Recreational Therapy Degree Programs and Certification

Training in recreational therapy will enable you to lead activities for people who are sick or disabled. Find out what degrees you'll need to work in this field, get information on specializations, and learn what the requirements are for professional certification. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is Recreational Therapy?

A recreational therapist is an individual who organizes and leads activities and services for people suffering from diseases, injuries or disabilities. If you choose this career, you'll work to ensure that your clients improve their mental health and wellbeing through a variety of services. Recreational therapists are also often called therapeutic recreation specialists, and their services can help individuals with a wide range of health issues.

As a recreational therapist, you might engage a patient in arts and crafts or help teach adults with disabilities how to complete typical chores. You might assist your clients with gardening activities or oversee their exercise routines. You'll also need to assess an individual's needs and plan appropriate activities that match his or her condition. You'll be responsible for working closely with other therapists, family members and physicians, so you'll need strong communication skills and attention to detail.

Job DescriptionOrganize and lead services for the sick or disabled, improve mental health of patients, engage patients in activites
Program OptionsAssociate's, bachelor's, and master's degree, internship usually required
SpecializationsAquatic therapy, pediatrics, social therapy, animal therapy, geriatrics
Certification RequirementsNeed for certification determined by employer, certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification

What Are My Degree Options?

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) is the most common degree awarded in the field of therapeutic recreation. During an undergraduate program, you'll take general education courses, in addition to classes that focus on the medical field. For example, you might study medical terminology, CPR steps and psychology. You'll also learn how to plan activities, programs and mental exercises for individuals and groups. An internship is usually required, which can allow you to work with a health facility or a government agency.

Associate degree programs are also available in therapeutic recreation. These programs can teach you industry basics and prepare you for a bachelor's degree program or an entry-level position. If you choose to earn your associate degree, you might want to make sure that your earned credits can apply towards a bachelor's degree. In order to successfully earn an associate degree, you'll still be required to complete clinical practice.

Master's degree options are also offered if you've earned your bachelor's degree and want to further your education in therapeutic recreation. Graduate courses can help you select a specialty to work in or can prepare you for a career in administration. Degree programs at this level usually require that you complete a final project or thesis, and you might also be able to obtain a graduate assistantship.

How Can I Pursue a Specialty?

You might choose to focus on one area as a recreational therapist. Some bachelor's degree programs offer tracks of study in geriatrics, pre-occupational therapy and pediatrics. After your program, you can also choose to specialize in a particular type of therapeutic activity, such as aquatic therapy. Other areas that you may choose to work in are arts, animal therapy or social therapy.

You could also enroll in an online certificate program or take individual online courses that can prepare you for a particular specialty. These programs accommodate working students and can also count towards continuing education credits that may be needed later in your career. You can learn through online lecture presentations and take all tests from your home. Since online degree programs are currently not available in therapeutic recreation, remote courses can provide a flexible alternative to learn about different topics in the field.

How Do I Become Certified?

Certification for recreational therapists is not necessarily mandatory, but some hospitals and private care facilities may require it. Certification is available through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) and requires you to successfully pass an examination and complete a clinical field experience ( Before taking the exam, the NCTRC requires that you either hold a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy or obtain an equivalent combination of training and professional experience. Upon completion, you'll be designated as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), and you'll need to renew this certification every five years by taking continuing education courses or retaking the certification exam.

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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