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Recreation Therapy: Job & Career Information

Explore the work duties of a recreation therapist. Learn about academic requirements in addition to necessary skills, salary and employment outlook to decide if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Recreation Therapist

A recreation therapist provides information, services and training in adapted recreational activities for clients who are disabled or ill. The goal of the recreation therapist is to reduce the impact of the disabling conditions through activities such as community outings, music, sports, games and arts and crafts.

Required Education Bachelor's and/or master's degree, plus passing the certification exam
Job Duties Reduce the impact of disabling conditions through community outings, music, sports, games, arts and crafts and other activieis
Median Salary (2015) $45,890
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12% growth

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Those interested in a career in recreation therapy should plan on graduation from one of the more than 100 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor's or master's degree program in recreation therapy or related fields, such as therapeutic recreation or parks and recreation management. A national standardized exam is required to become a certified recreation therapist.

Skills Required

A career in recreation therapy requires skills in working with people who may be in pain or otherwise challenged physically or mentally. Communication and teaching skills are helpful for the recreation therapist, as well as enthusiasm for different types of recreational activities.

Career and Economic Outlook

The projections for the growth of jobs in the recreation therapy field is average, with about a 12% increase expected from 2014 to 2024. Competition for these jobs will increase, but specialized certification will improve employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a recreation therapist is $45,890 as of May, 2015.

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Alternative Careers

Alternative options are available. Here are some examples:

Occupational Therapist

For those who want to help the disabled relearn everyday skills or adapt to their disability, a career in occupational therapy may be a good fit. Occupational therapists visit with patients and evaluate what goals and tasks they need to accomplish during the day. They then proceed to offer suggestions about medical equipment, provide tips to make tasks such as cooking, eating, cleaning and moving around easier, educate family members about providing care and coordinate therapy plans with other healthcare providers.

A master's degree in occupational therapy is required for anyone wanting to work in this profession. Some employers may also demand a doctorate degree and all states require licensure of occupational therapists through examination. Employment growth for occupational therapists is projected to be much faster than average between 2014 and 2024, with almost 30,400 new jobs created. In May of 2015, the BLS determined that these professionals earned a median income of $80,150.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Many duties overlap those of recreation and occupational therapists, but rehabilitation counselors focus on assisting the disabled with locating resources to help them adapt physically, financially and emotionally. Not only do they secure job training, medical care and welfare services for patients, but they also offer emotional support and mental health counseling services. Entry-level positions in rehabilitation counseling require a bachelor's degree in a rehabilitation field. However, those wanting to provide metal health counseling must obtain a master's degree and qualify for state licensure.

According to BLS data from 2015, rehabilitation counselors received $34,390 in median yearly wages. This profession is predicted to increase by 9% during the 2014-2024 decade, mostly due to a growing elderly population and needs in the veteran community.

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