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Recreation Workers

At a Glance

  • Lead classes in arts and crafts, music, camping, sports, and exercise
  • Constantly interact with the public
  • May work evenings or weekends
  • May work only in summer
  • Train on the job
  • May need a license or certificate

Career summary

Recreation workers organize and lead leisure activities.

Recreation workers may also be called recreation leaders, recreation coordinators, recreation assistants, recreation specialists, or camp counselors.

Most recreation workers plan and direct activities at community centers and recreation facilities. Some organize programs in workplaces that offer activities for employees. Recreation workers design and lead classes in a variety of activities, including:

Recreation workers teach participants and encourage them to try new activities. For example, they may demonstrate how to make a pot from a piece of clay. They also monitor the safety of participants. They give first aid or call emergency workers if someone is hurt. They try to prevent injuries by enforcing the recreation centers safety rules.

Many recreation workers have administrative duties. They schedule activities and keep records of the number of people who participate in each program. Sometimes they collect fees. They keep track of supplies and equipment. They may order new supplies or tell coworkers which supplies to order.

Recreation workers supervise the work done by recreation attendants and other staff. They assign duties to other workers and coordinate activities at the recreation center. They hire staff, evaluate their performance, and maintain personnel records.

Recreation workers attend a number of meetings. At some meetings they discuss rules and work-related problems with the staff. They may meet to plan new programs and discuss how to improve current programs. They also meet with parents or program participants who have complaints. They listen to the problems and try to resolve them.

Related careers

This career is part of the Hospitality and Tourism cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to recreation workers.

Common work activities

Recreation workers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, recreation workers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

It is important for recreation workers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for recreation workers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Recreation workers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a recreation worker, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Recreation workers who work part time usually do not need formal education beyond high school. Recreation workers who have full-time, permanent jobs usually have a bachelor's degree. Common areas of study are recreational studies, physical education, and leisure studies. In these programs, you learn to manage recreation programs. You also learn how to meet the recreational needs of special populations. Master's and doctoral degrees are also available in this field.

Special training in a field such as art, music, or athletics is also helpful.

Work experience

Working at a park or a pool in the summer is an excellent way to prepare for this occupation. Volunteer work at a nursing home or child care center is also helpful.

On-the-job training

Many recreation workers learn their skills on the job. For example, if you work at a park during the summer, you usually receive training from an experienced worker. Training includes:

This type of training may last up to a month.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

For full-time, permanent jobs, most employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree. Preferred areas of study include parks management, recreation, travel and tourism, or a related program. Employers also look for applicants who have experience teaching. Some employers will hire recreation workers who do not have any experience. Other employers prefer to hire recreation workers who have up to a year of experience.

For part-time, seasonal jobs, most employers prefer applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers prefer applicants who are skilled in an activity, such as art, skiing, swimming, tennis, or camping.

Employers may require applicants to have experience working with a specific age group. Depending on what they will teach, applicants may also need a good driving record.

Employers prefer applicants who have an outgoing personality. They also look for applicants who have good communication skills for teaching.

Useful skills in a specific recreational activity often are acquired through private lessons. Classes in marketing, public administration, communications, and accounting are also helpful. Workers may be required to have a valid first aid/CPR card and/or lifeguard instructor certification. Some jobs may also require workers to have AED (Automated External Defibrillator) certification.


Courses in assertiveness training are helpful. Diversify as much as possible. Volunteer work and internships offer valuable experience. Affiliation with the Washington Recreation and Park Association and National Recreation and Park Association is helpful. If you aspire to management positions, round out your education with classes in landscape architecture, public administration, project management, or urban planning. Recreation skills and experience alone will make it extremely difficult to obtain a parks and recreation directorship, assistant manager, or division manager position.

Costs to workers

Some workers join professional associations, which may have annual dues.


Certification is customary in some recreation fields. Instructors usually are certified in recreation activities such as skiing, mountaineering, golf, and aquatics. Although certification in Washington is not required, many recreation leaders become certified voluntarily.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


The minimum wage for Washington State as of January 1, 2020 is $13.50 per hour. Some areas of the state may have a higher minimum wage.

