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Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Job Information

Explore what a therapeutic recreation specialist does. Learn about the training and skills requirements, in addition to reading about the salary expectation and employment outlook, to see if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition for a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

A therapeutic recreation specialist is responsible for working with patients who are challenged by mental or social disabilities in order to design and implement recreational activities that will improve the patient's behavior, social skills, or coordination. The specialist in therapeutic recreation may specialize in certain populations, such as the elderly, teens, or children. Therapeutic recreation specialists may emphasize certain types of therapeutic recreation activities, such as music, aquatics, art, or dance.

Required Education An associate's degree as a minimum, but work in a clinical setting and certification suggests the need for a bachelor's degree; graduate study options available
Job Duties Working with patients challenged by mental or social disability; designing and implementing recreational activities to improve behavior, social skills and coordination
Median Salary (2017)* $47,680 for recreational therapists
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 7% growth for recreational therapists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A career as a therapeutic recreation specialist can be based upon an associate's degree in therapeutic recreation, but to work in a clinical setting or to be certified, a bachelor's degree is recommended. A master's degree and a doctoral degree in therapeutic recreation are also available.

Skills Required

A therapeutic recreation career requires individuals who are patient, innovative, creative, and have good communication skills. A therapeutic recreation specialist should be organized, able to develop and maintain detailed records and reports.

Career and Economic Outlook

Average growth in the number of therapeutic recreation, or recreational therapist, positions is expected during the years 2016-2026. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 7% growth in employment opportunities during that time. The BLS also reports a median salary of $47,680 for recreational therapists as of 2017. The highest salaries tend to be earned by therapeutic recreation specialists working in association with the federal government.

Alternate Career Options

If you are looking for an alternative career, here are some ideas:

Occupational Therapist

By earning at least a master's degree in occupational therapy, these professionals use the therapeutic advantages of everyday duties and activities to help their patients who are disabled or injured to improve or develop necessary skills. The outlook for this profession during the 2016-2026 decade is very good, with much faster than average (24%) growth anticipated by the BLS. Occupational therapists earned an annual median salary of $83,200 in 2017, according to the BLS.

Rehabilitation Counselor

These professionals normally have a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling and sometimes need a license or certification to fulfill specific job requirements. Their work involves helping people who have physical or emotional challenges learn to live independently. Faster than average employment growth of 13% was projected by the BLS, from 2016-2026. In May 2017, the BLS reported an annual median wage of $34,860 for rehabilitation therapists.

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