With a growing demand for qualified professionals, a career in recreational therapy can be a great choice for anyone interested in a medical profession that does not actually involve attending medical school.
Recreational therapists play an important role in our communities in helping patients dealing with developmental and other challenges to live full and happy lives. The profession requires dedicated schooling and also attaining a recreational therapy certification, and there are a number of ways in which that can be accomplished.
Educational Requirements for Recreational Therapist
Although in the past it was possible to complete an Associate’s degree in recreational therapy, and there are still a few educational programs out there that have not yet upgraded to comply with recent changes in the field, a Bachelor’s degree is generally required.
Additionally, it is essential for those attending programs to ensure that they are accredited schools, since failure to do so will likely affect the graduate’s ability to sit for their recreational therapy certification examinations.
This is standard policy in both the US and Canada, although there are a number of educational options for completing that degree and becoming eligible for certification.
In the UK, and a number of other countries, professionals working in different recreational therapy areas are schooled and registered according to specialty such as art therapy, music therapy and more.
These specialties are earned as part of the educational curriculum for general medicine or physiotherapy, and not as their own degree.
Although there are a number of certificate and “diploma” courses available for those seeking a career in recreational therapy, students will want to be very careful in assessing them. Unless obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher, graduates will likely be ineligible to take their certification examinations.
Certification in Recreational Therapy
Once graduated, students in the US and Canada must become certified before they can seek employment, and then licensed, depending on the state or province.
Although there are a few regions which do not actually require certification, those are few and far between, and even so, most employers seek certified individuals to hire.
Certification greatly increases a graduate’s qualifications for a much wider array of job opportunities, so it is strongly recommended that all graduates go through the certification process.
Unlike with many other healthcare industry professions, there are three main ways in which candidates can qualify to get their certification. The first and main way of doing so is to graduate from an accredited, specific therapeutic recreation educational program and earn a Bachelor’s degree.
The second way involves having a Bachelor’s degree in any major from an accredited institution, having also completed certain social science and humanities courses, and having at least 5 years minimum of paid job experience in therapeutic recreation services; students can also qualify with a graduate’s degree in any major, along with the above mentioned courses and at least 3 years of job experience.
The third way in which students can become eligible to take the certification examination is by having a Bachelor’s or graduate degree in any major from an accredited institution, having also completed courses in social sciences, humanities, anatomy, physiology, abnormal psychology and human growth and development.
Along with at least one year of paid job experience in therapeutic recreation services. All employment must be recent, and under the supervision of a recreational therapist who holds a CTRS certification. Work in administrative service or other positions that do not include direct patient contact are generally ignored.
With these different options, it is possible for students who have already started school and have either changed their direction, or wish to do so, to still complete their education in such a way that they will be eligible for certification. It is recommended however that students taking one of these alternative paths verify that the supplemental courses they wish to enroll in will fulfill these requirements.
In the US, the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) handles all recreational therapy certification, and accreditation of educational institutions is governed by the Committee on Accreditation of Recreational Therapy Education (CARTE).
In Canada, certification is also done through the NCTRC, and recognized educational programs can be found by contacting the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association (CTRA).