Sports & recreation Career Pathways & Advice
Do you want a career that helps people enjoy their leisure time – whether that’s taking part in activities, enjoying public spaces and parks, or hitting the gym?
Or, do you have a passion for sport? You might not be the next Olympic athlete, but that doesn't mean you can't turn your interest into a meaningful career.
The sport and recreation sector covers an extremely wide area, with everything from fitness chains to multiplex cinemas falling under its banner.
Due to the continued success of our Olympic athletes, interest in sports is at an all-time high. This means that there are increased opportunities for people looking to work in the sports and recreation industry.
Sports & recreation Jobs
To work in sports and recreation you'll need to enjoy working with people and have excellent communication skills. Good leadership and organisation skills will help you get a job in a management position.
In the vast majority of cases working in the sports and recreation sector is going to involve constant communication and interaction with the general public - even if you are in a management role. This means that a variety of skills are essential.
- Presentation Skills
- Problem Solving
- Verbal Communication
- Written Communication
As with any graduate scheme, if you have secured a place on one in the sports and recreation sector you will have an agreed progression path – and your company will have a structure that will allow you to progress and apply for roles once you have secured a permanent job. The structure and how you can progress should be easy enough to find out – if no one makes it clear, make sure you do some digging to find out!
There are always more qualifications that you can take to progress in your career in this sector, whether it’s getting certified as a fitness instructor for another sport or taking on a more scientific role and moving into an area like biomechanics, physical activity for health, physiology or nutrition.
A great place to start looking is the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES), which can give information on various aspects of continued career development – including how to become a chartered sports scientist or an accredited sports practitioner.
Certain areas of the sports sector require you to hold coaching qualifications before being able to coach children or adults, for instance, the Football Association (FA) and Rugby Football Union (RFU) require you to hold a certain level of coaching licence equivalent to the level at which you would be coaching.
Salaries in the sports and recreation sector are likely to start relatively low, but you will the opportunity to move into the £30,000+ salary range if you go into management positions.
It’s worth bearing in mind that fitness instructors, people working in gyms and those working in recreation venues like cinemas or shopping centres might not work a full 9am-5pm week, might work shifts or unsocial hours, may be paid hourly, and will often have the opportunity to take on overtime and extra hours. Private gyms or those in bigger city centres are likely to pay more.
Of course, the boom in wellness over the past few years has led to lots of people making a success out of their own brand, largely via social media – and the pay-off if you can leverage your skills in nutrition or fitness with aesthetics and marketing can be 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
Types of jobs in Sports & recreation
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
The majority of people who work in the sports and recreation sector do so due to their passion for a specific area of the sector, rather than because their degree has led them directly there.
In general though, degrees such as sports and exercise science, business, management or events are likely to be very useful if you’re looking for a job in the sector.
Of course, for certain jobs you’ll need certain technical skills – studying physiotherapy, for example, will lead you directly into a career in the exercise science world.
How to get there
There are a number of business and management-related jobs in the sports and recreation sector that you could go into with a wide variety of degrees. Working in sports and recreation management, you could choose to work for a:
- Fitness centre
- Outdoor pursuits centre
- Theme park
- Sports development agency
- Health club/gym
Some of the biggest graduate employers in the leisure industry include David Lloyd Leisure and Parkwood Leisure. Within these companies you are likely to work across a wide variety of business roles. Graduate programmes give you a structured pattern of work, set goals to reach, and often offer the chance of a permanent job after the completion of your scheme. Schemes are likely to last between 18 months and two years.
Work experience in a sports centre or in any other type of recreation venue should be easy to get, whether it is in a head office or as casual work – and can give you an insight into the day-to-day practices of the industry and how it works.
Any other administration or business experience you can take on will also be a big advantage when applying for these roles.
Sport + Recreation Alliance
Sports and Play Construction Association
Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity
Scottish Sports Association
Welsh Sports Association
Norther Ireland Sports Forum
Federation of Sports and Play Associations
British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences
British Association of Sports Rehabilitators and Trainers