Therapeutic Recreation Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree program in therapeutic recreation can lead to a career as a recreation therapist, who's responsible for developing and supervising physical or leisure activities for people with disabilities. Read on to find out more about admission and graduation requirements, typical program content and career and certification options. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Typical Requirements for Therapeutic Recreation Master's Degree Programs?

In order to be admitted to a master's degree program in therapeutic recreation, you'll need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Some, but not all, programs require that your degree be in recreation therapy or a related field. The schools without this requirement may require that you take such leveling courses as anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, human development and psychopathology before officially beginning your graduate coursework. Proficiency in these areas is also required to obtain eventual professional certification in recreation therapy.

Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in recreation therapy or related field; prerequisite coursework in related classes
Program Fields Master of Science, Master of Arts
Common Courses Financial administration, planning activities, clinical case management, research design and analysis, program administration
Certification Information CTRS certification is available
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 Does the Program Work?

Degrees are available in Master of Science (M.S.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) form, though the former degree type is more common. Some master's degree programs are actually in related areas like leisure studies or recreation administration with concentrations in therapeutic recreation. Regardless of exact structure, most programs require completion of approximately 30-40 credit hours of graduate-level core and elective recreation therapy courses. This usually includes a research thesis, internship or applied project; some schools require both an internship and a thesis. This degree is not currently offered online; however, a few online graduate certificate programs are available.

What Will I Learn in this Program?

Required courses in therapeutic recreation master's degree programs teach you to plan and supervise appropriate recreational activities for individuals or groups with physical or mental disabilities or injuries. These activities may include sports, dance, art and music, and can be designed to alleviate disabilities or just serve as a fun activity for those who suffer from one. You'll also learn relevant business and financial administration skills for recreation therapists. As in most graduate degree programs, at least one of your required courses will be dedicated to research in your field. The following is a sampling of topics commonly covered in required courses:

  • Therapeutic recreation program planning
  • Social behavior in leisure activities
  • Recreation therapy budgeting and financial planning
  • Psychological effects of recreation
  • Research design and analysis
  • Physical education and quality of life
  • Recreation program administration
  • Clinical case management

What Are My Career and Credential Options?

As a recreation therapist, you may work on a freelance basis or at a hospital, community center, school or an outpatient or residential treatment facility for the disabled. Some recreation therapists plan and supervise leisure activities of all types, and others specialize in a certain activity, such as art. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, only four states required licensure for recreation therapists; requirements vary from one state to another and can be found through a state's medical board. In states without licensure requirements, you can enhance your standing in the job market via professional certification.

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) grants a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential to qualified applicants. In order to be eligible to take the certification exam, you must have a degree from an accredited therapeutic recreation program and 480 hours of relevant work experience. In many cases, you can fulfill this work experience quota with the hours from your master's degree internship. You'll also need to have completed the prerequisite leveling courses described above. There are some alternative paths to certification that allow you to substitute experience for education, but this is the most common one for students or recent graduates.

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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