California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Recreation Workers in California

May also be called: Activity Coordinators; Activity Specialists; Parks Recreation Coordinators; Playground Workers; Recreation Assistants

Specialties within this occupation include: Camp Counselors; Directors of Recreation and Parks; Recreation Leaders; Recreation Supervisors

What Would I Do?

Recreation Workers plan, organize, and direct people in a variety of activities, such as arts and crafts, aerobics, hiking, swimming, and sports. They promote interest and motivate people to participate in recreational activities and programs, while taking into consideration the abilities and needs of individual participants. A Recreation Worker's job may include setting up and laying out materials or equipment for the day’s activities.

Recreation Workers use a variety of tools, including calculators, dry-erase boards, desktop computers, emergency medical services first aid kits, and word processing software.

Camp Counselors lead and instruct children, teenagers, and adults in various indoor and outdoor recreational activities, such as archery, boating, camping, crafts, hiking, horseback riding, and swimming. Other specialty subjects may include computers, drama, gymnastics, music, and tennis. Camp Counselors provide guidance and support to campers. They may also help campers develop confidence and social skills to use in their daily lives.

Recreation Leaders are responsible for a recreational program's daily operation. Other responsibilities may include organizing, directing, leading, and instructing participants in various activities. Recreation Leaders' duties may include scheduling the use of the facility, keeping records, and making sure the recreation equipment and facilities are used properly.

Recreation Supervisors plan, organize, and manage recreational activities to meet the needs of the community. They hire, train, and supervise the Recreation Leaders and help them improve their leadership skills. They often serve as the contact between the Director of the park or recreation center and the Recreation Leaders. Some Recreation Supervisors have specialized responsibilities, such as directing special activities or events, or managing a major activity.

Directors of Recreation and Parks develop and manage comprehensive recreation programs in parks, playgrounds, and other settings. Directors usually work directly for a Community Services Director, Deputy Mayor, or Mayor. They perform technical advising and also serve as liaison to advisory recreation and park commissions. Directors are responsible for recreation and park budgets, programs, operations, development, and planning.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Enforce rules and regulations of recreational facilities to maintain discipline and ensure safety.Public Safety and Security
Manage the daily operations of recreational facilities.Administration and Management
Organize, lead, and promote interest in recreational activities such as arts, crafts, sports, games, camping, and hobbies.Oral Expression
Greet new arrivals to activities, introducing them to other participants, explaining facility rules, and encouraging participation.Customer and Personal Service
Supervise and coordinate the work activities of personnel, such as training staff members and assigning work duties.Management of Personnel Resources
Confer with management to discuss and resolve participant complaints.Problem Sensitivity
Explain principles, techniques, and safety procedures to participants in recreational activities, and demonstrate use of materials and equipment.Instructing
Complete and maintain time and attendance forms and inventory lists.Monitoring
Ascertain and interpret group interests, evaluate equipment and facilities, and adapt activities to meet participant needs.Learning Strategies
Meet and collaborate with agency personnel, community organizations, and other professional personnel to plan balanced recreational programs for participants.Deductive Reasoning
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Recreation Workers may work in various settings, such as community centers, cruise ships, health clubs, playgrounds, parks, recreational areas, summer camps, and theme parks. Regardless of the setting, most of these workers spend their time outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. Recreation Workers should be healthy and in good physical shape. Recreation Leaders and Supervisors usually spend more time in an office and less time engaging in physical activities. However, Recreation Workers at all levels risk suffering injuries during physical activities. They may work 40 hours a week; however, the majority work part-time, nights, weekends, irregular hours, and seasonally.

Unionization is not common in this occupation. However, Recreation Workers who work for government agencies usually join a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Recreation worker may appeal to those who enjoy assisting, communicating, and instructing people on the principles, techniques, and safety procedures of various types of recreational activities and equipment usage. In addition, those who like to organize, set up, and carry out programs and special events may be interested in this occupation. Recreation Workers may also need to make decisions concerning the facilities, participants, or programs which are offered.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Recreation Workers in California was $32,941 annually, or $15.84 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Most public and private recreation agencies provide full-time Recreation Workers with health and life insurance, vacation, sick leave, and pension plans; part-time workers receive few benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Job opportunities for full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary Recreation Workers are expected to increase at a normal growth rate. Recreation Workers with formal training and prior work experience or graduate degrees may have better opportunities for job placement. However, during times of economic downturns there may be fewer employment opportunities since public recreation agencies depend upon state and local government funding.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Recreation Workers is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Recreation Workers are expected to increase by 9.1 percent, or 4,900 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Recreation Workers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

The educational and training requirements for Recreation Workers depend upon the type of job. A part-time or summer job may only require a high school diploma (or equivalent), along with a short period of on-the-job training. Graduates, with an associate degree in parks and recreation, grounds management, or social work and experience, may have additional career opportunities in recreation. However, full-time professional positions generally require a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation or leisure studies. For some positions a liberal arts degree may be adequate. Administrative positions may require a master’s degree in parks and recreation, business administration, or public administration. Also, fingerprinting and drug screening may be required.


Some employers may require previous volunteer or work experience in the recreational field. However, specialized training or experience in a specific discipline may be beneficial for many job opportunities. Participation and leadership experience in Scouting, 4-H Clubs, and other community activities may provide valuable skills and experience for this occupation.

Early Career Planning

High school students planning to become Recreation Workers should follow the State's graduation requirements and also take elective courses in art, child development, and physical education.

Training programs for Recreation Workers are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). Program titles include parks, recreation, and leisure studies. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is necessary for Recreation Workers to keep their certifications valid.


Some recreation occupations may require certifications, such as Certified Park and Recreation Professional, Computer Fundamentals, Lifeguard, Safety-Certified Riding Instructor, and Standard First Aid. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Recreation Workers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government39.4%
Civic and Social Organizations11.3%
Individual and Family Services9.7%
Nursing Care Facilities8.0%
Other Amusement & Recreation Industries5.7%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers is one of the most effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisements in newspapers and online job boards. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Recreation Workers.

  • Park
  • Recreation
  • Recreation Workers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Recreation Workers with experience, managerial skills, or a college degree may be promoted into leadership or supervisory positions. Administrative opportunities may also be available for qualified Recreation Supervisors.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Recreation Workers with links to more information.

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners*Profile
Preschool Teachers, Except Special EducationGuide
Social and Community Service ManagersProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification39-9032
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Recreation Workers39-9032.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SEA
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies 310101
   Parks, Recreation and Leisure Facilities Management 310301
   Sport and Fitness Administration/Management 310504
   Parks, Recreation, Leisure and Fitness Studies, Other 319999
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Parks and Outdoor Recreation011510
   Fitness Trainer083520
   Aquatics and Lifesaving083570
   Recreation Assistant083610