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Sports & recreation Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Overview

To work in the sports and recreation industry you don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt, or Serena Williams, you just simply need to get a kick of out helping others enjoy their leisure time.

There’s a number of ways that you can do this - some roles in the industry are hands-on and practical such as horse riding instructors, lifeguards and leisure centre assistants. However, the industry also relies on people with a strong background in science (specifically biology) to fulfil roles such as sports psychologists or physiologists.

This industry has experienced a boom over the last few years and there are more opportunities available than ever! Get involved!

Skills

The sports and recreation industry requires excellent communication skills, particularly for roles that require good levels of customer service, such as a personal trainer. Traits such as organisaton and good leadership will also assist you in getting a management position later down the line.

Other skills that will benefit you in sports and recreation include:

- Negotiation
- Presentation Skills
- Problem Solving
- Verbal Communication
- Written Communication

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles in sports and recreation after you complete your apprenticeship if this is the route you decide to go down.

Career development

There are a range of qualifications that you can pursue that’ll help you to progress your career, such as fitness instruction, a certificate in nutrition, or even a teaching qualification to help you coach sports. The qualifications that you choose to take will entirely depend on the direction that you wish to go in.

A fantastic information source for this is the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES), which has full details on how to develop your career in this industry - including how to become an accredited sports practitioner or chartered sports scientist.

If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could also consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing. This might be most helpful if you want to work in the scientific or management part of the industry.

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship) your wage is likely to be modest, but due to the responsibilities placed upon you and the level of organisation needed you could see your salary increase quickly. Those in management positions in this industry earn in excess of £30,000 per year.

It’s worth noting that this industry doesn’t operate on a typical 9-5, Monday-Friday basis. Lots of leisure centres and recreation venues are open across the weekend and late at night - which means that shift work is quite common.

Social media has also opened up a whole host of new opportunities within the sport and wellness industry for those who have an entrepreneurial spirit and can build their own brand. This can be difficult, but the pay-offs are also astronomical.

Keeping your feet on the ground, though, is probably a good place to start – so here are the average salaries that you’re likely to be working at at the start of your career in this industry:


  • Senior recreation assistant - £18,595

  • Activities co-ordinator - £13,365 - £21,163

  • Development officer - £18,443 - £33,433

  • Personal trainer – £19,387

  • Fitness instructor - £12,677 - £21,002

  • Fitness manager – £16,422 - £29,259

  • Club general manager - £25,000 - £39,000

  • PE teacher - £27,037

  • Cinema general manager - £41,318

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

The majority of people who work in the sports and recreation sector do so for their love of it, rather than because their qualifications have led them directly there. However, if you have studied subjects such as PE, sports and exercise science, business or events this is likely to be a good thing to talk about when applying for jobs in the sector.

To get a job in this sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in sports and recreation. Professional organisations, as well as colleges, can provide or at least guide you to these qualifications.

You could also look at apprenticeships, which will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early, and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.

Industry Bodies

Sport + Recreation Alliance
Sports and Play Construction Association
Sport Structures
Sport England
Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity
UK Sport
Scottish Sports Association
Welsh Sports Association
NI Sports Forum
Federation of Sports and Play Associations
British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences
British Association of Sports Rehabilitators and Trainers