Therapeutic Recreation Certification

A recreational therapist plans fun activities for people with developmental or physical disabilities. Find out what education, training and experience is required to qualify as a certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS). Learn more about the training programs and what you will be qualified to do as a CTRS. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is Therapeutic Recreation Certification?

Therapeutic recreation certification is a credential offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). This certification demonstrates that recreational therapists have met minimum standards of education, training and skills necessary to provide recreation therapy services (

CertificationCredential offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
Certification ProcessQualify for CTRS exam via bachelor's degree or graduating from accredited program with fieldwork or internship, renew certification via continuing education or exam every 5 years
Program OptionsBachelor's or master's degree, practicum, internship, or clinical work usually required
Common CoursesKinesiology, therapeutic terminology, therapeutic recreation administration, leadership, human behavior
Job Outlook (2016-2026)7% growth (for recreational therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$47,860 (for recreational therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Get Certified?

You'll need to pass an exam to earn the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) designation. There are a few paths to exam eligibility. You can graduate from an accredited therapeutic recreation program and complete fieldwork or a supervised internship, or you can have earned a bachelor's degree in any area and have completed related coursework and work experience. You can also take the CTRS exam before you finish your recreation therapy degree if you have completed at least 90 credits.

The certification exam is a written test that covers topics including physical and mental impairments, anatomy and physiology, human service models, measuring patient ability, documenting goals and assessments, leisure activities and service delivery. To renew your certification, you'll either complete continuing education courses or retake the exam every five years.

What Education Programs Are Available?

The most common level of education found for this field is a bachelor's degree. Although there are not many, you may also be able to find a master's degree program. You may be required to complete a practicum, internship or clinical work as part of your program. These programs focus on working with people in varied age groups and with all levels of abilities. Because of the hands-on nature of this type of degree, you won't find any distance education programs in therapeutic recreation.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs provide essential skills required to become a recreational therapist. In your courses, you'll learn to identify patient needs, lead leisure activities, lead healthy exercise activities, provide guidance during recreational trips and use patient records to develop activity plans. After completing a degree program, you'll be prepared to work at residential facilities, schools, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and hospitals.

What Courses Can I Expect?

In a bachelor's degree program, you can expect courses in pediatric development, long-term care, leisure education, human behavior, skill development, therapeutic terminology and leadership. You can also expect training in motion activities including kinesiology, sports training, outdoor training, athletic training and dancing. A master's degree program may require you to complete courses in contemporary issues, therapeutic recreation administration, facilitation techniques, entrepreneurship, philosophical foundations and interventions.

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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