Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist: Job Outlook and Info

Find out how to become a certified therapeutic recreation specialist. Learn the job duties, education requirements and job outlook for this career, as well as some alternative career options.

Career Definition for a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Certified therapeutic recreation specialists, or recreation therapists, devise activities involving exercise, crafts, animals and community outings to help medical patients and people with disabilities maintain or increase their level of mental and physical wellbeing. They often work in medical centers, hospitals, and private rehabilitation facilities. They can work with individual patients or with groups of patients. A recreational therapist plans activities based on evaluations of the patients' needs and limitations.

Required Education A bachelor's degree for entry-level positions
Job Skills Organization skills, communication skills, patience, sympathy
Median Salary (2017)* $47,680 (recreational therapists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 7% growth (recreational therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree, and some states have specific requirements that must be met before a person can work as a recreation therapist. Students interested in entering the field should take courses like psychology, physiology, human anatomy and intervention design.

Required Licensure and Certification

In 2012, there were only four states that required recreation therapists to be licensed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These states are New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah. These states have varying licensure requirements.

Recreation therapists may choose to earn the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Additionally, the NCTRC also offers specialty certifications in areas such as developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and geriatrics.

Skills Required

Recreation therapists must have outstanding organizational skills and should be excellent communicators and motivators. Additionally, they should be patient and sympathetic to the needs and disabilities of their patients.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for recreational therapists are expected to increase by 7% from 2016 to 2026, which is average when compared to all occupations. The BLS reports that the median salary for recreational therapists was $47,860, as of May 2017.

Alternative Career Options

Here's a couple of examples of alternative careers:

Occupational Therapist

Those wanting to help people with physical disabilities might like a career in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists (OTs) are professionals who evaluate and work with injured or disabled patients to find ways to adapt and overcome disabilities. OTs are required to complete a minimum of a master's degree, but some may choose to complete a doctoral degree. As of December 2013, there were only five accredited OT doctoral programs in the U.S., according to the American Occupational Therapy Association. All states require OTs to first earn certification from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy before obtaining a state-issued license. The median annual salary for OTs was $83,200 in May 2017, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that jobs for occupational therapists will increase by 24% from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than average for that period.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Another career focusing on helping people with mental and physical disabilities is that of rehabilitation counselor. Rehabilitation counselors assess the emotional and physical state of patients and then create a plan to help these patients learn to live on their own. Rehabilitation counselors may also teach coping mechanisms and help patients locate services and resources. A master's degree is required for most rehabilitation counseling jobs, and all states require rehabilitation counselors to obtain a license. Professional certification is available from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. In 2017, the BLS reported that rehabilitation counselors earned a median annual salary of $34,860. This career field is expected to grow by 13% from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.


What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?