Unlock Your Dream Career: Therapeutic Recreation Careers

Dear Kind Reader, if you have an interest in helping people with disabilities and illnesses, therapeutic recreation careers might just be the right option for you. Therapeutic recreation careers involve using recreational activities and strategies to help individuals overcome physical, mental, emotional, or social limitations. Whether working in hospitals, community centers, or residential facilities, therapeutic recreation professionals play an essential role in promoting physical and emotional wellbeing and improving the quality of life for their clients. This article explores the different pathways and opportunities available in the thriving field of therapeutic recreation careers.

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Career Options in Therapeutic Recreation

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Therapeutic recreation is a diverse field that has many different career paths to choose from. Here are some of the career options in therapeutic recreation that you may consider:

1. Therapeutic Recreation Specialist/Recreation Therapist

A therapeutic recreation specialist or recreation therapist is the most common career option in this field. They provide treatment and recreation services to people with disabilities, illnesses, injuries, or other health conditions. They assess clients’ needs, develop treatment plans, and carry out activities such as games, arts and crafts, sports, and music that help improve physical, social, emotional, and mental health. They may work in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, residential facilities, schools, community centers, or private practices.

2. Activity Director Coordinator

Activity directors coordinate recreational programs for seniors living in nursing homes, retirement communities, or assisted living facilities. They plan, organize, and lead various activities such as games, exercises, parties, outings, and events that help enhance residents’ quality of life, relationships, and independence. They may also manage volunteers and budgets, maintain records, and evaluate outcomes.

3. Recreation Program Director/Manager

A recreation program director or manager is responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating recreational programs for people of all ages and abilities in settings such as parks and recreation departments, schools, nonprofits, or private companies. They supervise staff, develop budgets, establish policies, and market programs to communities. They may specialize in areas such as sports, arts, aquatics, nature, or therapeutic recreation.

4. Outdoor Recreation Therapist/Adventure Therapist

Outdoor recreation therapists or adventure therapists use outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, or ropes courses as a tool for therapy. They work with clients who need to enhance their physical, emotional, or behavioral skills, develop self-esteem, overcome fears, or build trust with others. They plan and carry out expeditions, assess risks, and teach skills that help clients achieve their goals.

5. Special Education Teacher

A special education teacher works with children and youth who have disabilities that require special instruction and support. They develop individualized education plans, teach academic and life skills, provide emotional and behavioral guidance, and collaborate with families, therapists, and other professionals. They may teach in public or private schools, residential facilities, or hospitals.

6. Community Integration Specialist

A community integration specialist helps people with disabilities or mental illnesses to live independently in their communities. They assist clients in finding housing, employment, transportation, or social services that meet their needs. They also advocate for their rights, raise awareness about disabilities, and promote inclusion and diversity in society.

7. Researcher/Professor

A researcher or professor in therapeutic recreation conducts studies, analyzes data, and disseminates knowledge about the field. They teach students, develop curriculum, mentor colleagues, publish articles, and present at conferences. They may work in universities, government agencies, nonprofits, or research institutions.

No LSI Keywords
1 therapeutic recreation specialist, recreation therapist
2 activity director coordinator
3 recreation program director, recreation program manager
4 outdoor recreation therapist, adventure therapist
5 special education teacher
6 community integration specialist
7 researcher, professor, therapeutic recreation

Skills required for Therapeutic Recreation Careers

therapeutic-recreation-careers,Skills required for Therapeutic Recreation Careers,thqTherapeuticRecreationCareersSkills

A career in therapeutic recreation requires a range of skills to be successful. Those who are interested in this career should have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written. As well as, it is important to be empathetic and have good listening skills to relate to the patients they will be working with. Additionally, they should have organizational and administrative skills to create and manage recreational programs and budgets.

Understanding of Medical Conditions

Therapeutic recreation professionals should have a clear understanding of different medical conditions, such as physical disabilities, mental health issues, and cognitive impairments. They should know how to work with patients with different conditions and manage their care effectively.

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills are also important in therapeutic recreation careers. Professionals in this field must be able to manage a team and work with other healthcare providers such as occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, and physicians. They should be able to influence and motivate their team to achieve their goals.

Creative and Flexible Thinking

Therapeutic recreation professionals should also be creative and flexible thinkers and should be able to develop and implement innovative programs that are tailored to the needs of individual clients. The industry demands professionals who can adapt to new situations quickly and work effectively in fast-paced environments. They should be able to make quick decisions based on an understanding of the patient’s health condition and interests.

Problem-Solving Skills

Therapeutic recreation professionals must have excellent problem-solving skills. They should be able to identify the various issues that may arise in the course of their work and have the necessary skills to solve them. They should use their analytical and logical capabilities to develop sound plans and work creatively in resolving difficult situations.

