Activities Director: Job Duties, Career Outlook and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become an activities director. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Activities Director?

Activities directors plan and lead recreational activities for children and adults involving arts, crafts, dance, drama, hiking, swimming and more. They work in a variety of settings including aquatic centers, camps, parks, playgrounds, and senior centers. They are responsible for booking facilities, monitoring equipment use, leading classes and teaching any skills needed for a particular activity. Activities directors will at times need to adapt activities to particular groups of people, such as the disabled, and ensure the safety of all the participants. They are often trained in basic first aid so they can administer basic care in case of any accidents. Activities directors' duties can vary depending on their job title, place of work or even the state in which they work.

The table listed below provides education, key skills, licensure, and employment information for recreation workers, a closely related field.

Degree RequiredBachelor's
Education Field of StudyRecreation studies, leisure studies, liberal arts, public administration
Key SkillsCommunications, flexibility, leadership, problem solving
CertificationRequired certification for some jobs; voluntary certification is also available
Job Growth (2014-2024)10% for all recreation workers*
Median Salary (2015)$23,320 for all recreation workers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Activities Directors Do?

Your primary responsibility will be to organize and facilitate leisure activities for children and adults. Specific duties include promoting activities programs in the wider community, encouraging participation in activities and assessing the recreational needs of participants. You may also research, plan and schedule activities. Some employers will ask you to establish policies, manage operations and enforce rules at recreational facilities. You will also oversee the training, supervision and evaluation of support workers. You could also analyze usage patterns and evaluate the effectiveness of recreational programs. The range of activities you organize and manage includes arts and crafts, musical or dramatic performances, sporting competitions, games and hobbies.

Where Could I Work?

Nursing homes, summer camps, schools, resorts, cruise ships and local and state agencies are among the institutions and entities that might hire you. A relatively limited number of positions are full-time compared to those that are part-time, temporary or seasonal. As of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reported that approximately 379,300 people were employed as recreation workers. Figures for the sub-category activity directors were not available. By 2024 employment was projected to be about 418,300, a 10% increase. Growth in the population of very young and elderly people will drive demand for recreation services.

What Training or Degree Programs are Available?

Depending on the position you're seeking, you may have different educational requirements for recreational work. A high school diploma might be sufficient to work as a summer camp counselor, but full-time activities directors usually need an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in recreation management or leisure studies. Some administrative positions require a graduate degree and a background in business administration.

A degree in recreation management trains you to design activity programs appropriate to the age, needs and capabilities of particular groups and to communicate effectively with recreation service users, families and communities. Course content addresses such topics as program planning, outdoor recreation, parks management and facilities management. Many programs include an internship course that involves you directly in the administration of a program or facility. An associate's degree is typically earned in two years and a bachelor's degree is earned in four years.

If you meet eligibility requirements, you can obtain the Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) credential from the National Recreation and Park Association. A bachelor's degree in recreation and one year of recreation work experience, a bachelor's degree in any subject and three years of work experience or a high school diploma five years of work experience are sufficient to qualify. As of 2017, the certification exam consisted of 125 scored questions that test your knowledge of operations management, programming and general administration.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers include recreational therapists, exercise physiologists and meeting, convention and event planners. All of these positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Recreational therapists plan many of the same recreational activities as activities directors, but adapt them to fit the needs of injured, ill or disabled participants. They use the recreational activities as a form of therapy to promote overall well-being in their patients. Exercise physiologists develop exercise programs to help patients recover from chronic conditions. Meeting, convention and event planners perform similar administrative duties as activities directors. These professionals plan and oversee various kinds of large events.

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