How to Become a Recreational Therapist

Monster discusses how to create opportunities to land recreation therapy jobs.

How to Become a Recreational Therapist

Individual and group wellness is critical to building and maintaining healthy communities. That’s where recreational therapy comes in. Recreational therapy utilizes recreational activities as a means of individual and group therapy. And it’s only growing in popularity. In fact, recreational therapy jobs are expected to increase by 10% over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But before the games can begin, you’ll need to learn how to become a recreational therapist.

What Is a Recreational Therapist?

A recreational therapist is a health and human services professional who provides community intervention. They work with individuals and groups to foster skills and behaviors that contribute to better community health. Most recreational therapists work for hospitals, government agencies, social assistance services, nursing care facilities, and ambulatory healthcare services.

What Does a Recreational Therapist Do?

Recreational therapists coordinate, create, and direct recreational therapy programs to help individuals from vulnerable populations, especially people with illnesses, disabilities, or injuries, the elderly, and at-risk youth. Recreational treatment programs incorporate art, music, dance, drama, sports, and aquatics to help patients gain important physical, mental, social, and emotional skills that will improve their daily function and well-being.

Additional day-to-day duties of recreational therapists include:

  • Using medical records, tests, and observations to evaluate patients’ needs.
  • Discussing patients’ needs with families, patients, and other healthcare professionals.
  • Implementing interventions to help patients meet their goals.
  • Providing interventions to help patients develop social skills and self-sufficiency.
  • Teaching strategies to help patients manage stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Keeping track of patients’ progress.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of intervention programs.

How to Become a Recreational Therapist

If you want to know how to become a recreational therapist, meeting your educational requirements is a good start. Recreational therapy jobs require a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy or a related field. Additionally, many recreational therapy employers only hire certified candidates. Below, we discuss how to obtain these credentials to prepare you for a career in recreational therapy.

Graduate With a Recreational Therapy Degree

A recreational therapy degree includes relevant coursework in human anatomy, psychology, illness and disability, medical and psychiatric terminology, patient assessments, and assistive device and technology utilization. While not typically required, having a master’s degree in recreational therapy can make you more valuable to employers or set the stage for a career in management or administration.

There are tons of colleges across the U.S. that offer recreational therapy degrees.

Get Recreational Therapist Certification

In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree, recreational therapists must complete a 14-week internship, or a minimum of 560 hours of training, and document the skills they learned during that time. Once you complete the internship and pass an exam, you will be eligible for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) designation under the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

You may also be eligible for certification if you have a combination of coursework and work experience in recreational therapy. You just need to pass the exam to get certified. Once you obtain CTRS certification, you must maintain it by passing an exam, documenting your work experience, and pursuing continuing education courses every five years.

How Much Do Recreational Therapists Make?

Being a recreational therapist is a rewarding career in and of itself. But you also deserve to be compensated for your time and expertise. The median recreational therapist salary in the U.S. is about $45,000 a year, or $22.44 per hour. But hourly pay in this field can range from $15.45 to $32.58, depending on your credentials, experience level, and location.

Get an accurate estimate for what recreational therapy jobs pay in your area with Monster’s Salary Calculator.

How to Find Recreational Therapy Jobs

Knowing how to become a recreational therapist is the first step in your career path. But once you’ve graduated and obtained all the right credentials, it’s time to start applying to jobs.

Before you submit your first application, you’ll need to create or update your resume. Monster has tons of writing tips and resume samples that can help you become a top candidate. To make your application really shine, make sure you submit a cover letter along with your resume. Our simple and easy-to-follow cover letter tips and visual samples can help you write a cover letter that showcases your experience, your passion, and your commitment to community health.

Here are a few of the skills and qualities to highlight in your resume and cover letter:

  • compassion and empathy
  • leadership
  • good listening and communication skills
  • patience during difficult situations
  • creativity and flexibility

Want to know where to find recreational therapy jobs? According to the BLS, they’re most common in these five states:

The top five U.S. metro areas for recreational therapist jobs are:

Race to the Job Search Finish Line

Now that you know how to become a recreational therapist, you may be eager to start making a difference in your community. Get started by uploading your resume to Monster. Once you’re in our system, we’ll get your resume in front of recruiters who are hiring recreational therapists. Plus, we offer free, email job notifications, so you never miss an opportunity to apply early.