Recreation Instructor: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for a recreation instructor. Get the facts about the job duties, education requirements, salary, and licensure to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Athletic Coaching degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Recreation Instructor?

Recreation instructors lead leisure activities for groups of students, young and old. They can find jobs in a wide range of facilities, including camps, aquatic centers, senior centers and parks. Depending on their area of expertise, they may offer instruction in art, sports, dance, team-building, music and swimming, among other possibilities. Some recreation instructors also have administrative duties, such as scheduling facility use and signing equipment in and out.

Take a look at the table below to find out the general requirements for a recreation instructor.

Education Required High school diploma, associate's, bachelor's degree (dependent on employer)
Education Field of Study recreation, recreation resort and management
Key Skills ability to play or teach a sport or activity
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% for recreation workers*
Average Salary (2015) $26,610 for recreation workers*

Source: *U.S. Labor Board of Statistics' (BLS)*

Recreation Instructor Salaries

Because of the sheer number of jobs available in this career field, your salary could vary greatly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that recreation workers earned a mean annual salary of $26,610 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The highest salaries were reported in jobs in the federal executive branch and in the states of Hawaii, Alaska, Vermont, Nevada and Washington, D.C.

Career Options

If you're interested in working with children, you could work at a before- or after-school program, camp or community center. You might teach children a sport like tennis or swimming, or creative arts like dancing and drama. At a camp, you could instruct outdoor activities like camping, archery and boating; you could also be a mentor and a supervisor of social activities. At a community center, you could teach children arts and crafts, cooking, sports and more.

Another option is a job in outdoor recreation, possibly through a parks and recreation department. In this setting, you could instruct sports programs, nature classes or classes that focus on recreation safety and park resources. You might also work on a resort or cruise ship.

Education Requirements

According to the BLS, many recreation instructors have high school diplomas, although educational requirements may vary by your job duties or employer. The BLS reports that if you're primarily concerned with teaching one kind of activity, your experience can be more important than a formal education. For instance, experience playing or teaching a sport could be more valuable than a degree in an unrelated area.

If you're interested in a full-time position with added administrative responsibilities, you could enroll in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in resort and recreation management, recreation or recreation leadership. You'll receive training not only in instructing activities but also in planning them. Although, a liberal arts degree is often sufficient for some employers, according to the BLS.

Certifications

If you're interested in teaching sports, you might consider getting certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), a life-saving skill you could use to help children and adults who become injured or sick. CPR certification is generally a must to teach certain sports, especially swimming.

You might also consider earning the Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) credential through the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). Some of the qualifications you'll need to take the CPRP exam are a recreation-related bachelor's degree and one year of experience, or an unrelated bachelor's degree and three years of experience. If you have a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) certificate, you'll need five years of experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you're interested in helping people achieve health and fitness goals, you could consider becoming a personal fitness trainer who offers services to individual clients or small groups. In this job, you would evaluate a client's current level of fitness and design a comprehensive exercise and general wellness program that can help them achieve their fitness goals, such as weight loss or improved athletic performance. You need to have a high school diploma for this job. Alternatively, if you're an expert in a particular sport, you could consider becoming an official, such as a referee or umpire. Depending on the sport, you would be responsible for ensuring safe and legal play, keeping track of scores and/or judging performances. A high school diploma is the minimum education requirement, but some sports leagues require additional training.

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