According to recent labor statistics information, the medical industry as a whole is experiencing faster growth than the overall workforce, and especially in the rehabilitative and therapeutic fields.
With job growth slightly higher than the average, there are more opportunities than ever for those interested in the specialty of recreational therapy. Salary in the profession is competitive, and well above the median salary of all occupations, and there is a chance for advancement as well.
With close to one hundred recreational therapy schools in the US alone, it could be the perfect career choice for anyone who loves direct patient content and has a passion for helping those facing different life challenges.
What Recreational Therapists Do
Recreational professionals provide an important service to a segment of our society that frequently needs some assistance in order to enjoy life to its fullest.
Working largely with the elderly, those with disabilities and the developmentally or emotionally challenged, it can be both a demanding, yet very rewarding career choice. The main dutie is to use various forms of recreation – art, music, dance, socialization, and more – to stimulate patients, seek their participation and encourage both enjoyment and learning.
Therapists typically work very closely with their patients, as this is a totally hands-on position, as well as plan with other therapists and coordinators on the best therapies for the different patients that they care for.
Recreational Therapy Schools
Students must complete a recognized educational program that is offered by an accredited institution. A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree is now required in order for graduates to be eligible for certification, and in some areas certification is required to obtain licensure.
Certification and licensure is not required everywhere, but in most US states and provinces throughout Canada, it is.
Even so, in areas where certification is not required, most employers today prefer to hire certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS), so following the recommended course for education, certification and licensure is definitely recommended.
There are two ways in which students can graduate and qualify to take the certification examination. The most common and straightforward way is to graduate from one of the many schools offering a baccalaureate program.
The optional way is for students who have either enrolled in a different Bachelor’s program and wish to change majors, or those who have already graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and wish to earn an additional degree in recreational therapy so they can work in the field.
In order to fulfill requirements and earn a degree the secondary way, students must also have a certain amount of paid work experience, so this educational path is typically limited to those who are already started in the profession, but simply may need to earn their degree and gain certification.
In the US, the requirements for education have recently undergone a major change in that while Associate’s degree programs used to qualify candidates for certification, they no longer do.
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is now required in order to be eligible to take the exam and become certified. For this reason, students who are, or have attended Associate’s degree level programs may find themselves in need of advancing their education.
Recreational Therapy Schools in Canada are in the midst of some changes as well, largely based on the changes that have been made with US schools.
However, in the UK, not only does recreational therapy as a profession appear as the individual topics of recreation – art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, etc. – but schooling is done as a specialty within a general medical or physiotherapy educational path, or through a dedicated educational program where there is one.
After completion, graduates earn specialty certification, and can then register with the various health systems and medical employment regulatory agencies.
Finding the Best Programs
Prospective students who are interested in learning more about a career in recreational therapy, and about finding accredited schools should contact their country’s professional organization on therapeutic recreation.
In the US, the American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) can provide guidance to interested individuals, and provide a list of programs that are accredited with the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education (CARTE).
In Canada, the main contact for career information and educational programs is the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association (CTRA).
In the UK, information about becoming an art therapist can be obtained from the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT), about becoming a music therapist from the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT), and about becoming a drama therapist from the British Association of Dramatherapists (BADTH).