Exciting and Rewarding Careers in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism

There are a wide variety of professional career opportunities in the recreation, parks and tourism fields. An easy way to identify potential RPT careers is to search the linked pages below, which are organized into four primary career tracks, similar to our degree emphasis areas.

Comprehensive list of jobs types and career resources in the profession.

Be sure to discuss career alternatives with your RPT advisor or instructor. They all frequently interact with professionals in the field and often hear about job opportunities. Click here for a list of RPT faculty advisors and their expertise areas.

Career Opportunities in Community Recreation and Health

People spend much of their leisure time participating in a wide variety of organized recreation activities provided by local governments and community organizations. In addition to taking part in after school programs, enrichment camps, aquatic lessons, recreation sport leagues, and other leisure pursuits, people also attend movies in the park, cultural celebrations, street fairs, holiday parades, festivals, and other city-sponsored events. Some are specialized programs designed to increase accessibility for persons with disabilities. These recreation involvements, as diverse as the people they serve, are offered at the workplace, playgrounds, schools, parks, community centers, and other municipal recreation areas and facilities. As a community recreation professional, you will be responsible for planning, organizing, and directing these community services, activities, programs, and events. Ultimately, you will play a critical role as a catalyst for social change – engineering experiences that lead to wellness and an enhanced quality of life among individuals, families and the community.

Students pursuing an emphasis in community recreation will be able to:

  • Make a difference in the lives of community youth
  • Assist agencies develop programs that promote health and learn about how health can be improved through prescribing activities in parks
  • Understand the interrelationships and importance of the social, political, and economic dimensions of a community
  • Advocate for access to recreation programs and facilities for persons of all abilities
  • Acquire knowledge and skills in the areas of leadership, programming, management, human development, coalition building, problem-solving, technology, communication, resource development, and other requisite competencies
  • Gain experience through experiential learning, field work, and a semester-long internship
  • Articulate the value and benefits of recreation

Careers (examples):

  • After school program director
  • Aquatics director
  • Campus recreation coordinator
  • City manager
  • Cultural arts director
  • Health and wellness instructor
  • Recreation leader
  • Recreation supervisor
  • Senior center administrator
  • Summer camp director
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Youth and teen coordinator

Emphasis Area: Students who select an emphasis in community and wellness recreation must take a minimum of 6 units from the following list of courses based on interest and advisor approval.

Course Number Course Description
RPT 330 Arts and Crafts for Leisure
RPT 340 Conference, Event Planning, & Management
RPT 380 Developmental Play Processes
RPT 440 Urban Recreation and Leisure Services
RPT 445 Recreation Therapy and the Expressive Arts
RPT 650 Facilitating Leisure Wellness
RPT 670 Advanced Conference Event Planning and Management


Career Opportunities In Events, Tourism and Commercial Recreation

Participation in events, tourism and commercial recreation (ETCR) is booming as is the demand for qualified professionals to plan, manage and conduct programs. The entertainment and commercial recreation industry is projected to grow 31 percent over the 2006-2016 period and demand for professionals planning events such as festivals and conventions is projected to expand 20 percent, compared with 11 percent for all economic sectors combined, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2007). Persons employed in this field work in a wide variety of outdoor and indoor settings, from huge events like the Olympics, small corporate incentive travel programs; ecotourism tour companies in national parks, professional sports teams, conventional and visitors bureaus to theme parks. Some examples of businesses where ETCR graduates have been employed include: San Francisco Giants, Perfect World Events, San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, Build It Green, Moscone Convention Center, Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, Northstar Resort, Adrift Adventures, Cappa and Graham Destination Management Company, Mountain Travel, Lake Merced Golf Club and DisneyWorld.

Here is an example of a letter received from the event industry about our students:

"Hello Professor,
It’s nice to digitally meet you.  I’m a Recruiter with the University Relations team at Apple.  I received your contact information from one of your former students, Devan _____.  He has been interning with us over the Fall and has been a wonderful asset to the team.  Previous to that, Heather _____ interned with us over the Summer and is now a full-time employee.  I think we owe some of that success to the preparation they received at SFSU.  We are currently interviewing students for our Spring Corporate Events internship that runs from January-May.  Would it be possible to post the job description to the list serve that Devan mentioned?  It was through this that she heard about our Fall internship.
Best Regards,
Yanira ____"

Event planners coordinate every detail of events and conventions, from the entertainment, speakers and location to arranging for printed materials and audio-visual equipment and on-line registration. Tourism specialists market and facilitate travel, as well as package and lead travel programs to world-wide destinations. There are increasing opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their own commercial recreation businesses. Companies provide the majority of recreation opportunities in urban centers, resort areas and many rural locations. Examples of job titles include: event planner, tour manager, travel agent, tourism marketing specialist, program leader, cruise line guest relations manager, activity coordinator, casino manager, wedding planner, producer and many more.

