Online Degrees in Recreational Therapy

A degree program in recreational therapy can prepare you for a career helping people with various illnesses or disabilities strengthen their psychological, physical and emotional well-being. Though these degree programs are very rarely offered fully online, there are components of some programs available for online study. Keep reading to see common topics of study. See how these programs prepare you for professional licensing, registration and certification, too. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kind of Degree Can I Earn Online in Recreational Therapy?

While recreational therapy degree programs are not generally available online, you'll find many schools that offer select courses in the field with online options. Partially online programs are usually available at bachelor's and master's degree levels. Bachelor's degree programs generally prepare you for a career as a recreational therapist. Earning a master's degree could lead to additional job opportunities in management, program coordination, research or academia.

Online Availability Some courses are available online
Common Courses Bachelor's: Aquatic therapy, arts and crafts, gardening therapy, relaxation practices, grief counseling
Master's: Recreational activity therapy, patient monitoring, age-based therapeutic techniques
Certification and Licensure State licensure and registration is required in many states; voluntary certification is available from the NCTRC in general and specialized fields
Job Outlook (2016-2026)7% growth (for recreational therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$47,860 (for recreational therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics'

What Will I Learn?

A bachelor's degree program provides you with broad training in a multitude of therapeutic methods. You'll learn how to work with individuals who are struggling to cope with both the physical inability to participate in activities they enjoyed and the associated mental strain and depression that comes with that loss. Among the many interventions you might learn are relaxation practices, arts and crafts, aquatic therapy, social skills development and gardening therapy.

Though less common than undergraduate programs, master's degree programs usually cater to a variety of skill levels, from entry-level to advanced. Though you'll need a bachelor's degree for admission, it's not always necessary that you have an undergraduate degree or professional experience in a counseling or therapeutic field. Master's studies introduce you to the use of recreational activities in therapy and how to monitor those under your care. You could focus on therapeutic techniques for adolescents, adults or senior patients.

A few of these programs at both the bachelor's and master's level offer online coursework, though you'll usually take a some classes at the campus. You also might be required to participate in on-campus practicums or off-campus internships at a community center or health care facility. Some schools endorse student membership and participation in school-sponsored and organized groups that offer academic and career services to recreational therapy students.

Is a Degree All I'll Need?

You could be required to obtain state licensure or register as a recreational therapist with your state. States that do mandate licensure typically regulate it through their medical licensing board. Some common requirements include completing accredited college training, participating in a mentored experience and passing a state licensing examination.

Additionally, you could opt to earn a voluntary certification. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification offers a general Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential and several specialty certifications, including rehabilitation, geriatrics or behavioral health. To qualify to take the certification exam, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy or, if you major in another field, you'll need to provide proof of sufficient experience in the field. To recertify, you'll need to have a combination of work experience and continuing education credits or retake the certification exam every five years.

What Is the Career Outlook in This Field?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that nearly 19,200 recreational therapists were employed in the U.S. in 2018. About a quarter of those were reported to be working in nursing care facilities. The BLS projected a 7% growth in the profession from 2016-2026, largely due to aging of the general population. However, many facilities were expected to curb spending by using recreational therapy aides, who have less education and receive lower pay, in place of qualified recreational therapists. The BLS anticipated that your opportunities would be better with a bachelor's degree and professional certification.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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