Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation Industry 

Significant Points:

  • The industry is characterized by a large number of seasonal and part-time jobs and relatively young workers.
  • About 40 percent of all workers have no formal education beyond high school.
  • Rising incomes, more leisure time, and growing awareness of the health benefits of physical fitness will increase the demand for arts, entertainment, and recreation services.
  • Earnings are relatively low.
Nature of the Industry [About this section] [To Top]

As leisure time and personal incomes have grown across the Nation, so has the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry. This industry includes about 115,000 establishments, ranging from art museums to fitness centers. Practically any activity that occupies a person?s leisure time, excluding the viewing of motion pictures and video rentals, is part of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry. The diverse range of activities offered by this industry can be categorized into three broad groups—live performances or events; historical, cultural, or educational exhibits; and recreation or leisure-time activities.

Live performances or events. This segment of the industry includes professional sports, as well as establishments providing sports facilities and services to amateurs. Commercial sports clubs operate professional and amateur athletic clubs and promote athletic events. All kinds of popular sports can be found in these establishments, including baseball, basketball, boxing, football, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling, and even auto racing. Professional and amateur companies involved in sports promotion also are part of this industry segment, as are sports establishments in which gambling is allowed, such as dog and horse racetracks and jai alai courts.

A variety of businesses and groups involved in live theatrical and musical performances are included in this segment. Theatrical production companies, for example, coordinate all aspects of producing a play or theater event, including employing actors and actresses and costume designers and contracting with lighting and stage crews who handle the technical aspects of productions. Agents and managers, who represent actors and entertainers and assist them in finding jobs or engagements, are also included. Booking agencies line up performance engagements for theatrical groups and entertainers.

Performers of live musical entertainment include popular music artists, dance bands, disc jockeys, orchestras, jazz musicians, and rock-and-roll bands. Orchestras range from major professional orchestras with million dollar budgets to community orchestras, which often have part-time schedules. The performing arts segment also includes dance companies, which produce all types of live theatrical dances. The majority of these dance troupes perform ballet, folk dance, or modern dance.

Historical, cultural, or educational exhibits. Privately owned museums, zoos, botanical gardens, nature parks, and historical sites make up this segment of the industry; publicly owned facilities are included in sections on Federal, State, or local government elsewhere in the Career Guide. Each institution in this segment preserves and exhibits objects, sites, and natural wonders with historical, cultural, or educational value.

Recreation or leisure activities. A variety of establishments provide amusement for a growing number of customers. Some of these businesses provide video game, pinball, and gaming machines for the public at amusement parks, arcades, and casinos. Casinos and other gaming establishments offering off-track betting are a rapidly growing part of this industry segment. This segment also includes amusement and theme parks, which range in size from local carnivals to multiacre parks. These establishments may have mechanical rides, shows, and refreshment stands. Other recreation and leisure-time services include golf courses, skating rinks, ski lifts, marinas, day camps, gocart tracks, riding stables, waterslides, and establishments offering rental sporting goods.

This segment of the industry also includes physical fitness facilities that feature exercise and weight loss programs, gyms, health clubs, and day spas. These establishments also frequently offer aerobics, dance, yoga, and other exercise classes. Other recreation and leisure-time businesses include bowling centers that rent lanes and equipment for tenpin, duckpin, or candlepin bowling.

These facilities may be open to the public or available on a membership basis. Sports and recreation clubs that are open only to members and their guests include some golf courses, country clubs, and yacht, tennis, racquetball, hunting and fishing, and gun clubs. Public golf courses and marinas, unlike private clubs, offer facilities to the general public on a fee-per-use basis.

Technology is a major part of producing arts, entertainment, and recreation activities; for example, lighting and sound are vital for concerts and themed events and elaborate sets often are required for plays. However, most of this work is contracted to firms outside of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry. (For more information about entertainment technology jobs, see the sources of additional information at the end of this statement.)

Working Conditions [About this section] [To Top]

Jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation are more likely to be part time than those in other industries. In fact, the average nonsupervisory worker in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry worked 25.7 hours a week in 2004, as compared to an average of 33.7 hours for all private industry. Musical groups and artists were likely to work the fewest hours due to the large number of performers competing for a limited number of engagements, which may require a great amount of travel. The majority of performers are unable to support themselves in this profession alone and are forced to supplement their income through other jobs.

