A career in recreational therapy can be a very rewarding and fun profession for those who have a passion for helping other people, and enjoy working with different types of challenged patients.
One of a long list of healthcare professions that has seen increased demand over the past few years, and is expected to continue to do so, there are more job availabilities than ever before in the field of recreational therapy.
With numerous opportunities for advancement, and a median recreational therapy salary that is higher than many jobs, earning a degree could be a great option for anyone seeking a career in the therapeutic or rehabilitation segments of the medical profession.
How to Become a Recreational Therapist
With recent changes to the educational requirements for becoming a recreational therapist, students must graduate a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree program in order to qualify for licensure.
However, their degree can be taken as either a dedicated recreational therapy program, or some other science-oriented bachelor’s program as long as students include a required amount of coursework that is specific to recreational therapy.
In both cases, students are then qualified to sit to take the certification examination offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).
The main difference in requirements to be able to sit for the examination is that those students not graduating a specific program designed for therapists must have also fulfilled a certain amount of work experience under the supervision of, and observation of a certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS).
This takes the place of any clinical experiences and observation that students enrolled in dedicated educational programs will receive, and ensures that those seeking certification are aware of what is involved in working in the field, and are good candidates for the profession.
Just like with most other jobs in the medical profession, schooling is ongoing, so students should understand that along with graduating their program of choice they will be required to complete a required amount of continuing education course credits in order to maintain certification and licensure.
CE is frequently offered as convenient online courses, seminars and meetings, and usually geared toward the working professional so that they are easily able to fulfill their CE requirements.
Salary and Employment
According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary was $39,40 in 2010, with a projection to rise slightly as the job market has improved and demand for this profession has increased as well.
The entire salary range for professionals was between $24,640 annually for the lowest 10 percent of employed, to up to $62,670 for the highest 10 percent of employed.
Additionally, various job salary websites have listed median salary in some markets to be as much as $44,000 in as recent as 2011. Professionals can earn higher-end salaries based on educational status, job advancement and any specialty certifications earned.
In Canada, the median salary is currently around $56,700 CAD annually, with variances throughout the different provinces. Educational, certification and licensure requirements are similar to those in the US.
There are numerous different facilities that employ recreational therapists. They include skilled nursing care facilities, regular hospitals, surgical hospitals, psychiatric care facilities and substance abuse facilities.
Others work for home health agencies, special education schools or departments, parks and recreation facilities and more. Currently, it is estimated that about 22 percent of certified and licensed individuals work in skilled nursing care with elderly and disabled patients, which has the highest demand for professionals.
Advancement in Recreational Therapy
Most jobs are hands-on positions working directly with patients of many types, depending on the place of employment. However, those with enough job experience, and with the desire to continue their education to the Master’s or Doctoral level can advance in the profession and obtain supervisory positions, as well as careers in therapeutic planning and more.
Specialty certifications can also be earned by professionals who wish to concentrate on a more specific area such as physical and mental rehabilitation, geriatrics, developmental disabilities, behavioral health and community inclusion.
With the economy beginning to recover, salary and job outlook for recreational therapists on the rise, there is no better time than the present to look into enrolling in a recreational therapy program.
For those who are passionate about helping people, have patience and a great ability to relate well with patients of all types who require encouragement and guidance, it can be a wonderful and rewarding career.