How to Become an Activities Director in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for an activities director. Get the facts about degree requirements, work experience and certification to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Sports Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Activities Director Do?

Activities directors plan programs and events that meet the needs of people with disabilities or senior citizens. They oversee a program's daily operation, which includes leading activities, explaining rules, enforcing safety measures and organizing the necessary equipment. Activities may include things like arts and crafts, sports, aquatics, musical events and more. Activities directors also help maintain facilities, modify activities as needed and may train and supervise other staff members. These professionals are also typically trained to provide basic first aid if necessary. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Recreation studies, therapeutic recreation or a related field
Key Responsibilities Design, implement social and exercise programs tailored for specific groups
Certification Voluntary ADC credential offered through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%* (recreation workers)
Median Salary (2016) $38,652**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is an Activities Director?

Activities directors plan, organize and supervise events and programs for seniors and the disabled. These are intended to improve daily living skills, promote socialization and increase physical and mental abilities. In this role, you design and implement programs to meet the needs and physical limitations of participants. Activities you might oversee include individual and team sports, arts and crafts, plays, games, social events and pet therapy.

Step 1: Pursue a Bachelor's Degree

A majority of individuals working as activities directors hold a bachelor's degree. You may wish to major in therapeutic recreation. Topics you may encounter in this bachelor's degree program include communication practices, psychology, gerontology, sociology, aquatic activities and ethics. You also complete a clinical internship under the supervision of a certified recreational therapist. You can earn this degree in four years to satisfy the educational requirements for certification.

Step 2: Find a Job

After graduation, you might seek an entry-level position as an activities assistant in a rehabilitation facility, clinic, hospital, nursing home, senior center or camp. Facilities such as nursing homes are regulated by the state, and you may need to complete a training program and meet other requirements before working with residents. In an assistant position, you develop leadership and therapy skills and gain necessary experience to become an activities director.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

While working as an activities director, you need to exercise patience while working with fragile and mentally disabled individuals. You use creative energy and imaginative thinking to encourage active participation. You may have the opportunity to focus on specific demographics, such as disabled children, Alzheimer's patients and individuals in drug rehabilitation facilities.

Step 4: Become Certified

Federal law requires activities departments in the health care field to be overseen by qualified professionals. One way for you to meet this requirement is to earn an Activity Director Certified credential through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals. To qualify, you must have a college degree, obtain thousands of hours of relevant work experience and complete additional training as well as education coursework (www.nccap.org).

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Many activities directors choose to move to higher administrative or supervisory positions in nursing homes or hospitals. Employers may require you to earn a master's degree in business or health administration. Advancement options also include becoming a trainer for other directors or conducting research for government organizations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers for those interested in pursuing other options, including athletic trainers, meeting, convention, and event planners and probation officers and correctional treatment specialists. Athletic trainers typically work with athletes to prevent injury and illness, but they can also diagnose and treat various conditions with muscles and bones. Meeting, convention and event planners plan, organize and oversee the details of large events. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with people recently released from jail to help them avoid committing crimes.

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