Activities Assistant Training Programs and Career Information

Activities assistants coordinate entertainment, social and recreational events at nursing homes, community centers, youth clinics, assisted living centers and hospitals. They develop and organize therapeutic recreation programs with activity directors and supervisors. Activities assistants typically have an associate's degree in recreational therapy or a related field.

Training Requirements and Recommendations

Opportunities as activities assistants may be available to those with only a high school diploma or GED, but prospects are best for those with postsecondary training. To further strengthen their qualifications, activities assistants can seek certification.

Activities assistants should be comfortable working with elderly and youth populations. They must have excellent customer service, communication and public speaking skills in order to organize and host events. Activities assistants also should have patience and a positive attitude when interacting with others. They should be organized and able to schedule recreational projects and programs that are aligned with an employer's recreational care goals.

Formal Education

An associate's degree in recreational therapy is sufficient for most positions. However, some employers prefer to hire activities assistants with a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy or a related human services field.

Associate of Science in Recreational Therapy

An associate's degree program in recreational therapy prepares students to work as activity professionals in various work environments. Students learn foundational concepts behind recreational therapy and leisure services. Programs allow students to gain experience with basic program planning and client interaction. Common courses include:

  • Theories of recreation and leisure
  • Recreation for special populations
  • Recreation activity leadership
  • Recreation therapy techniques
  • Business practices in recreational activities

Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy

Activities assistants can gain advanced recreational therapy skills and knowledge through a 4-year bachelor's degree program. Students learn practical leadership and management skills and explore administrative aspects of activity planning and recreational therapy. Most programs offer internship opportunities with local nursing homes, hospitals or assisted living centers. Programs may include courses in:

  • Activity program planning
  • Recreation services for geriatric populations
  • Outdoor recreation services
  • Recreational therapy management
  • Life span development
  • Client assessment in recreational therapy

Job Experience

Employers generally seek activities assistants with 1-2 years of experience, though entry-level positions may be available to those with training but minimal experience. Typically, employers also look for relevant experience; for example, nursing homes tend to hire activities assistants who have experience with elderly populations, while youth organizations hire assistants who have worked with children and teenagers.

Licenses and Certifications

Most employers do not require activities assistants to be certified. Voluntary certification is available from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP), the only organization that provides certification is the activities industry. The organization offers three certification paths for activities assistants, all leading to the Activities Assistant Certified (AAC) credential. Each track requires activities assistants to have a combination of experience, training and continuing education credits. With AAC certification, activities assistants can demonstrate recreational proficiency to employers.

Workshops and Seminars

Training workshops for activities assistants are offered by employers and schools with recreational therapy degree programs. Additionally, the NCCAP shares information about seminars and workshops sponsored by businesses and organizations within the industry. Workshops typically address activities practices for specific populations. Some may be used for college or continuing education credits.

Additional Professional Development

The NCCAP provides an online bulletin board with professional development resources, including industry articles, continuing education courses, job opportunities, salary statistics for activities professionals and a list of NCCAP standard and best practices.

In addition to the NCCAP, the National Association of Activity Professionals (NAAP) offers professional development resources for members. The NAAP focuses on activities professionals who work with elderly populations. Membership provides activities assistants with information on industry conferences and professional standards. Activities assistants can also gain knowledge and skills by reading Creating Together Journal, a publication that focuses on activity ideas and quality business practices.

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