How to Become a Recreation Worker
Recreation workers make sure that participants abide by the rules of a recreational facility so that there are no injuries.
The education and training requirements for recreation workers vary with the type of job, but workers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.
Education and Training
Recreation workers who work full time typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Though less common, associate’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are also available.
In 2012, the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Related Professions, a branch of the National Recreation and Park Association, accredited 81 bachelor’s degree programs in recreation or leisure studies.
Programs typically include courses in management, human development, community organization, supervision, and administration. Students also take courses in developing programs for populations with specific needs, such as the elderly or people with special needs. Students may specialize in areas such as park management, outdoor recreation, industrial or commercial recreation, and camp management.
A bachelor’s degree in other subjects, such as liberal arts or public administration, may also qualify applicants for some positions.
Supervisory positions may require at least a master’s degree in parks and recreation, business administration, or public administration.
A seasonal or part-time worker may not need postsecondary education. They typically learn to do their jobs through a short period of on-the-job training.
Communication skills. Recreation workers must be able to communicate well. They often work with large groups of people and need to give clear instructions, motivate participants, and maintain order and safety.
Flexibility. Recreation workers must be flexible when planning activities. They must be able to adapt plans to suit changing environmental conditions and each client’s needs.
Leadership skills. Recreation workers should be able to lead both large and small groups. They often lead activities for people of all ages and abilities.
Physical strength. Recreation workers need to be physically fit. Their job may require a considerable amount of movement because they often demonstrate activities while explaining them.
Problem-solving skills. Recreation workers need strong problem-solving skills. They must be able to create and reinvent activities and programs for all types of participants.
For recreation workers who generally work part time, such as camp counselors and activity specialists, certain qualities may be more important than postsecondary education. These qualities include a worker’s experience leading activities, the ability to work well with children or the elderly, and the ability to ensure the safety of participants.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) offers four certifications for recreation workers. Applicants may qualify for certification with different combinations of education and work experience. They must also take continuing education classes to maintain certification.
The American Camp Association also offers four certificates for various levels of camp staff. Individuals who complete online courses may show their advanced level of knowledge of core competencies.
Some recreation jobs require certification. For example, a lifesaving certificate is often required for teaching or coaching water-related activities. These certifications are available from organizations such as the YMCA or the Red Cross. Specific requirements vary by job and employer.
As workers gain experience, they may be promoted to positions with greater responsibilities. Recreation workers with experience and managerial skills may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Eventually, they may become directors of a recreation department or may start their own recreation company.