Benefits of furthering your education
It can never hurt to acquire more information and knowledge about your profession. The benefits of understanding what trends are emerging in today’s parks and recreation field are numerous! The constantly evolving field can really keep you on your toes and comprehending these changes will make it easier by furthering your education and skills. This doesn’t necessarily mean going back to school. Professional development and expanded education incorporates numerous facilitated learning opportunities, from college degree programs, to conferences, workshops, and informal learning opportunities.
A degree in the field is the first step to becoming a valuable member of a department. While it hasn’t always been the case, today’s entry level leisure services professional often has a college degree in parks and recreation or a related field. Whether you’re headed back to obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree, there are over 80 programs that are accredited by the NRPA. While obtaining my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I expanded my practical experience through independent studies and internships, obtaining career preparation outside the classroom. The hands-on experience provided me with the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge to perform the tasks associated with working in the profession, such as risk management, programming, staff supervision, maintenance, budgeting, and management.
Continuing your education can open many career opportunities. Numerous professionals choose to engage in continuing education so they can further build competencies and facilitate career advancement. While in graduate school, I paid for the CPRP, CPO and First Aid Instructor courses and exams out of my own pocket so I could not only have a leg up on the competition but also could show that I was dedicated to the field and wanted to continue learning. If you become a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional or Executive, you will want to attend workshops and conferences to earn continuing education units. Sessions cover a variety of topics relevant to today’s profession and can focus on specific topics that professionals may seek assistance in. With the upgraded skills and knowledge that you will acquire through these sessions, you can improve your chances of a better position within the department you work for. On the other hand, if there is no growth potential within your current job, then at least you will be improving your resume for your next career move.
One the greatest benefits of continuing your education is that it allows you meet other adults with like-minded ambitions and goals. Taking a course at a local college or training institution can help to expand your professional network. Both Appalachian State and UNCG assisted me in immersing myself into the field. Through independent studies, internships, mentors and their contacts, I met many professionals in the field. This diverse network of contacts was very beneficial, as well as the experience and supporters I gained along the way. Conferences and workshops give you the opportunity to meet hundreds of other professionals in your field that you can interact and collaborate with too. With each annual state conference I attend, I look forward to seeing old friends, professors and colleagues, and love to pick their brains and catch up on what they are doing in parks and recreation. One of the easiest ways to network is becoming a member of NCRPA and NRPA. The weekly emails and magazines really immerse you in all things parks and recreation and keep you informed about the newest trends, conferences, workshops, grant opportunities, and job openings.
You truly get out of your career what you put into it, and engaging yourself in the parks and recreation field can assist you in broadening your career opportunities, expanding your earning potential and help you accept opportunities with greater responsibility. Set yourself up for a successful and purposeful career by involving yourself with particular organizations and professionals. Whether you go back for a degree, obtain a certification or just brush up your skills, you are doing not only yourself a favor but also strengthening the department you work for and the parks and recreation field as a whole. As mentioned before, NRPA and NCRPA are always great places to start, but if you want any further tips or assistance, feel free to reach out!
Meet the Author
Kristen Herndon is a Program Supervisor for Graham Recreation and Parks Department. She started her recreation career over 14 years ago as a camp counselor in high school and continued into college as a rafting, caving and hiking guide in the summer and a snowboard instructor in the winter. Subsequently graduating from Appalachian State University with a B.S. degree in Commercial Recreation, Kristen moved out west to manage a whitewater rafting company. After four years of chasing water, she moved back to NC to attend graduate school at UNC Greensboro, obtaining her master’s degree in Community Recreation. She went on to become an Assistant Director of Student Activities at HPU, followed by becoming the Brand Ambassador for the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and then settling back into government parks and recreation with the City of Graham roughly 3 years ago. When she’s not working, Kristen enjoys hiking, paddle boarding & spending time outside with her family & friends.
Kristen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-792-1189.
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