Reid Gym 122
Cullowhee, NC 28723
828.227.3843 tel


Careers in Parks and Recreation Management

The field of parks and recreation offers graduates a wide range of career options. Learn about specific opportunities in the areas below:

Community Recreation

What type of career opportunities can you expect?

  • Program leader for city parks and recreation
  • Coordinator - community centers
  • Department administrator - county parks and recreation
  • Facility manager - YMCA/YWCA, military, or college campus recreation
  • Recreation coordinator – resorts
  • Camp counselor - camps
  • Program director - camps


  • Be involved with Parks and Recreation Management (PRM) club activities such as meetings, conferences, banquets, newsletters, etc.
  • Choose mini-internships in appropriate sites
  • Choose the main internship(s) in the type of agency where you would like to apply for your first job
  • Join the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)
  • Attend professional meetings and conferences
  • Do summer work in your chosen area
  • Be involved with Last Minute Productions (LMP)
  • Work with Pathways to the Future to become aware of the American Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Apply theories learned in class

Outdoor Leadership and Instruction

Experience counts for a lot in this area, so we encourage you to keep a journal of all the trips, workshops, clinics, etc. that you make to add to your Interview Portfolio. Some agencies such as Outward Bound expect details of your past outdoor experiences.

Outdoor equipment is available to PRM majors. Because of risk management concerns, climbing equipment is unavailable and kayaking equipment is restricted.

Expedition experience is very important as many outdoor agencies operate their programs in this format.  Attending an expedition course can be expensive yet it is a good investment in terms of your future in the industry.  Without it, your employment with expedition-based organizations is limited. These courses are available through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Outward Bound (OB) and The Wilderness Education Association (WEA).  Several of our students have worked with The International Wilderness School (IWLS), which is accredited through WEA.   Plan an expedition style course the summer of your junior year.  During your senior year you will be completing your Capstone Internship.

  • Instructor for youth at risk - Non-profits such as Outward Bound and Project SOAR or state agencies such as Camp Woodson.
  • Instructor of outdoor activities - Private companies such as Nantahala Outdoor Center, Endless River Adventures, International Wilderness Scool (IWLS) and non-profits such as National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Outward Bound (OB), and Wilderness Education Association (WEA); camps; rafting companies; and adventure travel companies.
  • Mountain guide - Mountain guide companies such as Exum Mountain Guides and Fox Mountain Guides.
  • Instructor for people with disabilities - Non-profits such as Wilderness Inquiry II.
  • Instructor for corporate programs - Private outdoor companies such as Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and Pecos River Ranch.
  • Ski/Snowboard Instructor and ski patrol - ski resorts.
  • Canopy tour guides.
  • Program director and agency director - see above.


  • Get outside certifications such as Wilderness Education Association (WEA), American Canoe Association (ACA), Outdoor Emergency Care, Wilderness First Responder (WFR), etc.
  • Work outdoor summer jobs in camps, at NOC, Last Minute Productions (LMP), Project SOAR, or other agencies. Work with Pathways to the Future.
  • Become involved with rescue organizations. Join WEA, Association of Experiential Education (AEE), or another professional organization.
  • Attend outdoor conferences and workshops. Organize common adventures with peers to gain experience in a variety of activities.
  • Become Outdoor Emergency Care-National Ski Patrol (OEC) certified, then work at ski resorts such as Cataloochee or Sapphire Valley.
  • Apply theories learned in class.

Commercial and Resort Recreation

Commercial and resort recreation also is known as “travel and tourism.”

  • Resort recreation program director - resorts and hotels
  • Hotel worker (front desk/accommodations, etc.) - resorts and hotels
  • Private club worker/manager (golf, tennis, etc.) - clubs
  • Conference organizer - convention centers
  • Chamber of Commerce worker/director - Chambers of Commerce
  • Travel guide - travel companies
  • Adventure travel guide - adventure companies
  • Resort manager - resorts and hotels
  • Travel agency worker/manager - travel agency
  • Attractions worker/manager - railroads, caves, mines, theme parks, etc.