Recreational Skills

Expertise in recreational activities is crucial for therapeutic recreation professionals. Activities that were once pleasurable for patients may no longer be so due to their medical condition. Professionals should have knowledge of several leisure or recreational activities. They should also be able to modify activities to make them more enjoyable and accessible for their patients.

Computer Skills

Effective therapeutic recreation careers are required to have knowledge of computer software to create reports, manage budgets, and create schedules. They are also responsible for keeping patient activity notes and creating activity calendars. Knowing how to use different software is a fundamental skill in therapeutic recreation careers.

Patience and Compassion

Finally, a Therapeutic Recreation professional must be a person of great patience and compassion. By making patients feel valued, these professionals provide patients with a better chance of seeing improvements in their health and well-being. Compassion should be a factor in every decision they make, from what type of games to stage to the approach to interacting with patients, this skill is key for therapeutic recreation careers.

No Job Title Job Description Education Requirements Salary Range
1 Recreation Therapist Develop and implement treatment plans using recreational activities for individuals with disabilities or illnesses. Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation or related field. $35,000-$65,000
2 Activities Director Plan and organize recreational activities for groups of individuals in nursing homes, group homes, or other healthcare facilities. Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation, Healthcare Administration, or related field. $30,000-$65,000
3 Recreation Coordinator Coordinate and supervise recreational programs and activities in community organizations, parks, or other public areas. Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation or related field. $35,000-$55,000
4 Adaptive Sports Coordinator Organize and oversee sports programs for individuals with disabilities. Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation, Kinesiology, or related field. $30,000-$60,000
5 Outdoor Recreation Therapist Use outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and kayaking as a means of therapy for individuals with mental or physical disabilities. Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation, Outdoor Education, or related field. $35,000-$65,000

Salary and Job Outlook for Therapeutic Recreation Careers

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Working in the field of therapeutic recreation not only promises emotional fulfillment in serving the healthcare industry, but it also offers significant financial rewards.


The median annual salary of a recreational therapist in the U.S. is $48,220. However, this salary can range from as low as $30,000 per year to as high as $80,000, depending on the individual’s experience, education, and work setting. The highest-paid therapeutic recreation professionals tend to be those who work in government, hospital, and residential care settings.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% growth rate for recreational therapy jobs until 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This projection can be attributed to the increasing aging population in the country, which will require more recreational therapy to maintain their physical and mental health.

No Top paying industries for Recreational Therapists
1 Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
2 Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
3 Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals
4 State Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OES Designation)
5 Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)

Note: OES Designation means the occupation is eligible for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Career Opportunities in Therapeutic Recreation

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Therapeutic recreation is an expanding industry that is experiencing a steady growth in demand for professionals in this field. With a focus on recreational activities that can improve the well-being of individuals with disabilities, therapeutic recreation has a wide range of career opportunities. Here are some of the most promising career paths in therapeutic recreation:

Recreation Therapist

A recreation therapist is someone who designs and implements activities for individuals with disabilities who may be struggling with physical, emotional, or cognitive challenges. They work to promote healthy living, physical fitness, emotional stability, and social skills. Recreation therapists often create individualized plans that incorporate sports, games, arts and crafts, music, and many other activities. They work in various settings such as community centers, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers.

Recreation Director

A recreation director is responsible for managing all aspects of a recreational facility. They may oversee a range of programs, such as sports, fitness, arts and crafts, music, and other recreational activities. They work to ensure that their programs are engaging, well-structured and inclusive for everyone. Recreation directors may coordinate with other departments to ensure their programs align with the needs of residents or patients. This position requires excellent leadership, communication, and organizational skills.

Outdoor Educator

Outdoor education is a growing subfield within therapeutic recreation. Outdoor educators are responsible for facilitating outdoor experiences and activities that foster personal growth, health, and wellness. Examples of outdoor education include backpacking, rock climbing, wilderness survival, and canoeing. These activities help individuals to develop a sense of self-reliance and build confidence. Strong teamwork and communication skills are essential for this career path, as outdoor education often involves group activities and experiential learning.

Adaptive Sports Coordinator

Adaptive sports coordinators are responsible for organizing sports programs and activities for individuals with disabilities. Some examples of adaptive sports can include wheelchair basketball, seated volleyball, racket sports, and many more. Adaptive sports coordinators work to adapt conventional sports to the abilities of their participants and create safe and supportive environments. This job requires organizational, administrative, and management skills to create successful programs.

