Activities Director: Job Profile & Occupational Outlook

Sep 16, 2019

A bachelor's degree is required for a career as an activities director, also known as a recreational therapist. Activities directors work with individuals with disabilities or illness and plan and implement activities intended to improve their patients' physical, social and emotional health. They may work in schools, nursing homes or psychiatric hospitals.

Essential Information

Activities directors, also called recreational therapists, work in a variety of settings, including nursing homes and schools. Their primary focus is in aiding the sick and disabled with rehabilitation and skill improvement. The job requirements include a bachelor's degree, and licensure is required in some states. Professional certification is available and tends to be preferred by employers. This career might appeal to an individual with interests in healthcare, psychology, and social work.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in recreational therapy or related field
Licensure and Certification License required in some states; CTRS (Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist) certification preferred
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for recreational therapists
Median Wage (2018)* $47,860 annually ($23.01 hourly) for recreational therapists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Profile

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), activities directors, also called recreational therapists, use recreational activities to help individuals who are sick or disabled ( The types of activities they use vary, and may include arts and crafts, games and field trips. The BLS states that recreational therapists treat individuals who suffer from stress, depression or impaired motor skills. These professionals often observe patients during activities to monitor their progress and may work with other health and social service professionals to determine where additional improvements are needed.


Undergraduate programs in recreational therapy include coursework in behavioral and physical science, counseling and psychology. Students may also apply their learned techniques, application methods and assessments in their field experiences, which typically involve a full-time internship that places them under the supervision of experienced therapists.

Licensure and Certification

The BLS indicates that some states have licensing requirements for recreational therapists, such age limits, minimum academic standards and professional certification. The Health Professions Network (HPN) indicates that qualified recreational therapists hold the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential. This credential is offered through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), and requires individuals to have a bachelor's degree or be near graduation, complete a formal internship and pass the certification exam, which includes topics in recreational theory, implementation and assessment.

Activities Director Occupational Outlook

The BLS states that employment opportunities for recreational therapists were expected to increase by 7% from 2018-2028. Among the factors that the BLS cites for this anticipated increase are the growing number of elderly citizens and expanding federal funding for children with disabilities. Job opportunities will be available in public and private industries, such as nursing homes, government facilities and schools. Individuals who are experienced with certain populations may have better opportunities.

Salary Information

In May 2018, the BLS reported that the median wage of a recreational therapist was $47,860 annually, or $23.01 hourly. The BLS indicated that recreational therapists who work in general medical and surgical hospitals, the largest employer, earned a mean wage of $53,400 annually, while the schools and instruction was the highest paying employer with an annual mean wage of $71,290.

A job growth rate of 7% is projected through 2028 for activities directors. A bachelor's degree in a related field is required. Some states mandate licensing, and earning professional credentials is standard in the field.

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