Youth development workers design and lead leisure activities for groups in volunteer agencies or recreation facilities, such as playgrounds, parks, camps, aquatic centers, museums, and youth centers. They may lead activities such as arts and crafts, sports, adventure programs, music, and camping.
The specific responsibilities of youth development workers vary greatly with their job title and level of training. Camp counselors work directly with youth in residential (overnight) or day camps. They often lead and instruct children and teenagers in a variety of outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding, or nature study. Counselors also provide guidance and supervise daily living and socialization. Camp directors typically supervise camp counselors, plan camp activities or programs, and do the administrative tasks that keep the camp running. Directors may also be involved in fund-raising, public relations, and community engagement. Youth program directors develop and manage recreation or cultural programs in a variety of settings and may be responsible for recreation and park budgets.
The education and training requirements for youth development workers vary with the type of job, but workers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Preparation typically includes courses in management, human development, community organization, supervision, and administration. Often, students also take courses in developing programs for youth with specific needs.
The median annual wage for recreation workers was $23,870 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $41,660.
Employment of recreation workers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. In response to growing rates of childhood obesity, a number of federal, state, and local campaigns have been established to encourage young people to be physically active. As more emphasis is placed on the importance of exercise, more recreation workers will be needed to work in fitness centers, sports centers, and camps specializing in younger participants. Workers with higher levels of formal education related to recreation should have better prospects at getting full-time positions. Volunteer experience, part-time work during school, and a summer job also are viewed favorably for both full- and part-time positions.