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Choosing a career in parks and recreation

If you're someone who loves the great outdoors, has a passion for conservation, or simply enjoys creating fun experiences for others, you might be interested in exploring careers in parks and recreation. This field offers a multitude of opportunities that range from park management and outdoor adventure programming to event management and theme park director. Let's take a closer look at what these exciting career paths entail.

From exploring the outdoors to planning the perfect event, discover what recreation programs look like at Central Michigan University.

What are careers in parks and recreation?

Parks and recreation careers encompass a wide variety of roles, all centered around managing, and enhancing events and recreational activities. These jobs can be found in local, state, or national parks, as well as in private recreation facilities. They involve everything from maintaining trails and overseeing wildlife protection to planning community events and leading public health and wellness initiatives.

Parks and recreation management

One key area in this sector is parks and recreation management. As a parks and recreation manager, your role could include overseeing the operation of a park, creating and implementing programs for visitors, managing staff, and ensuring the preservation of natural resources. This job requires a combination of administrative skills, knowledge about the environment, and a knack for public relations.

Woman scales an indoor climbing wall

Exploring career opportunities in recreation

Apart from park management, there are numerous other career opportunities in recreation. For instance, you could work as a recreation coordinator, designing and organizing activities for different age groups. Or, you might choose to become an outdoor recreation planner, developing plans for the use and development of land for recreational purposes.

There's also the option to specialize in a particular type of outdoor recreation. If you're an avid skier, hiker, or kayaker, for example, you could find a career teaching and leading these activities in a park setting.

Venturing into careers in outdoor recreation

Outdoor recreation careers go beyond just park jobs. They also include roles in adventure tourism companies, outdoor education centers, and conservation organizations. These jobs often involve guiding people in outdoor activities, teaching about the environment, or working to protect and conserve natural areas.

Two people navigate a river by canoe

Event management career opportunities

In addition to outdoor recreation, you may consider a career in event and recreation management. Professionals in this field work for theme parks, community and convention centers, festivals, and entertainment venues. They also are employed as wedding and party planners, alumni relations directors, and chief executives of non-profit organizations.

The Events Industry Council estimates the event industry provides nearly 6 million jobs in the United States. The number of jobs in the events industry is also expected to rise over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Finding park jobs near you

The good news is that various positions in parks and recreation are available across the country. You can start your search by checking out job postings on local government websites, national park service sites, and job boards dedicated to outdoor and conservation careers. The National Recreation and Park Association also connects recreation professionals to career opportunities through networking and education.

Seeking the best paying jobs in amusement and recreation

While many people are drawn to this field because of their love for nature and the outdoors, it's also worth noting that there are some high-paying jobs in the amusement and recreation industry. These include roles such as amusement park managers, event coordinators, and directors of recreation and parks departments. These positions typically require more experience and education but offer higher salaries in return.

The 2019 NRPA parks and recreation salary survey shows a wide range of positions and median salaries:

  • Park and Recreation Agency Director: $100,250       
  • Planning Director: $78,052    
  • Director of Finance: $85,000 
  • Recreation Director: $78,250
  • Park Operations Director: $72,500    
  • Park Operations: $55,000      
  • Facility Manager: $57,434     
  • Athletics Supervisor: $54,152
  • Aquatics Supervisor: $51,500
  • Recreation Program Coordinator: $48,141

Are parks and recreation workers in demand?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of recreation jobs in 2022 totaled 289,400. For those hoping to pursue a career in the field, the job outlook is bright. The bureau expects the number of jobs in parks and recreation to grow by about 5% through the year 2032. That is faster than average job growth.

Person rollerblading through a park

Getting a degree in parks and recreation

Embarking on a career in parks and recreation often begins with a college education. While not all roles in this field require a degree, having one can significantly improve your job prospects and prepare you for the diverse challenges this sector presents.

Most commonly, aspiring professionals in this field pursue a bachelor's degree in programs like the nationally recognized Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration at Central Michigan University. CMU offers three distinct recreation majors:

For those interested in leadership roles or specialized fields, a master's degree in Parks and Recreation Management or a related discipline may be beneficial. These advanced programs often focus on strategic planning, policy development, and advanced research methods. They may also offer concentrations in areas like outdoor education, tourism management, or park administration.

Woman playing disc golf in the park

Choosing a recreation career you’ll love

If you have a passion for the outdoors, enjoy working with people and organizing events, and want to play a part in preserving our natural spaces, a career in parks and recreation might be the perfect fit for you. With a variety of roles available, there's bound to be a job that aligns with your interests and skills.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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