Online Degrees and Certificates for an Activities Assistant

Oct 20, 2021

Recreation Assistant: Essential Information

Recreation assistants in an assisted living facility or senior center carry out the activities that are planned by activities directors. Few schools offer online certificate programs for recreation assistants and associate's degree programs for activities directors. These rare programs can be completed entirely online, with courses viewed according to the student's schedule, within set deadlines.

Often, schools will accept students without a high school diploma or GED certificate into a recreation assistant certificate program. These programs take less than a year to complete. There are no general education requirements. Students learn about the profession of recreation assistant, get an overview of program development and study cultural diversity and how to work with different types of people.

The associate's degree program for recreation or activities directors includes general education courses such as English, math and science. The activities director portion of the program includes courses in office management, first aid, program development and crisis prevention.

recreation assistant leads seniors in a board game

Recreation Assistant Certificate Courses Online

A recreation or activity assistant online certificate program introduces students to the duties of workers who carry out daily entertainment programs for the elderly and infirm. Basic workplace relationships and cultural sensitivity are also part of the curriculum. Schools prefer but don't require certificate program enrollees to have a high school diploma or GED. Online certificate programs for this subject are rare.

Program Information and Requirements

All course readings, lectures, assignments and chat sessions in an activity assistant online certificate program are accessible through a school's website. Courses have deadlines, but students may study and turn in finished work as their schedules allow. A recreation assistant online certificate may be completed entirely online in a year or less.

Students taking a recreation assistant course online need a multimedia-capable personal computer, Internet access and productivity software to participate in an online program. Schools are likely to use some form of educational content management software, such as Blackboard or Desire2Learn.

Course Topics

Courses in these programs deal with the theories and practices associated with recreation assisting. These theories pertain to activity planning, crisis intervention, first aid and more. A certificate program may include one or more general education courses as electives.

Aging Services Introductory

This course surveys the history of the recreation profession and the settings where activity services are provided, such as retirement communities or nursing homes. Students learn the organizations and agencies that provide care and the regulations governing them.

Activity Development

Students in this course learn how leisure programs are planned and implemented. Topics covered include the use of surveys and evaluation techniques.

Cultural Diversity

This course examines the effects cultural diversity has on workplaces and how to accommodate differing cultural perspectives. Communication and sustaining relationships in the workplace are a central emphasis of the course.

Recreation Assistant Associate's Degree

An online recreation director associate's degree program is concerned with the planning and monitoring of daily activities for elderly and disabled people living in assorted care facilities. In addition to planning, students learn about issues facing the aging, office management, personnel management and first aid techniques. A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement to enroll in an associate's degree program. Online programs are rare but available from a small number of schools. Those with an associate's degree in the field are likely to have an edge in the job market over those with only a certificate.

Program Information and Requirements

An online recreation director associate's degree program may be completed entirely online. Coursework consists of readings, lectures, assignments and chat sessions. Not all classes may be available at any given time; programs often rotate the online classes, and careful academic planning is advised. An associate's degree is typically earned in two years.

Course Topics

Students take many of the same courses that they would in the certificate program, but the associate's degree includes more management-oriented courses. An online associate's degree program includes a core liberal arts component.

Volunteer Management

Students engage with the process of establishing and administering a volunteer program in this course. Topics covered include recruiting, training, deploying and evaluating volunteers.

Activity Management

This course covers the fundamental duties of a recreation or activity director. Students learn approaches to leadership and the importance of accountability and responsibility.

Crisis Prevention

Students learn how to defuse conflict, disruptive behavior and assaults in this course. Negotiating tactics and safe restraint are among the topics covered.

Career Information

An online certificate in recreation assisting enhances a certificate holder's prospects of finding employment as an activity assistant in elder care facilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, employment of recreation workers, of which recreation or activity assistants are a sub-group, will increase 10% from 2019-2029, which is much faster than the average growth for all jobs. Recreation workers in nursing care facilities earned a median annual salary of $26,350 as of May 2019 (

An online activity director associate's degree prepares graduates for positions as recreation directors in adult day care facilities, nursing homes, senior centers and retirement communities. Growth will be driven by expanded demand for care services by a growing population of aging individuals, offset by budget constraints among state and local governments. According to February 2021 figures from, the median annual salary of activity directors at nursing homes was $49,084.

Continuing Education Information

Recreation directors who want to move on to better-paying positions as care facility administrators need to earn a bachelor's degree or master's degree in business administration. Master's degree programs in business administration are available online. Higher-level activity director degrees are not available either online or offline.

While they are hard to find, there are fully online certificate programs for activities assistants and associate's degree programs for activities directors. These programs cover a wide range of topics relating to senior care, including activity development, cultural diversity, volunteer management and crisis prevention.

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