Many types of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments dramatically increase employment during the summer and either scale back employment during the winter or close down completely. Workers may be required to work nights, weekends, and holidays because that is when most establishments are busiest. Some jobs require extensive travel. Music and dance troupes, for example, frequently tour or travel to major metropolitan areas across the country, in hopes of attracting large audiences.

Many people in this industry work outdoors, whereas others may work in hot, crowded, or noisy conditions. Some jobs, such as those at fitness facilities or in amusement parks, involve some manual labor and, thus, require physical strength and stamina. Also, athletes, dancers, and many other performers must be in particularly good physical condition. Many jobs include customer service responsibilities, so employees must be able to work well with the public.

In 2003, cases of work-related illness and injury averaged 5.9 for every 100 full-time workers, higher than the average of 5.0 for the entire private sector. Risks of injury are high in some jobs, especially those of athletes. Although most injuries are minor, including sprains and muscle pulls, they may prevent an employee from working for a period.

Employment [About this section] [To Top]

The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry provided about 1.8 million wage-and-salary jobs in 2004. About 58 percent of these jobs were in the industry segment other amusement and recreation industries—which includes golf courses, membership sports and recreation clubs, and physical fitness facilities (table 1).

Table 1. Employment in arts, entertainment, and recreation by industry segment, 2004 (Employment in thousands)
Industry segment Employment
Arts, entertainment, and recreation, total 1,833
Other amusement and recreation industries 1,060
Gambling industries 154
Amusement parks and arcades 137
Spectator sports 120
Museums, historical sites, and other institutions 117
Performing arts companies 115
Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events 73
Independent artists, writers, and performers 42
Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers, and other public figures 15

Although most establishments in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry are small, 42 percent of all jobs were in establishments that employ more than 100 workers (chart 1).

Chart 1.  Number of workers employed by establishment, March 2004.  Eighty-five percent of establishments in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry employ fewer than 20 workers.

The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry is characterized by a large number of seasonal and part-time jobs and by workers who are younger than the average for all industries. About 46 percent of all workers are under 35. Many businesses in the industry increase hiring during the summer, often employing high school-age and college-age workers. Most establishments in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry contract out lighting, sound, set-building, and exhibit-building work to firms not included in this industry.

Occupations in the Industry   [To Top]

About 59 percent of wage-and-salary workers in the industry are employed in service occupations (table 2). Amusement and recreation attendants—the largest occupation in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry—perform a variety of duties depending on where they are employed. Common duties include setting up games, handing out sports equipment, providing caddy services for golfers, collecting money, and operating amusement park rides.

Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors lead or coach groups or individuals in exercise activities and in the fundamentals of sports.

Recreation workers organize and promote activities, such as arts and crafts, sports, games, music, drama, social recreation, camping, and hobbies. They generally are employed by schools; theme parks and other tourist attractions; or health, sports, and other recreational clubs. Recreation workers schedule organized events to structure leisure time.

Gaming services workers assist in the operation of games, such as keno, bingo, and gaming table games. They may calculate and pay off the amount of winnings, or collect players? money or chips.

Tour and travel guides escort individuals or groups on sightseeing tours or through places of interest, such as industrial establishments, public buildings, and art galleries. They may also plan, organize, and conduct long-distance cruises, tours, and expeditions for individuals or groups.

Animal care and service workers feed, water, bathe, exercise, or otherwise care for animals in zoos, circuses, aquariums, or other settings. They may train animals for riding or performance.

Other service workers include waiters and waitresses, who serve food in entertainment establishments; fast food and counter workers and cooks and food preparation workers, who may serve or prepare food for patrons; and bartenders, who mix and serve drinks in arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments.

Building grounds, cleaning, and maintenance occupations include building cleaning workers, who clean up after shows or sporting events and are responsible for the daily cleaning and upkeep of facilities. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers care for athletic fields and golf courses. These workers maintain artificial and natural turf fields, mark boundaries, and paint team logos. They also mow, water, and fertilize natural athletic fields and vacuum and disinfect synthetic fields. Establishments in this industry also employ workers in protective service occupations. Security guards patrol the property and guard against theft, vandalism, and illegal entry. At sporting events, guards maintain order and direct patrons to various facilities. Gaming surveillance officers and gaming investigators observe casino operations to detect cheating, theft, or other irregular activities by patrons or employees.

