Using leisure activities to help people recover from injuries or cope with disabilities is a noble career goal, but you'll want to determine the employment outlook for recreational therapy jobs before signing up for your bachelor's. Recreational therapists are certified treatment specialists who customize interventions based on clients' needs. They'll use creative arts, music, aquatics, outdoor recreation, and social skills games to improve individuals' progress toward established goals. Recreational therapists are more than just fitness workers who collaborate closely with licensed physicians for medically-sound treatment that builds self-esteem with strength. CNN Money ranked rec therapy as America's #9 "Best Job for Saving the World." Since your future livelihood isn't a game, check out the job prospects you can expect from becoming a recreational therapist.
Hiring Outlook for Recreational Therapists
Client demand for recreation therapy has grown steadily as the aging U.S. population needs help remaining active despite health concerns like osteoporosis and stroke. Therapy is popular for older adults to stay independent and have shorter hospital visits. Rising prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease makes exercise programs necessary. Recreational therapists also work with returning military who suffer from PTSD, amputation, and other scars to reintegrate into civilian life. The VA alone planned 300 million therapeutic recreation activities for veterans in 2016. Therefore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for recreational therapists will jump by 12 percent, or 2,200 positions, before 2024 for faster-than-average growth.
Where Recreational Therapists Find the Most Jobs
The workforce of recreational therapists in the United States will expand from 18,600 to 20,900 in the next decade. California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Massachusetts report the field's highest employment levels. Note that New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah require special licensing. Thirty-five percent of therapeutic recreation jobs are found in local, private, and state hospitals with recovering patients. Another large group specializes in gerontology to work in residential nursing care facilities with clients aged 55 and older. Other hiring workplaces include ambulatory centers, retirement communities, gyms, parks services, addiction treatment facilities, home healthcare, and PreK-12 schools. Approximately one in four recreational therapists works part-time with evening or weekend hours.
Steps to Qualify for Recreational Therapy Jobs
Practicing as a recreational therapist requires graduating with at least a bachelor's degree, preferably from a college accredited under the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Majors in therapeutic recreation, leisure studies, recreational counseling, and recreation management are expected. Approved rec therapy programs will include the supervised, 560-hour internship mandated for certification. Select courses in anatomy, disability studies, physical assessment, and medical terminology too. At graduation, apply for the NCTRC Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist distinction. You'll have to pay the $100 professional eligibility review fee before getting cleared to take the 90-question certification exam. Maintenance of the CTRS credential requires continuing education every five years.
Patient, compassionate individuals with excellent leadership skills and a passion for recreation could excel with this helping profession's double-digit job growth. Recreational therapists are increasingly hired to arrange client-specific activities for physical, emotional, and social well-being enhancement. The BLS reports that recreational therapists are rewarded with a mean annual wage of $48,190, or $23.17 per hour. Now that you know the employment outlook for recreational therapy jobs is sunny, you can consider your next move to counsel clients with fun.