What Does a Director of Parks and Recreation Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a parks & recreation director: Present information to the city parks board on department matters, oversee marketing and publicity tied to city recreation programming, create regular reports for the city council and board members

The Balance / Maddy Price

Parks and recreation departments ensure that citizens have spaces to exercise, play, and do other activities to improve their quality of life. Parks and recreation directors are hired by cities and towns to oversee the operations and finances of public parks and recreational spaces. Often, this position is under the supervision of the city manager or an assistant city manager.

Director of Parks & Recreation Duties & Responsibilities

The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties, including:

  • Planning capital expenditures for a city or town's parks and recreation department
  • Ensuring that revenue is properly accounted for
  • Preparing the department’s annual budget request to the city council
  • Creating regular reports for the city council and board members
  • Presenting information to the city parks board or the city council on budgeting and other departmental matters
  • Coordinating fundraising initiatives for the department
  • Overseeing all city recreation programming
  • Overseeing marketing and publicity tied to city recreation programming
  • Supervising department staff such as park managers and monitoring for policy compliance
  • Ensuring appropriate staffing levels for the anticipated usage of facilities

Parks and recreation directors oversee the budget and operations of the parks and recreation department. They often interact with the heads of other departments in a city or town, especially on budgeting issues and publicity. Directors must also make regular presentations to the city council and advisory board.

Director of Parks & Recreation Salary

A parks and recreation director’s salary depends largely on the size of the city and the number of staff within the department.

  • Median Annual Salary: $59,000 ($17.66 per hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $100,000 ($32.97 per hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $35,000 ($9.14 per hour)

Source: PayScale, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

Cities usually require a bachelor’s degree and significant experience working in a city parks and recreation department. Management experience is also necessary.

Director of Parks & Recreation Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities: 

  • Communication skills: Directors must meet with the city council and board often and must be able to effectively discuss policies, plans, and budget issues.
  • Problem-solving skills: People in this position are responsible for resolving problems that arise within the parks and recreation system in a timely manner.
  • Leadership skills: Directors often oversee a team of managers within the parks and recreation department.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for the field of recreation workers in general will grow 9 percent through 2026, which is slightly faster than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country.

Work Environment

Directors of parks and recreation usually work in office settings, although they may need to travel locally for events and publicity opportunities. The job could be considered high pressure, especially in large cities, because it requires organizing and overseeing many activities at different locations.

Work Schedule

This job is usually full time, and depending on the size of the city, it may include working more than 40 hours per week or work on evenings and weekends.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming directors of parks and recreation may also consider other careers with these median salaries: 

  • Meeting, convention, and event planner: $49,370
  • Recreational therapist: $47,860
  • Social worker: $49,470

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics