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It seems like an oxymoron—working hard to help people who are at play—but recreation and fitness workers are doing just that. The scope of professions included in this umbrella term include aerobics instructors, camp counselors and directors, recreation leaders, and even recreation and park directors. Their tasks are varied, ranging from enforcing and ensuring safety in public places, overseeing physical activities like hiking, horseback riding, and kayaking, serving as a yoga instructor in a local studio, or even overseeing the running and care of public recreation and park facilities. The settings they work in are equally varied, from outside (at a summer camp), to inside (in an office cubicle), to on the seas (on a cruise ship). Still, there are some commonalities with this group of professionals. They're usually social people who like interacting with a kaleidoscope of personalities. These workers are also typically great communicators and problem-solvers, whether they're helping a student master a tough Pilates pose or instructing a child who is learning how to swim.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the number of recreation and fitness workers should grow by 21.1 percent in the next several years, adding more than 120,000 new positions. Specifically, there should be about 60,400 new fitness trainers and aerobics instructors by the year 2020, and 64,300 new recreation workers.
Pay is just as varied as the different types of professions within this group. Lifeguards and ski patrolmen and women earned between $16,120 and $28,900 in 2011, according to the BLS. Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors earned between $17,340 and $65,180. The best-paying areas include big cities like New York and San Francisco, but also smaller metro areas like Lowell, Mass., and Corvallis, Ore.
"A common misconception about [fitness instructors] is that you need experience to get certified," says Charles Krautblatt, chief executive officer of the International Fitness Association. "It's the other way around. You get certified, and then you train for practical experience." Training varies by the specific type of fitness in which you specialize. A Pilates instructor might need to complete 200 hours of method training workshops. A personal trainer would most likely shadow a seasoned trainer until they themselves were qualified to work with clients one-on-one. Contact your prospective profession's association for the specifics on what is required for certification.
On-the-job training is also part of the process to become a camp counselor, but it's rarely as formal as what's required of fitness instructors. Those in managerial or administrative positions often have at least an associate's degree, and sometimes even a bachelor's or master's in business administration, public administration, or parks and recreation. They might also need certification from the National Recreation and Park Association.
Instructors usually audition to work in a fitness facility by leading a segment of a class. Krautblatt says hiring managers are looking for two things during that try-out. "Of course, they're looking for technique—the mechanics of staying on the beat and knowing the top of the phrase," he says. "But they're also looking for personality. You can't act like a stone—you're supposed to be having a good time. You've got to be a little bit of a performer."
|Upward Mobility||Below Average|
|Stress Level||Below Average|