Activity Therapist Degree Program Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Students in a recreation therapy bachelor's program learn how to create treatment plans to help such individuals. Classes in the program cover the psychological, physical and accessibility needs related to healing and rehabilitation.

Some employers prefer to hire activity therapists with graduate degrees, including the master's degree in recreation therapy. Master's-level programs focus on the study of health and wellness, recreational and activity therapy, as well as client assessment and rehabilitation. Programs may include hands-on training opportunities.

Bachelor's Degree in Recreation Therapy

Within a recreation therapy bachelor's degree program, students may be able to specialize in such areas as therapeutic arts or geriatric therapy. Undergraduate programs require students to have a high school diploma or equivalent GED. Some programs may also require interested individuals to interview and submit a personal essay to the specific department. Common course topics include:

  • Techniques in recreational therapy
  • Leisure and recreation
  • Human anatomy
  • Group therapy techniques
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Client assessment

Master's Degree in Recreation Therapy

Master's degree programs related to activity therapy generally require the completion of 30-39 credit hours. Students gain administration and research skills, as well as the knowledge to develop patient treatment plans and document individual progression. Students may complete a major project or thesis, or receive hands-on training through internships and practicum experiences.

A bachelor's degree is required for admission, with the possibility of requirement of additional prerequisite courses if the degree is in an unrelated field. In addition, prospective students often must submit the Miller Analogies Test or Graduate Record Examination scores, reference letters, a personal essay, and a resume as well as complete an interview.

Courses often explore such topics as:

  • Activity therapy program development
  • Managing risks and understanding liabilities
  • Activity therapy trends
  • Diversity awareness and inclusion
  • Fiscal resources in recreation therapy
  • Art therapy

Popular Career Options

Activity therapists can find work in hospitals, geriatric care facilities, schools, rehabilitation centers, and nonprofit organizations. Specific job titles might include:

  • Nursing home activities director
  • Life enrichment coordinator
  • Community event planner

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

As of 2020, recreational therapists across the U.S. earned a median annual wage of $47,710, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also notes that while most recreation therapists worked in nursing care facilities and general medical and surgical hospitals, those who worked for federal executive branch earned the highest average salary of $77,060. The same agency noted that from 2019-2029, employment in the field is predicted to climb 8%.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

According to the BLS, as of 2018, only Oklahoma, North Carolina, Utah, and New Hampshire mandate that activity and recreation therapists obtain a license to practice. However, voluntary certification is available through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, which offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and specialty area credentials. In order to qualify, individuals must meet educational requirements, have completed at least 480 hours of supervised internships, and pass a qualifying test.

Both bachelor's and master's degree programs in recreation therapy cover therapeutic techniques used to help recovering addicts and handicapped individuals. Graduates may find work as activities coordinators or community event planners, among other options. They can also pursue voluntary certification, which may be preferred by some employers.

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