Other Career Paths in Therapeutic Recreation

  • Activity Aide – provides support to activity coordinators and assists in planning daily activities in a recreational setting.
  • Art Therapist – uses creative media to help individuals with disabilities to become more self-aware and cope with emotional difficulties.
  • Music Therapist – uses music to improve emotional, physical, and cognitive functioning of individuals with disabilities.
  • Rehabilitation Specialist – designs and implements programs to help individuals with disabilities function at their highest capacity.

Overall, the field of therapeutic recreation offers a wide range of career options for individuals who enjoy working with people with disabilities, have excellent communication skills, and focus on improving an individual’s quality of life through recreational activities.

Job Outlook for Therapeutic Recreation Careers

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It is no secret that job outlook plays a crucial role in career decisions. For those considering therapeutic recreation as a career path, the job outlook is generally positive, with an expected job growth rate of 8% from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Factors Contributing to Job Growth

The job growth rate is expected to be driven by an aging population, increasing government healthcare spending, and a growing need for qualified professionals to meet the increasing demand for recreation therapy services.

Job Opportunities and Specialization within Therapeutic Recreation Careers

Therapeutic recreation careers span a variety of work settings and populations, ranging from pediatric to geriatric and everything in between. Common work settings for therapeutic recreation professionals include hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, and community centers. Additionally, professionals can specialize within the field based on the population with which they work, such as developmental disabilities or mental health.

No Specialization Area
1 Developmental Disabilities
2 Mental Health
3 Geriatrics
4 Pediatrics
5 Substance Abuse
6 Physical Disabilities
7 Community-Based Recreation

Salary of Therapeutic Recreation Careers

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One of the important considerations when choosing a career is the salary. Although earning more money is not a guarantee of job satisfaction, the financial aspect is still important. Let’s take a closer look at the salary range for therapeutic recreation professionals.

Salaries by Job Title and Experience

The salary range for therapeutic recreation professionals varies by job title and experience. According to the data from Payscale, recreational therapists with less than one year of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (including tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $44,000 based on 100 salaries. With 1-4 years of experience, the average total compensation increases to $49,000 based on 399 salaries. With 5-9 years of experience, the average total compensation further increases to $56,000 based on 263 salaries. For recreational therapists with 10-19 years of experience, the average total compensation reaches $62,000 based on 216 salaries. Finally, recreational therapists with more than 20 years of experience can expect to earn an average total compensation of $65,000 based on 159 salaries.

Salaries by Industry

The salary range for therapeutic recreation professionals also varies by industry. According to the data from BLS, the top-paying industries for recreational therapists are as follows:

No Industry Annual Mean Wage
1 Home Health Care Services $63,810
2 Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $60,720
3 General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $55,570
4 State Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OES Designation) $54,980
5 Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals $53,620

It is important to note that the salary range may also vary by state and city.

Types of Therapeutic Recreation Careers

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Therapeutic Recreation has a vast number of career opportunities that individuals who are passionate can explore. According to the National Council of Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), several areas exist where people can work as therapeutic recreation specialists, consultants, and coordinators.

Adaptive Sports Instructor

This career path entails helping individuals with disabilities to engage in sports. They help to create a comfortable environment for these individuals to compete equally with others. They work with teams and individuals and may even become involved in the Paralympics.

Recreation Specialist

Recreation Specialists can work in various settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric facilities, and many other establishments. They help to plan and organize activities for clients and patients, working with other healthcare professionals to create a safe and stimulating environment.

Activity Coordinator

Just like the Recreation Specialist, the Activity Coordinator works in different settings, such as nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and community clubs. They organize activities that cater to the daily needs of patients and clients while ensuring everyone is entertained and engaged.

Art Therapist

Art therapy is a field that involves working closely with clients who are in need of emotional support and guidance. The Art Therapist uses art projects and other artistic mediums to help people work through their concerns, provide directions for recovery, and enable personal growth.

Outdoor Assistant Instructor

These are individuals whose primary job is outdoors and focuses on recreational activities. They work in outdoor education facilities, promote outdoor adventure, and help individuals with physical, emotional, or learning disabilities to participate fully in these outdoor activities.

Hospital Recreation Worker

The Hospital Recreation Worker works within a medical institution and helps patients to feel normal and entertained while undergoing treatment. The Hospital Recreation Worker can provide patients with games and activities to play, help to schedule social events, and conduct educational seminars to provide mental stimulation.

Volunteer Coordinator

The Volunteer Coordinator monitors and recruits volunteers, creates programs and events, and manages a database to track volunteer operations. They coordinate and organize volunteers to function effectively towards the common goal of the project.