The best paid positions in this industry usually require a bachelor’s degree in tourism, recreation or related disciplines. Job applicants must have excellent organizational and communication skills, customer service training and experience in a wide range of commercial settings, through a variety of hands-on work, internships or other employment opportunities.

Emphasis Area: In addition to the RPT core class of REC 390 Leisure Travel and Tourism, students who select an emphasis in Events, Tourism and Commercial Recreation must take a minimum of 6 units from the following list of courses based on interest and advisor approval.


Course Number Course Description
RPT 340 Conference, Event Planning and Management
RPT 460 Destination Recreation Resorts
RPT 540 Start–Up and Administration of Recreation, Event and Tourism Enterprises
RPT 605 Ecotourism Principles and Practices
RPT 670 Advanced Conference Event Planning and Management

Career Opportunities in the Nonprofit Sector

Interested in securing a career in the recreation, youth, and human services nonprofit sectors? Your timing couldn’t be better as many small, moderate, and large nonprofits are looking ahead to hire skilled professionals to replace the myriad of baby boomers exiting the field to retire by 2020. For most people in the nonprofit sector their work is not just a job, but rather an opportunity to impact society for good. For instance, you can help realize organizational goals of social justice by helping youth and adults in underserved communities. Nonprofit organizations employed 1.2 million workers in 2006 and rank in the top 20 fastest-growing fields, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nonprofit sector offers as many types of positions as the for-profit sector; from youth services to civic and advocacy, from elderly services to emergency relief and child care, from after-school enrichment to performing arts and museums, from outdoor and natural resource protection to prevention and intervention planning, from funds development to grants and project management, from technical services and social assistance to volunteer management.

Examples of specific career opportunities in the nonprofit recreation field :

  • Recreation professionals work at playgrounds and recreation areas, community centers, health clubs and fitness centers run by nonprofit organizations.
  • Recreation professionals at structured programs for children in religious institutions, YMCAs, and other social and recreation centers, schools and social service agencies. Within the nonprofit sector, there has been strong growth in providing disadvantaged children with social, educational and health services.
  • Recreation professionals organize and direct leisure, social athletic activities such as aerobics, arts and crafts, clubs, the performing arts, camping and sports.
  • Recreation professionals work outdoors for nonprofit agencies, planning and assisting in events, conducting assessments and coordinating volunteers.

Emphasis Area: Students who select an emphasis in nonprofit recreation must take a minimum of 6 units from the following list of courses (courses are 3 units) based on interest and advisor approval.

Course Number Course Description
RPT 300 Leisure Leadership
RPT 340 Conference and Event Planning
RPT 370 Principles of Nonprofit Administration
RPT 440 Urban Recreation and Leisure Services
RPT 470 Care Break: Alternative Spring Break Service
RPT 570 Developing and Managing Resources for Nonprofit Agencies


Career Opportunities in Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Natural Resources

Outdoor recreation, parks and natural resource-related work has expanded rapidly and the need for qualified persons to fill professional positions has never been greater. Employment in outdoor-related positions is expected to grow through the year 2050, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Outdoor recreation and park management employees work in parks, forests, and open space throughout the country at all levels including urban, state-wide and even federal service. Some examples of employers in the Bay Area where RPT students in this emphasis area have worked include, the National Park Service, California State Parks, US Forest Service, San Mateo County Parks Department, East Bay Regional Parks District, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, Mid Peninsula Open Space District, National Outdoor Leadership School, California Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Outward Bound.

Outdoor recreation, parks and related fields are a combination of science and art including outdoor programming, park management, environmental education as well as managing land and water resources and facilities to provide for the social and economic needs of the public. Professionals in this field are employed in a diverse range of activities within the scope of outdoor recreation, parks, and natural resource management. Examples of job titles include: Outdoor recreation planner, adventure guide, park ranger, environmental education specialist, park manager, forester, wildlife manager, camp director, trail supervisor, and many more.

Employment as a federal, state, county, or municipal employee in outdoor recreation and parks will usually require a bachelor’s degree in recreation and park management, or related disciplines. Job applicants must have excellent communication skills and experience in outdoor recreation, parks, or related settings, through a variety of hands-on work including internships, volunteering or other work opportunities.

Emphasis Area: In addition to the RPT core classes of REC 520 Park and Outdoor Leisure Resources, students who select this emphasis must take a minimum of 6 units from the following list of courses based on interest and advisor approval (courses are 3 units).

Course Number Course Description
RPT 230 Growth Through Adventure
RPT 360 Outdoor Recreation Leadership (1.0 unit)
RPT 430 Ecology of Outdoor Recreation
RPT 605 Ecotourism Principles and Practices
RPT 640 Managing Recreational Use of National Parks & Protected Areas



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