Recreational Therapist Job Description

Recreational therapists provide treatment to injured, sick and disabled patients through a variety of exercises and activities. The activities are designed to improve physical and mental well-being, and may include sports, arts and craft, and social activities.

Recreational therapists help people of all abilities and ages. For example, they might help an injured person learn how to recover some basic motor skills after an accident, or use sports to help a client develop social skills or build confidence.

Recreation therapists are commonly employed by nursing homes, hospitals, substance abuse centers, rehabilitation services, special education departments, and community care centers. Pretty much any facility that works with injured or disabled people will need the help of a recreational therapist.

The working environment for recreational therapists varies greatly depending on the type of patients that they work with, and the type of therapy that they offer. For example, some recreation therapists spend a lot of their time working with patients outside, while others (like those in hospitals) spend all of their time indoors.

Most recreational therapists work full time. Working on nights and weekends is common, particularly for those who work in hospitals, care facilities, or other similar environments.

How to Become a Recreational Therapist

A minimum of a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation or a related field is required for most recreational therapist positions. Some schools offer doctoral and master's degrees. Though it's never a bad thing to continue learning, graduate degrees are rarely required to work as a recreational therapist.

Many therapeutic recreation programs require students to participate in an internship. Getting an internship can be a great way to get real world experience before starting your career. Not only can an internship help you find a job, it can also help you decide what type of recreational therapy you would like to work in.

Most employers require recreational therapists to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). The NCTRC offers six different certifications. The most common is the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). This certification requires the successful completion of a written exam, as well as 480 hours of an internship (or other work experience).

The NCTRC offers five specialized certifications for recreational therapists as well. Specializations include behavioral health, community inclusion services, physical rehabilitation, developmental disabilities, and geriatrics.

The most direct route to becoming certified is to get an internship while you get your bachelor's degree. However, sometimes certifications will be granted to individuals who have less education (an associate's) but more work experience.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 22,400 recreational therapists in the United States, with 1,190 new recreational therapist job openings created each year.

Recreational Therapist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Recreational Therapist Salaries

Salaries by State

Hover over your state to get an idea of what Recreational Therapists make in your area.

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Job seekers can use it while negotiating a salary.

Employers can use it to help set appropriate wage levels while writing job descriptions.

Overall Salaries

Recreational Therapist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most recreational therapists make between $32,200 - $52,600 per year, or $15.50 - $25.27 per hour.

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Salary and statistical data provided by the BLS.