No Note
1 Therapeutic Recreation has a vast number of career opportunities
2 Art therapy is a field that involves working closely with clients who are in need of emotional support and guidance
3 The Hospital Recreation Worker works within a medical institution and helps patients to feel normal and entertained while undergoing treatment

FAQ: Therapeutic Recreation Careers

Frequently Asked Questions about Therapeutic Recreation Careers

1. What is therapeutic recreation?

Therapeutic recreation is the use of leisure activities to help people achieve physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

2. What kind of degree do I need to pursue a career in therapeutic recreation?

Typically, you will need a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or a related field like recreation and parks management, kinesiology, psychology or social work.

3. What kind of jobs are available in therapeutic recreation?

There are many different types of jobs in therapeutic recreation, including activity directors, recreation therapists, program coordinators, and leisure education specialists.

4. Will I be able to work with a specific type of population?

Yes, many therapeutic recreation careers allow you to specialize in working with specific populations such as children, seniors, or people with disabilities.

5. Is there a demand for therapeutic recreation professionals?

Yes, there is a growing demand for therapeutic recreation professionals as more and more people recognize the benefits of leisure activities for overall well-being.

6. What kind of skills do I need to be successful in a therapeutic recreation career?

Communication, creativity, patience, and empathy are all important skills in therapeutic recreation.

7. What is the average salary for someone in a therapeutic recreation career?

The average salary for someone in a therapeutic recreation career can vary depending on the job role, geographic location, and years of experience.

8. What kind of organizations hire therapeutic recreation professionals?

Healthcare facilities, community centers, camps, assisted living facilities, and schools are just a few of the types of organizations that hire therapeutic recreation professionals.

9. Is there room for advancement in a therapeutic recreation career?

Yes, there is room for advancement in a therapeutic recreation career. You can move up to higher-level positions or specialize in a particular area of therapeutic recreation.

10. How do I get started in a therapeutic recreation career?

The first step is to get a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or a related field. Then, you can look for internships or entry-level positions to gain experience.

11. What are some common misconceptions about therapeutic recreation?

One common misconception is that therapeutic recreation is just about having fun. While leisure activities are an important part of therapeutic recreation, it’s about using those activities to help people achieve specific goals.

12. Will I need to get licensed or certified to work in therapeutic recreation?

It depends on the state you plan to work in and the specific job you want. Many states require recreation therapists to be certified, but this requirement varies by state.

13. Can I work in therapeutic recreation part-time?

Yes, there are many part-time positions available in therapeutic recreation.

14. What kind of equipment will I need to work in therapeutic recreation?

The equipment needed will depend on your job and the specific population you work with. Generally, you will need tools to facilitate various leisure activities.

15. Will I need to work evenings or weekends in a therapeutic recreation career?

Yes, many therapeutic recreation jobs require evening and weekend work since that’s when leisure activities typically take place.

16. Will I be able to work remotely in a therapeutic recreation career?

It’s possible to work remotely in some aspects of therapeutic recreation such as leisure education, but it’s less common than in other industries.

17. What is the difference between recreational therapy and therapeutic recreation?

Recreational therapy is specifically used in the healthcare industry, while therapeutic recreation can be applied in many other settings.

18. Is it possible to work abroad in a therapeutic recreation career?

Yes, there are opportunities to work abroad in therapeutic recreation, especially with international camps or community programs.

19. What kind of professional development opportunities are there in therapeutic recreation?

There are many professional development opportunities in therapeutic recreation through conferences, workshops, and continuing education courses.

20. Will I be able to make a difference in people’s lives through a therapeutic recreation career?

Absolutely. Therapeutic recreation professionals can have a significant positive impact on people’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

21. What kind of impact is the aging population having on the demand for therapeutic recreation professionals?

As the aging population grows, the demand for therapeutic recreation professionals who work with seniors is increasing.

22. Are there options to work as a freelance therapeutic recreation professional?

It’s less common to work as a freelance therapeutic recreation professional unless you specialize in leisure education or consulting. However, there are opportunities to work as an independent contractor.

23. What kind of organizations offer scholarships for therapeutic recreation students?

There are many organizations that offer scholarships for therapeutic recreation students such as the National Recreation and Park Association Foundation and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association.

24. Can I work in therapeutic recreation if I have a criminal record?

It will depend on the type of offense and the specific job you want. However, many therapeutic recreation jobs require a background check, so it’s important to be upfront about your criminal record.

25. What are some unique therapeutic recreation techniques being used today?

Some unique techniques include nature-based therapies, adventure therapy, and creative arts therapies like music and art therapy.

If you’re interested in working in the field of therapeutic recreation, check out this article that explores the various therapeutic recreation careers that are available.

A Fond Farewell, Kind Reader

Thanks for taking the time to explore the world of therapeutic recreation careers. We hope you’ve discovered some new information and insights that will help guide your career path. Remember, this field offers a wide variety of rewarding opportunities to help improve the quality of life for others. Be sure to visit us again soon for more career tips and advice. Best of luck on your journey!

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