Health Occupations
& Technology

Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

To be a successful Therapeutic Recreation Specialist you should…

  • have a strong interest in helping others
  • have the ability to inspire respect, trust, and confidence
  • enjoy working independently and as part of a team

What will my job be like?

Therapeutic recreation specialists plan, direct, or coordinate medically approved recreation programs for patients in hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutions. Activities include sports, trips, dramatics, social activities, and arts and crafts. The therapeutic recreation specialist may assess a patient condition and recommend appropriate recreational activity.

Therapeutic recreation specialists help individuals reduce depression, stress, and anxiety. They also help individuals recover basic motor functioning and reasoning abilities, build confidence, and socialize effectively to enable greater independence, and reduce or eliminate the effects of illness or disability. They help integrate people with disabilities into the community by helping them use community resources and recreational activities.

Where could I work?

Health care facilities will provide a growing number of jobs in hospital-based adult day care and outpatient programs and in units offering short-term mental health and alcohol or drug abuse services. Recreational therapists provide services in special activity rooms but also plan activities and prepare documentation in offices. When working with clients during community integration programs, they may travel locally to instruct clients on the accessibility of public transportation and other public areas such as parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, restaurants, and theaters.

Other workplace settings:

  • Mental Health Agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Child and Adult Day Care Facilities

What is the average annual salary?


What is the future of this career?

Employment of recreational therapists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations, according to the BLS.

About 1,900 openings for recreational therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

What type of education and/or training do I need?

A bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation, or in recreation with a concentration in therapeutic recreation, is the usual requirement for entry-level positions. Persons may qualify for paraprofessional positions with an associate degree in therapeutic recreation or a health care-related field. An associate degree in recreational therapy; training in art, drama, or music therapy; or qualifying work experience may be sufficient for activity director positions in nursing homes.

Most employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS).

Where can I get the education and/or training?

  • Gateway Community College, East Hartford
  • Manchester Community College, Manchester
  • Middlesex Community College, Middletown
  • Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven

Do I need a license or certification for this career?

Licensure is not required in the state of Connecticut.

Where can I get more information?

American Therapeutic Recreation Association
25 Century Boulevard, Suite 505
Nashville, TN
(703) 234-4140