Professional and related occupations account for 11 percent of all jobs in this industry. Some of the most well-known members of these occupations, athletes and sports competitors, perform in any of a variety of sports. Professional athletes compete in events for compensation, either through salaries or prize money. Organizations such as the Women?s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the National Football League (NFL) sanction events for professionals. Few athletes are able to make it to the professional level, where high salaries are common. In some professional sports, minor leagues offer lower salaries with a chance to develop skills through competition before advancing to major league play.

Coaches and scouts train athletes to perform at their highest level. Often, they are experienced athletes who have retired and are able to provide insight from their own experiences to players. Although some umpires, referees, and other sports officials work full time, the majority usually work part time and often have other full-time jobs. For example, many professional sport referees and umpires also officiate at amateur games.

Musicians and singers may play musical instruments, sing, compose, arrange music, or conduct groups in instrumental or vocal performances. The specific skills and responsibilities of musicians vary widely by type of instrument, size of ensemble, and style of music. For example, musicians can play jazz, classical, or popular music, either alone or in groups ranging from small rock bands to large symphony orchestras.

Actors entertain and communicate with people through their interpretation of dramatic and other roles. They can belong to a variety of performing groups, ranging from those appearing in community and local dinner theaters to those playing in full-scale Broadway productions. Dancers express ideas, stories, rhythm, and sound with their bodies through different types of dance, including ballet, modern dance, tap, folk, and jazz. Dancers usually perform in a troupe, although some perform solo. Many become teachers when their performing careers end. Choreographers create and teach dance, and they may be called upon to direct and stage presentations. Producers and directors select and interpret plays or scripts, and give directions to actors and dancers. They conduct rehearsals, audition cast members, and approve choreography. They also arrange financing, hire production staff members, and negotiate contracts with personnel.

Archivists, curators, and museum technicians play an important role in preparing museums for display. Archivists appraise, edit, and direct safekeeping of permanent records and historically valuable documents. They may also participate in research activities based on archival materials. Curators administer a museum?s affairs and conduct research programs. Museum technicians and conservators prepare specimens, such as fossils, skeletal parts, lace, and textiles, for museum collection and exhibits. They may also take part in restoring documents or installing and arranging materials for exhibit.

Audio and video equipment technicians set up and operate audio and video equipment, including microphones, sound speakers, video screens, projectors, video monitors, recording equipment, connecting wires and cables, sound and mixing boards, and related electronic equipment for theme parks, concerts, and sports events. They may also set up and operate associated spotlights and other custom lighting systems.

About 8 percent of all jobs in this industry are in sales and related occupations. The largest of these, cashiers, often use a cash register to receive money and give change to customers. In casinos, gaming change persons and booth cashiers exchange coins and tokens for patrons? money. Counter and rental clerks check out rental equipment to customers, receive orders for service, and handle cash transactions.

Another 9 percent of jobs in this industry are in office and administrative support occupations. Receptionists and information clerks, one of the larger occupations in this category, answer questions and provide general information to patrons. Other large occupations in this group include general office clerks and secretaries and administrative assistants. Gaming cage workers conduct financial transactions for patrons in gaming establishments. For example, they may accept a patron?s credit application and verify credit references to provide check-cashing authorizations or to establish house credit accounts. Also, they may reconcile daily summaries of transactions to balance books or sell gambling chips, tokens, or tickets to patrons. At a patron?s request, gaming cage workers may convert gaming chips, tokens, or tickets to currency.

Management, business, and financial occupations make up 6 percent of employment in this industry. Managerial duties in the performing arts include marketing, business management, event booking, fundraising, and public outreach. Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes represent their clients to prospective employers and may handle contract negotiations and other business matters. Recreation supervisors and park superintendents oversee personnel, budgets, grounds and facility maintenance, and land and wildlife resources. Some common administrative jobs in sports are tournament director, health club manager, and sports program director.

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations make up 4 percent of this industry?s employment. General maintenance and repair workers are the largest occupation in this group.

