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Activities Coordinator Certification and Degree Program Information

Activities coordinator degree programs provide instruction in overseeing and conducting recreational activities programs. Professional certification is also available to help with advancement, although it is usually not required.

Essential Information

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in therapeutic recreation, recreational therapy or related majors train individuals in the skills needed for activities coordinator or activities director work. Gerontology associate's degree programs also provide related training. Programs designed for activities professionals might focus on geriatric topics and fitness issues related to aging populations. Gerontology programs offer more healthcare-related curricula, covering age-related illnesses and diseases. Programs combine classroom and hands-on learning, and students learn to implement activities for assisted living facilities, nursing homes and organizations.

  • Program Levels in Therapeutic Recreation or Recreational Therapy: Associate's degrees, Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma; some schools may require certificate or licensure to participate in clinical settings
  • Program Length: Two years for associate's degrees; four years for bachelor's degrees
  • Other Requirements: Clinical training, experience, fieldwork, lab work or internship may be required

Associate Degree in Therapeutic Recreation

In an associate degree in therapeutic recreation,.students receive training in providing recreational assistance to those with physical, sociological and psychological disabilities. In these programs, students learn to initiate protocols, utilize community resources and organize individual or group events. Students also receive training in restorative and therapeutic methods. Therapeutic recreation courses evaluate psychological effects of exercise, lifestyle readjustment and human development. Programs are generally offered on-campus due to the clinical training and hands-on experience required. Coursework requirements vary, but may include:

  • Psychology
  • Public speaking
  • Social work
  • Recreation leadership

Bachelor's Degree in Recreational Therapy

Bachelor's degree programs in recreational therapy typically combine didactic instruction with practical training through internships and lab work. Applicants are encouraged to check with the school or contact state medical boards to determine if certificate or license is needed for participation in fieldwork. Course topics often include:

  • Leisure recreation
  • Group dynamics
  • Developmental psychology
  • Recreational programming
  • Therapeutic recreation research

Popular Careers

In addition to working with the elderly, graduates with a therapeutic recreation associate's can find employment at adult day care centers, group homes, substance abuse treatment centers or penal institutions. Job titles can include:

  • Activities director
  • Therapeutic recreation specialist
  • Senior care specialist
  • Juvenile outreach coordinator

Activities coordinators often work with the elderly or infirm in various settings, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and mental hospitals. Careers options include:

  • Nursing home activities director
  • Geriatric recreation director
  • Recreational therapist
  • Activities consultant

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the recreational therapy field is competitive; however, job growth for recreational therapists, who usually need college degrees, was expected to increase 13% between 2012 and 2022. Recreation workers, who may find part-time jobs without degrees, could expect 14% growth (www.bls.gov) during that same time. The BLS also stated that individuals with bachelor's degrees and NCTRC certification might fare best in the job market. According to BLS salary statistics, the average annual wage for recreational therapists was approximately $46,060 in 2014, and recreation workers earned $25,830.

Continuing Education and Licensure

Recreational therapists could decide to obtain master's degrees for more intensive training and career advancement. Master's degree programs typically take two years to complete, but some truncate the program for applicants with bachelor's degrees in therapeutic recreation.

Only a few states required licensure for recreational therapists in 2010. Licensure requirements vary by state, but candidates might need a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited college or university, internship experience and passing scores on a state-approved certification or licensing exam.

Certification Options

Certification is not mandatory in this field, but could prove beneficial for career opportunities or advancement. The National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) offers voluntary certification for activity directors, specialists and consultants. Recreational therapists could earn optional professional certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Requirements can include a high school diploma or its equivalent, an associate, bachelor's or master's degree in a related field, college credits in relevant subjects or previous work experience, depending on the certification option. NCCAP credentials require all candidates to complete the 16-week Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals that covers activity planning and coordination for adults, families and seniors.

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