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Recreation Program Leader


It's a hot day, and a supervisor is waiting outside the recreation center with five kids whose parents are late for pickup. The kids are whiny, hungry, and everyone is hot. The craft cupboard is locked and the sports equipment is being used by a Girl Guide unit. All the supervisor has is herself, those kids, and a full water bottle. What can she do?

Think of anything yet? Chances are, a recreation programmer would have come up with a plan in seconds. They would have used that bottle for a cool wet game of "Drip, Drip, Drop". (Duck Duck Goose with splashing). They would have played a storytelling game, they would have held a joke competition. Recreation program leaders are trained to make any situation fun, educational, and encourage physical fitness. They emphasize cooperation, cultural diversity, and athletics each and every day. And they always try to find the bright side to any situation.

Employed by recreation centers, fitness centers, community centers, religious groups, day camps, and after-school programs, these leaders are trained to work with the elderly, small children, physically and mentally challenged people, and people suffering from or recovering from illnesses or accidents. They plan and run programs in arts and crafts, athletics, music, dance, play therapy, and drama. Sometimes, they lead camping trips, or adventure trips involving canoes and hiking. The activities are decided upon by the management of the facility or the senior program staff, as well as the program leaders.

As well as running the programs, the recreation program leaders fundraise, document activities, and analyze the needs of the patrons of the facility. They may work on preparing budgets one day, and training junior staff another. They plan and implement a whole variety of activities that enrich the everyday lives of the people in their community, no matter who they are.
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Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University. Private. Nonprofit. Accredited.
Programs Offered:
  • IMBA - Sport Management
  • IMBA - Athletic Administration
  • MBA with concentration in Sport Management
  • And more...



  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
In order to be a success as a recreation program leader, individuals need good oral and written communication skills with adults, children, and everyone in between. They should truly enjoy working with people in a team environment. They must have good leadership skills, and be comfortable taking control of a situation while allowing others to flourish under their guidance. Recreation program leaders need lots of energy, should be flexible, and should be very organized with their time and priorities. They should be creative, and able to come up with a craft, game, or exercise on the spot. They should really love people, and want to educate, enrich, and improve their lives as well as their own.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan and run programs and services based on community needs
  • Write up program evaluations
  • Advertise programs
  • Initiate fundraising projects
  • Prepare budgets
  • Train junior staff
  • Participate in athletics, crafting, music, and drama activities
  • The typical day for a recreation program leader depends on where they work, and in what capacity. However, in general they spend much of the day planning, evaluating, and reworking programs, including gathering materials, researching cultural and historical significance, and reviewing requirements of participants. They also run a lot of programs, with a variety of people in a variety of settings. They may travel some, depending on the needs of the community. Recreation program leaders may spend a substantial amount of time outdoors. They meet all kinds of interesting people every day.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Recreation program leaders are employed by governments as well as private organizations. They work in recreation and community centers, hospitals, clubs, correctional facilities, retirement homes, and other facilities that recognize the importance of recreational activities. They work in offices, on playing fields, in classrooms, gymnasiums, and anywhere else programs might be run. They often work evenings and weekends, depending on the facility. They may be full-time workers, but may also work on contract. They plan and run programs alone or in small groups.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Recreation program leaders can become senior programmers, supervisors, or directors of recreation centers. They can become fitness instructors and personal trainers, or, with additional training, sports officials, physiotherapists, and counselors.

  Educational Paths  
In order to become a recreation program leader, a university degree or a college diploma in recreation, physical education, or management is required. Psychology, sociology, languages, and communications are also good courses to take to supplement the requirements of the job They will also have to become certified in first aid and CPR.

Once they are working, they may get to attend workshops and courses which help them develop more skills for their work.

Experience is definitely an asset to people looking for work. Volunteering with a sports association, Girl Guides or Scouts, or with a museum or recreation center is a good idea.The more experience individuals have working closely with people the more likely it is they will be hired once they have completed your formal education.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Full Sail University - Online
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Southern New Hampshire University
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