Recreation workers (SOC 39-9032)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $11.75 $12.29 $14.77 $18.06 $23.03
Monthly $2,036 $2,130 $2,560 $3,130 $3,991
Yearly $24,440 $25,560 $30,720 $37,550 $47,910
    Bellingham Hourly $12.08 $12.43 $13.01 $16.47 $21.75
Monthly $2,093 $2,154 $2,255 $2,854 $3,769
Yearly $25,118 $25,836 $27,076 $34,268 $45,240
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $12.09 $12.42 $13.25 $16.86 $21.96
Monthly $2,095 $2,152 $2,296 $2,922 $3,806
Yearly $25,131 $25,827 $27,556 $35,089 $45,690
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $8.81 $9.79 $12.65 $15.03 $17.40
Monthly $1,527 $1,697 $2,192 $2,605 $3,015
Yearly $18,338 $20,370 $26,328 $31,251 $36,186
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $12.02 $12.23 $12.92 $14.75 $16.50
Monthly $2,083 $2,119 $2,239 $2,556 $2,859
Yearly $25,004 $25,440 $26,880 $30,680 $34,325
    Longview Hourly $12.23 $12.75 $15.27 $20.48 $27.40
Monthly $2,119 $2,210 $2,646 $3,549 $4,748
Yearly $25,439 $26,511 $31,764 $42,587 $56,993
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $12.17 $12.90 $14.34 $16.08 $19.42
Monthly $2,109 $2,236 $2,485 $2,787 $3,365
Yearly $25,317 $26,836 $29,825 $33,444 $40,412
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $12.15 $12.54 $13.46 $16.33 $19.05
Monthly $2,106 $2,173 $2,333 $2,830 $3,301
Yearly $25,274 $26,089 $27,997 $33,955 $39,621
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $12.21 $12.89 $15.95 $18.83 $23.78
Monthly $2,116 $2,234 $2,764 $3,263 $4,121
Yearly $25,390 $26,807 $33,170 $39,151 $49,456
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $12.01 $12.23 $13.00 $15.91 $20.45
Monthly $2,081 $2,119 $2,253 $2,757 $3,544
Yearly $24,978 $25,439 $27,055 $33,107 $42,532
    Vancouver Hourly $11.47 $12.76 $15.43 $19.58 $24.76
Monthly $1,988 $2,211 $2,674 $3,393 $4,291
Yearly $23,843 $26,543 $32,098 $40,727 $51,491
    Walla Walla Hourly $12.11 $12.85 $14.50 $16.40 $25.31
Monthly $2,099 $2,227 $2,513 $2,842 $4,386
Yearly $25,177 $26,732 $30,164 $34,114 $52,646
    Wenatchee Hourly $12.09 $12.51 $14.32 $17.10 $19.81
Monthly $2,095 $2,168 $2,482 $2,963 $3,433
Yearly $25,128 $26,022 $29,766 $35,566 $41,199
    Yakima Hourly $12.03 $12.47 $14.69 $18.16 $21.45
Monthly $2,085 $2,161 $2,546 $3,147 $3,717
Yearly $25,042 $25,943 $30,558 $37,783 $44,603
United States Hourly $8.88 $10.13 $12.05 $15.63 $20.52
Monthly $1,539 $1,756 $2,088 $2,709 $3,556
Yearly $18,470 $21,060 $25,060 $32,510 $42,670

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The recreation worker's duties and level of training, experience, and responsibility also affect wages.

Recreation workers who work full time may receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Those who work part time generally do not receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Recreation Workers (SOC 39-9032)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 7,972 12.2% 16.1% 1,595
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 182 14.8% 13.4% 38
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 238 13.4% 8.6% 49
    Benton and Franklin Counties 154 12.3% 15.0% 31
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 642 13.4% 11.9% 130
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 650 15.5% 15.2% 136
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 372 13.4% 14.1% 75
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 686 11.2% 14.6% 135
    King County 3,246 11.0% 19.6% 637
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 217 13.8% 13.8% 44
    Pierce County 544 14.9% 15.2% 113
    Snohomish County 840 9.0% 12.4% 160
    Spokane County 417 10.8% 13.9% 81
United States 408,300 8.3% 5.2% 74,000

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing faster than average as recreation programs for both kids and seniors increase. There is a push at the local, state, and federal levels to encourage children to be more active. And the growing aging population increases the need for programs that will help to keep seniors active and healthy.

Opportunities for part-time or seasonal work are very good. Competition for full-time, year-round positions is strong. Job prospects are best for those with formal training and previous experience.

Other resources

American Camp Association (external link)
5000 State Road 67 North
Martinsville, IN 46151
American Fitness Professionals and Associates (external link)
PO Box 214
Ship Bottom, NJ 08008
American Kinesiology Association (external link)
1900 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191
American Red Cross (external link)
Careers in the Camp Community (external link)
(American Camp Association)
National Recreation and Park Association (external link)
22377 Belmont Ridge Road
Ashburn, VA 20148
Society of Health and Physical Educators (external link)
PO Box 225
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
Washington Recreation and Park Association (external link)
2150 North 107th Street, Suite 205
Seattle, WA 98133


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster