Alaskan Natives, and 1.7% were Asian/Pacific Islanders. Finally, 3.2% represented "other" or "unknown" ethnicities.

At the same time, respondents were somewhat less likely in 2022 to be men. That is to say, 56.1% of survey respondents were male, while 43.9% were female.

When it comes to the jobs they hold, most respondents to the survey hold leadership positions, and 2022 saw a significant increase in the number who hold a CEO, chairman, president or similar title. Still, the largest number of respondents—33.2%—were directors. The next largest group, 19.7%, were in administration and management positions, which includes titles like administrator, manager or superintendent. Those who report as chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner of their organizations stepped up to the next spot in 2022, representing 17.3% of the responses to the survey, a big jump from 2021, when they were 9.4% of the respondents. Those in operations and facility management made up 14.8% of the respondents. This includes titles such as operations manager, facility manager, building manager and supervisor. Another 9.3% of respondents were in program and activity administration, including activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists, coaches and instructors. Some 2.2% of respondents said they were faculty or teachers. Finally, 3.5% said they were in "other," unspecified job roles. (See Figure 1.)

Are You Experienced?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's most recent numbers (released in February 2022), the percentage of people age 25 and older who have completed a bachelor's degree or higher increased to 37.9% in 2021, from 30.4% in 2011. Respondents to the Industry Report survey were more than twice as likely to have attained at least a bachelor's degree. Nearly eight out of 10 (79.9%) said they had at least a bachelor's degree, with 42.5% indicating they had earned their bachelor's, 33.5% having earned a master's degree, and 4% holding an advanced degree, such as a Ph.D. Another 5.1% of respondents have earned a two-year associate's degree, and 11.2% have attended college without earning a degree. Just 3.8% named a high school diploma as their highest level of educational attainment.

The average respondents to the Industry Report survey have held their current position for 12.3 years, up from 11.7 in 2021. Slightly more than a fifth (20.7%) of respondents have held their current position for at least 20 years, up from 19.7% in 2021 and 18.4% in 2020. Another 25.1% have been in their current position from 10 to 20 years. Just under a quarter (24.2%) have been in their current position for between five and nine years, and 30% have been in their current position for less than five years.

In addition to having plenty of on-the-job experience in their current positions, respondents also have plenty of experience in the industry, with an average of 21.9 years, down from 22.5 years in 2021. Well over half (54.9%) said they have been working in the industry for at least 20 years (down from 58.5%) in 2021, and 26.5% have been involved in the industry for 30 years or more. Another 27.1% have between 10 and 19 years of experience, while 10% have between five and nine years of experience. Some 8.1% of respondents said they have been in the industry for less than five years. (See Figure 2.)

Money Money

After climbing steadily from 2015 to 2021, the average salary for respondents dropped 4.7% in 2022, to an average of $74,990, after reaching a high of $78,650 in 2021. Over the past 10 years, this represents a 15.4% increase, from an average of $65,000 in 2012. (See Figure 3.)

When considered by the type of facility or industry segment they work in, only respondents from schools and school districts and from Ys reported an increase to their average salary from 2021 to 2022. These two cohorts were also the highest earners. School respondents reported a 9.4% increase to their average salary, from $75,740 in 2021 to $82,870 in 2022, and Y respondents saw a 7.6% increase, from an average of $78,000 in 2021 to $83,920 in 2022.

The biggest decrease to average salary was reported by respondents from camps, who saw a 17.3% drop, from an average of $77,110 in 2021 to $63,770 in 2022. That said, the year 2021 was a bit of an outlier for camp respondents, with a much higher average salary than usual. Looking further back, camp respondents reported a much smaller, 2.4% decrease from 2020's average of $65,350. The next greatest decrease was reported by health club respondents, who saw an 11.2% decrease from an average of $68,120 in 2021 to $60,500 in 2022. Smaller decreases were reported by respondents from colleges (down 5.7% from $78,150 in 2021 to $73,660 in 2022), and rec centers (down 2.2% from $70,130 in 2021 to $68,580 in 2022). Park respondents reported very little change, with a 0.9% drop in their average salary, from $77,980 in 2021 to $77,260 in 2022. (See Figure 4.)

Considered by region, the only respondents who saw an increase to their average salaries from 2021 to 2022 were those in the South Atlantic states. These respondents saw a 1.5% increase, from $73,660 in 2021 to $74,800 in 2022.

The biggest drop was seen among respondents from the Western states, who reported a 14.6% decrease, from an average salary of $88,180 in 2021 to $75,270 in 2022. Smaller decreases were reported by respondents from the South Central region (down 3.8%, from $74,790 in 2021 to $71,940 in 2022), the Midwest (down 2.8%, from $75,160 in 2021 to $73,050 in 2022), and the Northeast (down 1.5%, from $81,350 in 2021 to $80,090 in 2022). (See Figure 5.)

