Online Degrees in Recreational Therapy: Program Overviews

Therapeutic recreation is the use of light physical activity, arts and crafts, sports, interaction with animals and other activities as part of a recovery program for disabled or physically or emotionally challenged clients. Since this field requires a vast amount of hands-on experience, no degree programs are offered online; however, there are hybrid programs which offer some online instruction.

Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in recreational therapy are unavailable in a fully online format. A few programs can be completed in a hybrid format, though, with a combination of hands-on instruction and distance learning coursework. A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for recreational therapists. Professional licensing or certification is required by some states; check for state-specific requirements when choosing an educational program.

Overview of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Recreational Therapy Online

Recreational therapists use a variety of sports and activities to promote physical and emotional recovery, independence, and successful social interaction for special needs clients. They predominantly work in hospitals, schools and nursing care facilities. Along with classroom instruction, most degree programs require hands-on experience, which is why virtually every degree program is campus-based. Admission to degree programs requires a high school diploma and acceptable scores on college entrance exams.

Program Information and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program can usually be completed in four years. Although online degree programs in recreational therapy are rare, there are hybrid programs available for students interested in distance learning. Students need a computer with Internet access. Instructors combine traditional texts with contemporary online learning tools, such as online presentations, to create a well-rounded program.

List of Common Courses at the Bachelor's Level

Besides core courses in a liberal arts program, students complete introductory and advanced courses in the recreational therapy major. Courses consist of contemporary techniques and practices in working with challenged individuals.

Basics of Therapeutic Recreation Course

In this course, students receive a basic overview of the history of therapeutic recreation. Topics of special interest include the philosophy behind the practice of therapeutic recreation, current industry vocabulary, identification of client groups, application of leisure activities and career development.

Basics of Leadership Principles in Therapeutic Recreation Course

This course focuses on developing leadership skills translating to career advancement, as opposed to mastery of recreation performance skills. Therapeutic activities involving dance, theatre, music and arts and crafts are explored.

Program Planning Course

This courses teaches students how to effectively plan and execute a recreational therapy program that meet psychological, physical and social needs of participants. Goal writing, assessing outcome, adaptation and evaluation are topics of special interest.

Career Information

In addition to a bachelor's degree, some states require recreational therapists to be licensed, and most employers look for certification beyond undergraduate education. As of 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 22% of recreational therapists worked in nursing care facilities, and a 17% growth (about the same as the average for all occupations) in employment is expected from 2010 to 2020. As of May 2012, the BLS reported, the median annual salary for recreational therapists was $42,280 (

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