Therapeutic Recreation Certification and Certificate Program Info

A therapeutic recreation certification is generally a way to prove one's knowledge and level of skill in regard to recreational therapeutic modalities. Continue reading for an overview of the training necessary for certification, as well as job growth and salary info for a few career options for certified professionals.

View popular schools

There are two ways for a recreational therapist who wants to work in a clinical setting to be certified. For those who want to work in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers, certification can be acquired through a specialized certification program, rather than an exam, as is the case for the clinical recreational therapist.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Art Therapist
  • Dance Therapist
  • Kinesiotherapist
  • Music Therapist
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Prosthetics and Orthotics
  • Rehabilitation Technologies
  • Therapeutic Recreation
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Essential Information

Although certification is not necessary to become a recreational therapist, those who plan to work in clinical environments may be required to pursue it through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many employers prefer to hire individuals with the NCTRC's Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) designation. Individuals can meet CTRS credential requirements through one of three pathways, which are discussed below. Prerequisites for the CTRS program include completion of at least a bachelor's degree program and professional experience.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Required Experience 1-5 years; an internship can substitute for some years of work experience
Skills Necessary Patient assessment, recreational therapeutic treatment, patient guidance, treatment implementation
Exam Requirement 180-question examination

Credential Requirements

The first educational pathway to CTRS certification is the academic pathway. Candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy, but without at least five years of full-time paid employment in the field or a year of supervised work experience, are required to undergo a 14-week internship. Once the internship is completed, candidates may then qualify to sit for the examination.

The first equivalency pathway is designed for those who do not hold degrees directly in recreational therapy. This pathway requires candidates to hold at least a bachelor's degree in any field and to have completed courses related to recreational therapy. Candidates are also required to accumulate at least five years of full-time paid employment in the field before sitting for the test.

Finally, the second equivalency pathway is similar to the first equivalency pathway, except in this pathway individuals only require a year of supervised, full-time paid employment in the field. The educational requirements are the same as the first equivalency pathway.

The Examination

The NCRTC examination comprises 180 questions, which candidates have 3 hours to complete. It is designed to test candidates' competency on a range of subjects considered critical to professional practice. It is divided into four content areas:

  • Foundational knowledge
  • Recreational therapy practice
  • Recreation therapy organization
  • Professional advancement

Certificate Programs

For aspiring therapists who aren't planning on practicing in clinical settings and therefore are not required to attain a bachelor's degree, many therapeutic recreation certificate programs are available. Students trained in these programs may apply their skills in environments such as nursing homes, day care centers and rehabilitation facilities. Certificate programs may require students to take courses on topics such as aging, therapeutic recreation programming and psychology.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reported an annual median salary of $45,890 for recreational therapists in 2015. The BLS also predicted a 12% increase in jobs for these professionals from 2014-2024, which is faster than average compared to all other occupations.

Experience and education serve as the base for any certification program. Recreational therapists with a bachelor's degree must rely on their experience combined with the topic of their degree program to qualify for the certification exam. Those without a bachelor's degree can find programs in recreational therapy that result in a certificate.

Next: View Schools

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.

    • Master of Healthcare Administration
    • MS in Nursing
    • BS in Health Science
    • BS in Health and Wellness
    • BS in Healthcare Administration

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • MBA: Health Systems Management
    • MS in Health Care Administration
    • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
    • BS in Health Care Administration

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
    • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Massage Therapy

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MBA Healthcare Administration
    • MSE Exercise Science

    What is your highest level of education?

    • MBA - Healthcare Administration
    • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Administration

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?