Considered by job roles, it is interesting to note that the highest-paid respondents (CEOs, presidents and similar positions) as well as the lowest-paid (those in program and activity administration) reported the biggest drops to their average salaries. Those in program and activity administration saw the biggest drop, with their average salary falling 9.5%, from $58,760 in 2021 to $53,200 in 2022. CEOs, presidents and the like followed, with an 8.7% decrease from an average of $101,690 in 2021 to $92,880 in 2022. Smaller decreases were reported by those holding the director title (down 2.3%, from $87,300 in 2021 to $85,280 in 2022) and those in administration and management positions (down 1.5%, from $82,930 in 2021 to $81,710 in 2022). Respondents in operations and facility management positions reported the smallest decrease, with their average salary falling 0.9%, from $66,840 in 2021 to $66,250 in 2022. (See Figure 6.)

As can be seen fairly clearly in Figure 7, there is a divide between those with four-year degrees and those without when it comes to salaries, with higher degrees translating to higher pay. That said, respondents with a high school diploma reported the biggest increase to their average salary from 2021 to 2022, with a 14.1% increase from $50,970 to $58,160. Respondents with an advanced degree were the only other educational cohort to report an increase to their average salary in 2022. Those with an advanced degree reported a 12.5% increase, from an average of $95,000 in 2021 to $106,900 in 2022.

The biggest decrease was reported by respondents who had some college but no degree, with a 13.3% decrease from an average of $69,420 in 2021 to $60,170 in 2022. Those with an associate's degree reported a 5.5% decline, from an average of $67,820 in 2021 to $64,070 in 2022. Respondents with a bachelor's degree saw their average annual pay decrease by 1.8%, from $80,900 in 2021 to $79,480 in 2022. And finally, respondents with a master's degree reported virtually no change, as their average annual salary fell 0.5%, from $85,840 in 2021 to $85,440 in 2022. (See Figure 7.)

As was the case with so many other data points covered by the Industry Report survey, the typically reported salary increases saw a departure from the norm in the year 2020. Where in most years, well over half of respondents to the survey report that their salaries have increased, in 2020, 39.7% reported an increase, and 11.3% reported a decrease.

2021 shows a shift back toward normal, with 53.6% of respondents indicating that their salaries increased last year. Another 37.5% reported no change in 2021, and 8.9% reported a decrease.

Respondents who did report that their salary increased in 2021 saw an average increase of 4.3%, up from 3.3% in 2020 and 3.5% in 2019.

Looking forward, respondents are somewhat optimistic about their prospects for a raise in 2022, with 57.9% indicating they are expecting their salary to increase this year. Another 40% are expecting no change, and just 2.1% are expecting a decrease. (See Figure 8.)

As was the case in 2019 and in 2020, respondents from parks and schools were the most likely to report that their salaries had increased in 2021. Nearly two-thirds (65.1%) of school respondents and 62.9% of park respondents said their salaries were higher in 2021 than in 2020, and they reported an average increase of 2.4% and 3.7%, respectively. All respondents were more likely to report that their salaries had increased in 2021 than in 2020. More than four out of 10 respondents from camps (49.2%), Ys (46.8%) and colleges (45.6%) said their salary in 2021 was higher than in 2020, with an average increase of 5.6%, 4% and 3.1%, respectively. Respondents from rec centers (39.3%) and health clubs (28.1%) were the least likely to report a salary increase for 2021. Those who did report an increase saw an average raise of 5.2% (rec centers) and 8.1% (health clubs). (See Figure 9.)

Taking Care of Business

The majority of respondents work a typical number of hours every week—more than half (56.9%) said they work between 40 and 49 hours. That said, this year saw an increase in the number of respondents who are working 50 hours a week or more, from 26.4% in 2021 to 31.3% in 2022. Another 7.1% of respondents said they work between 30 and 39 hours a week, and 4.7% said they log less than 30 hours a week. (See Figure 10.)

Respondents in 2022 said they work an average of 47.1 hours per week, up slightly from 46.7 in 2021. School respondents once again logged the highest average number of hours, at 53.6 hours per week, up from 52.9 in 2021. They were followed by those from health clubs, who worked an average of 50.1 hours per week, up from 44.8, and those from Ys, who worked an average of 47.7 hours per week, down from 48.3. Camps and colleges followed, with camp respondents averaging 46.7 hours (down from 49.5), and college respondents averaging 46.1 hours (down from 47.8). Respondents from parks and rec centers logged the fewest average hours, with park respondents averaging 44.4 (down from 44.7), and rec center respondents averaging 45.9 (up from 45.1).

On average, respondents said they have 18.2 employees reporting to them, down from 21 in 2021. Some 5.8% of respondents said they have no direct reports. Another 25.9% said that between one and five employees report to them. Another 24.4% have between six and 10 direct reports. Some 17.4% have between 11 and 20 direct reports, and 19.5% have between 21 and 50. Just 5.4% of respondents said between 51 and 100 employees report to them, while 1.6% have more than 100.

With the exception of schools, respondents from different facility types had relatively similar numbers of direct-report employees. Schools were the outlier, with an average of 37. They were followed distantly by Ys (18) and parks (16.2). (See Figure 11.)

It's been a challenging couple of years for professionals in every profession, and those working in parks, recreation, sports, fitness and aquatic facilities have certainly had their share of challenges. However, they are still overwhelmingly likely to be satisfied with their work. There was a slight uptick in 2022 to the number of respondents who are not satisfied, from 7.8% to 9.8%. But the vast majority are either satisfied (55%) or very satisfied (35.2%) in their current jobs. (See Figure 12.) RM