  • Choose appropriate mini-internship sites
  • Choose main internship site in the type of agency you wish to work in and try and do summer work at that place in advance
  • Work at the Chamber of Commerce
  • Become familiar with all aspects of resorts—beds, food and beverage operations, front desk, and recreation.
  • Become proficient in another language.
  • Join the Commercial Recreation and Management Association.
  • Complete travel agency management courses at a community college.
  • Apply theories learned in class.

Recreation Resource Management

If you are interested in natural resource management, you should choose the recreation resource management concentration, which can lead to your working for the Park Services, the Forest Service, or the Army Corps of Engineers as a ranger.

We tailor this concentration to fit the different land agencies; for example, law enforcement experience is more useful to those working with the Parks Service than to those working with the Forest Service. You can take law enforcement training for Park Rangers at Southwestern Community College and transfer the credit to the concentration in this major, because this coursework puts you ahead of others when applying for park jobs.

If you are interested in wildlife management, consider taking some wildlife management courses at Haywood Technical College. We will count this credit as part of this concentration.

  • Ranger - Park Service
  • Interpreter - Forest Service
  • Naturalist - Army Corps of Engineers
  • Trail crew - Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Resource management – state parks


  • Complete criminal justice course for Park Rangers at South Western Community College (SCC)
  • Complete wildlife courses at Haywood Tech
  • Do co-ops as early as possible - especially for the engineers. Choose internships in appropriate agencies.
  • Get involved in volunteer rescue work
  • Take rescue courses
  • Plan approved area of study early
  • Join Student Conservation Association (SCA)
  • Take summer seasonal positions
  • Adopt-a-Trail
  • Apply theories learned in class

Community Health and Wellness

The professional field of parks and recreation management is actively engaged in promoting health and well-being as an interrelated system between our built environment, access to natural landscapes, and programming options. As recreational professionals focusing on community health and wellness, your career path with help shape opportunities to contribute to physical, mental, and spiritual health, as well as social well-being for the populations you serve.

Depending upon your goals, you can choose to focus on the following tracks: (1) Fitness model (personal training, national certifications, fitness center programming): These students could select classes from HPE, PE, ND, and SM, with internships at the Campus Recreation Center, Jackson County Recreation Department, YMCA’s, and private fitness centers. (2) Health promotion and wellness model (wellness or health promotion director, health policy advocate): These students could select from classes in ENVH, ND, PSC, HPE, and PE, with internships at the Campus Recreation Center, Jackson County Recreation Department, YMCA’s, private fitness centers, health departments, non-profit health promotion agencies, and the CDC.

Possible career opportunities
  • Physical Activity Coordinator
  • Personal Trainer/Group Exercise Instructor
  • Campus Recreation Director
  • Aquatics Director
  • Health-Wellness Program Coordinator
  • Fitness-Wellness related non profit management


  • Choose appropriate mini-internship sites.
  • Choose the main internship(s) in the type of agency where you would like to apply for your first job.
  • Take elective classes in Sport Management, Health & Physical Education, Political Science, Environmental Health, Nutrition, and Business.
  • Obtain certifications required for future jobs: First Aid/CPR, Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, etc.
  • Write a grant focused on an aspect of community health and wellness as part of a class project.
  • Attend professional meetings and conferences related to your career interests.
  • Volunteer to work after school or recreation department based physical activity programs.
  • Get involved with local wellness and physical activity initiatives such as Greenway Projects, Farm to School, Action for Healthy Kids, or Active Routes to Schools.

Copyright by Western Carolina University      •      Cullowhee, NC 28723      •      828.227.7211      •      Contact WCU
Maintained by the Office of Web Services      •      Directions      •      Campus Map      •      Emergency Information      •      Text-Only

Office of Web Services