What Are My Career Options in Recreation Therapy?

Those in the recreation therapy career field can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing care facilities and community health centers. Read on to learn about these job settings and the responsibilities that recreation therapy positions entail. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Healthcare professionals who work in this field are often referred to as recreational therapists or recreation specialists. Your work as a recreational therapist can help people with disabilities or illnesses lead more active and independent lives. With the help of patients' family members, you'll develop a program of leisure activities based on patients' needs, whether they be to build social skills, relieve depression or improve mobility and motor function. You may also be required to document your patients' improvement regularly.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Listening, patience, compassion, and resourcefulness
Work Schedule Typically full-time, with nights and weekends required in some cases
Continuing Education Certified recreational therapists usually complete continuing education coursework as part of the certification renewal process
Similar Occupations Occupational therapists, school and career counselors, and special education teachers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Settings

As a recreational therapist, you might find yourself organizing arts and crafts, sports, dance, theater and musical activities. Some of the areas in which you might work include hospitals, nursing care facilities and community health centers.

Hospitals

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general medical and surgical hospitals were among the top employers of recreational therapists as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). Often, recreational therapists who work in these facilities specialize in the care of patients whose needs are the result of an illness or traumatic injury. For example, you may help veterans recover from combat injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other hospitals may hire you to work with patients suffering from behavioral health disorders.

Nursing Care Facilities

Nursing care facilities were also one of the top employers of recreational therapists, according to the BLS. When working with the elderly, you might provide activities to patients who are unable to leave their rooms. You may also schedule group activities. In some cases, you may need to physically bear the weight of patients who have lost their mobility. Part of your work week may also be spent filling out paperwork to document their progress.

Community Health Centers

Community health centers can be rehabilitation centers or residential facilities catering to the needs of children with behavioral health problems or adults battling addiction. Some of your responsibilities may be to observe patients or supervise group therapy sessions. You may also work with other therapists to implement a treatment plan that builds your clients' confidence.

Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree related to recreational therapy is usually required to work as a recreational therapist. Some subjects you might study in a degree program include medical terminology, human anatomy, assistive devices and disabilities. You may also complete an internship.

Depending on your employer, you may have to earn certification, such as the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) from the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). To qualify for the certification exam, you typically need to complete an internship and a bachelor's program, although there are some other options for qualification. Continuing education is required after you pass the CTRS exam. In addition, you may pursue a specialty certification.

The BLS noted in 2014 that you will need to get licensed if you work in Utah, New Hampshire, Oklahoma or North Carolina. The process for becoming licensed will depend on your state.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, employment of recreational therapists was expected to increase 12% from 2014-2024, due to the rising number of older adults entering residential care facilities. However, if you work in a nursing or assisted care facility, your annual salary will be among the lowest in recreation therapy work. The average annual salary for therapists working in nursing care facilities as of May 2014 was $41,680, while those working in assisted care facilities earned $38,560 on average. Those in general and surgical hospitals made an average of $49,520, while those in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earned an average of $46,730. The median salary for recreational therapists overall was $44,000 in the same reporting year.

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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