Table 2. Employment of wage and salary workers in arts, entertainment, and recreation by occupation, 2004 and projected change, 2004-14 (Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2004 Percent change,
Number Percent
Total, all occupations 1,833 100.0 25.1
Management, business, and financial occupations 101 5.5 28.1
  Top executives 39 2.1 27.2
  Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes 7 0.4 20.0
Professional and related occupations 199 10.9 28.4
  Archivists 2 0.1 16.3
  Curators 5 0.2 18.7
  Museum technicians and conservators 4 0.2 23.4
  Artists and related workers 7 0.4 37.8
  Set and exhibit designers 3 0.2 11.9
  Actors 14 0.8 9.2
  Producers and directors 7 0.4 24.4
  Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers 39 2.2 29.8
  Dancers and choreographers 9 0.5 24.7
  Musicians, singers, and related workers 34 1.9 33.6
Service occupations 1,088 59.3 25.7
  Security guards and gaming surveillance officers 42 2.3 6.7
  Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers 33 1.8 30.1
  Supervisors, food preparation and serving workers 24 1.3 24.8
  Cooks and food preparation workers 68 3.7 26.2
  Bartenders 40 2.2 19.0
  Fast food and counter workers 57 3.1 30.9
  Waiters and waitresses 93 5.1 16.4
  Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers 18 1.0 20.5
  Dishwashers 19 1.0 19.4
  Building cleaning workers 58 3.1 30.5
  Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 115 6.3 24.5
  Gaming supervisors 6 0.4 42.8
  Animal care and service workers 14 0.8 39.8
  Gaming services workers 36 2.0 28.4
  Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers 37 2.0 18.1
  Amusement and recreation attendants 155 8.5 30.0
  Tour and travel guides 16 0.9 24.8
  Child care workers 31 1.7 27.3
  Recreation and fitness workers 137 7.5 28.5
Sales and related occupations 145 7.9 23.9
  Cashiers 65 3.5 18.8
  Counter and rental clerks 23 1.2 35.5
Office and administrative support occupations 172 9.4 16.8
  Gaming cage workers 8 0.5 25.2
  Receptionists and information clerks 39 2.1 22.6
  Secretaries and administrative assistants 28 1.5 12.5
Note: May not add to totals due to omission of occupations with small employment

Training and Advancement [About this section] [To Top]

About 40 percent of all workers in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry have no formal education beyond high school. In the case of performing artists or athletes, talent and years of training are more important than education. However, upper-level management jobs usually require a college degree.

Most service jobs require little or no previous training or education beyond high school. Many companies hire young, unskilled workers, such as students, to perform low-paying seasonal jobs. Employers look for people with the interpersonal skills necessary to work with the public.

In physical fitness facilities, fitness trainer and aerobic instructor positions usually are filled by persons who develop an avid interest in fitness and then become certified to teach. Certification from a professional organization may require knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); an associate degree or experience as an instructor at a health club; and successful completion of written and oral exams covering a variety of areas, including anatomy, nutrition, and fitness testing. Sometimes, fitness workers become health club managers or owners. To advance to a management position, a degree in physical education, sports medicine, or exercise physiology is useful.

In the arts, employment in professional and related occupations usually requires a great deal of talent. There are many highly talented performers, creating intense competition for every opening. Performers such as musicians, dancers, and actors often study their professions most of their lives, taking private lessons and spending hours practicing. Usually, performers have completed some college or related study. Musicians, dancers, and actors often go on to become teachers after completing the necessary requirements for at least a bachelor?s degree. Musicians who complete a graduate degree in music sometimes move on to a career as a conductor. Dancers sometimes become choreographers, and actors can advance into producer and director jobs.

Almost all arts administrators have completed 4 years of college, and the majority possess a master?s or a doctoral degree. Experience in marketing and business is helpful because promoting events is a large part of the job.

Entry-level supervisory or professional jobs in recreation sometimes require completion of a 2-year associate degree in parks and recreation at a junior college. Completing a 4-year bachelor?s degree in this field is necessary for high-level supervisory positions. Students can specialize in such areas as aquatics, therapeutic recreation, aging and leisure, and environmental studies. Those who obtain graduate degrees in the field and have years of experience may obtain administrative or university teaching positions. The National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) certifies individuals who meet eligibility requirements for professional and technical jobs. Certified park and recreation professionals must pass an exam; earn a bachelor?s degree with a major in recreation, park resources, or leisure services from a program accredited by the NRPA or by the American Association for Leisure and Recreation; or earn a bachelor?s degree and have at least 5 years of relevant full-time work experience, depending on the major field of study.

Outlook [About this section] [To Top]

Wage and salary jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation are projected to grow about 25 percent over the 2004-14 period, compared with 14 percent for all industries combined. Rising incomes, leisure time, and awareness of the health benefits of physical fitness will increase the demand for arts, entertainment, and recreation services.

