How to Become a Certified Activities Director: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified activities director. Explore the job description and education and certification requirements, and find out how to start a career as a certified activities director. View article »

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  • 0:04 Certified Activities Directors
  • 0:40 Career Skills & Salary
  • 1:12 Step 1: College Degree
  • 2:33 Step 2: Certification
  • 4:31 Step 3: Recertify
  • 5:10 Step 4: Promotion

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Video Transcript

Certified Activities Directors

Certified activities directors design and implement programs for elderly populations. These activities might be physical, social, or cognitive, and support health and general wellbeing. When designing programs, activities directors must stick to a budget. They also recruit and supervise employees and volunteers.

Certified activities directors might work in senior centers, retirement homes, or adult day care facilities, which often calls for a high level of empathy and patience. They may spend many hours seated, planning programs.

Career Skills & Salary

Certified activities directors can benefit from strong communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills. They should also have experience with record keeping, spreadsheet, and word processing software. First aid training is a plus. Some employers may require a background check and drug screening test. Based on information provided by Payscale.com in November 2016, activities directors earned a median annual salary of $37,790.

Step 1: College Degree

Although educational requirements vary for certified activities directors, they typically earn an associate's or a bachelor's degree in leisure studies or therapeutic recreation. Additionally, certain pathways to certification require a bachelor's degree, while others call for at least some college coursework. Some community colleges offer programs that culminate in an associate's degree. However, for the purpose of certification through the National Certification Counsel for Activity Professionals, a bachelor's degree is required. The specific major is not important, as long as course requirements are met, such as classes in therapeutic recreation. Students in therapeutic recreation programs may take courses in psychology, sociology, and research methods, along with leisure education, recreation programming, and treatment interventions. Classes in art, English, science, or management may also be required for certification.

Here's a success tip: Develop communication skills. Activities directors are required to communicate activity instructions to others and direct assistants and volunteers. Degree-seeking students can take courses with strong writing components and work collaboratively, which can help them hone skills in this area.

Step 2: Certification

Both the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) and National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) offer credentials for activities directors. Some employers require certification, which can serve as proof of professionalism and the ability to offer quality activities.

One of the most important steps for aspiring activities directors who want to earn the NCCAP's Activities Director Certified (ADC) credential, is to complete the Modular Education Program for Activities Professionals (MEPAP). There are two levels of MEPAP available at community colleges and online. Candidates for certification who have some college credits may be required to complete both levels, while those who have sufficient college credits may only need to complete one level. Applicants with an associate's degree or college credits must complete at least 6,000 hours of activity work with elderly populations within the past five years. Those with a bachelor's degree complete at least 4,000 hours of activity work. Requirements also include 30 hours of continuing education over the past five years and a satisfactory score on a certification exam.

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) also offers a professional credential to applicants with bachelor's degrees. Those with a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation need experience in a field placement program. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in another subject must have taken courses in therapeutic recreation and have one to five years of experience in the field. Candidates for certification must also pass a base exam of 90 questions and several tests consisting of 15 questions each.

Step 3: Recertify

Certified activities directors must renew their certifications in order to continue working in this capacity. The Activities Director Certified (ADC) credential from the NCCAP must be renewed every two years by completing 30 hours of continuing education. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) recertifies professionals every five years. Recertification requirements include 480 hours of professional work experience and 50 hours of continuing education or reapplying and retaking the certification exam.

Step 4: Promotion

Certified activities directors can take on more managerial or supervisory roles once they have been in the field for some time. Promotions are typically based on job performance ratings and time worked as an activities director. For example, a camp activities director may be promoted to camp director and assume responsibility for creating and planning activities and performing clerical tasks that keep a camp operating. Other possibilities include recreation supervisors and directors of parks and recreation.

Let's review. Certified activities directors who have fulfilled their prerequisite educational and experience requirements may qualify for credentials from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) or National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). As of November 2016, they earned a median yearly salary of $37,790.


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