Employment opportunities should be available in a wide range of settings, including golf courses, parks and outdoor recreational facilities, and amusement parks. Employment in fitness centers and similar establishments also will grow substantially, driven by several factors. Aging baby boomers are concerned with staying healthy, physically fit, and independent, and have become the largest demographic group of health club members. The reduction of physical education programs in schools, combined with parents? growing concern about child obesity, has rapidly increased child health club membership. Membership among young adults has also grown steadily, driven by concern about physical fitness and funded by rising incomes. The proliferation of group exercise classes and the focus on overall wellness in health clubs should also increase the demand for workers in this industry.

Strong employment growth is expected in the gaming industry, spurred by the increase in casinos on American Indian reservations and the introduction of slot machines at racetracks. Many States are looking to relax gambling regulations so that they can increase State revenues from gaming establishment taxes.

In addition to these increases, employment in the performing arts will grow steadily, along with demand for entertainment from a growing population. However, the supply of workers in performing arts also will expand because of the appeal of these jobs, ensuring continued intense competition.

The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry has relied heavily on workers under the age of 25 to fill seasonal and unskilled positions. About one-fourth of all jobs in this industry are held by workers under age 25, compared to 14 percent in all industries combined. Opportunities should be available for young, seasonal, part-time, and unskilled workers. In addition, the industry is expected to hire a growing number of workers in other age groups.

Earnings [About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

Earnings in arts, entertainment, and recreation generally are low, reflecting the large number of part-time and seasonal jobs. Nonsupervisory workers in arts, entertainment, and recreation averaged $313 a week in 2004, compared with $529 throughout private industry.

Earnings vary according to occupation and segment of the industry. For example, some professional athletes earn millions, but competition for these positions is intense, and most athletes are unable to reach even the minor leagues. Many service workers make the minimum wage or a little more. Actors often go long periods with little or no income from acting, so they are forced to work at second jobs. Earnings in selected occupations in arts, entertainment, and recreation appear in table 3.

Table 3. Median hourly earnings of the largest occupations in arts, entertainment, and recreation, May 2004
Occupation Performing arts, spectator
sports and related
Museums, historical sites,
and similar institutions
Amusement, gambling, and
recreation industries
All industries
Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors $9.89 - $13.78 $12.25
Security guards 9.85 10.16 9.64 9.77
Receptionists and information clerks 9.80 8.93 8.26 10.50
Landscaping and groundskeeping workers 8.96 10.41 9.13 9.82
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners 8.57 9.24 8.31 9.04
Cashiers 8.56 8.04 7.86 7.81
Amusement and recreation attendants 8.07 10.11 7.69 7.42
Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers 7.61 7.72 7.67 7.30
Amusement and recreation attendants 7.20 7.78 7.20 7.47
Waiters and waitresses 6.90 8.24 7.69 6.75

Because many amusement and theme parks dramatically increase employment during vacation periods, employment for a number of jobs in the industry is seasonal. Theme parks, for example, frequently hire young workers, often students, for summer employment. Also, many sports are not played all year, so athletes and people in the service jobs associated with those sports often are seasonally employed.

Employers in some segments of this industry offer benefits that are not available in other industries. For example, benefits for workers in some theme parks include free passes to the park, transportation to and from work, housing, scholarships, and discounts on park merchandise.

Although unions are not common in most segments of this industry, they are important in professional sports and the performing arts. Many professional athletes, actors, and performers are members of unions. Consequently, earnings of athletes and performers are often determined by union contracts that specify minimum salary rates and working conditions.

[Please note that the earnings and salary data listed here is usually from government sources and may be dated, so please make adjustments accordingly. If you would like to access current salary data for literally thousands of occupations, access our Salary Wizard.]

Sources of Additional Information [About this section] [To Top]

For additional information about careers in the parks and recreation industry and a listing of colleges and universities offering accredited programs in parks and recreation studies, contact:

  • National Recreation and Parks Association, 22377 Belmont Ridge Rd., Ashburn, VA 20148. Internet:

For more information about a career in the field of dance, contact:

For more information on employment with carnivals and other outdoor amusement businesses, contact:

  • Outdoor Amusement Business Association, 1035 S. Semoran Blvd., Suite 1045A, Winter Park, FL 32792. Internet:

For information about careers in museums, contact:

  • American Association of Museums, 1575 Eye Street NW., Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005. Internet:

For more information about careers in entertainment services and technology, contact:

  • Entertainment Services and Technology Association, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1005, New York, NY 10001. Internet:
  • U.S. Institute for Theater Technology, 6433 Riddings Road, Syracuse, NY 13206-1111. Internet:

Information on the following occupations found in arts, entertainment, and recreation appears in the 2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook:

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.