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Career profile Recreational Therapist

Also known as Activity Coordinator, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), General Activities Therapist, Recreation Therapist, Recreational Therapist, Rehabilitation Therapist, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist

Recreational Therapist

Also known as Activity Coordinator, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), General Activities Therapist

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Artistic
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$31,450 - $79,250 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Service Orientation
  • Coordination
Knowledge Areas
  • Psychology
  • Therapy and Counseling
  • Customer and Personal Service
Core tasks
  • Obtain information from medical records, medical staff, family members and the patients, themselves, to assess patients' capabilities, needs and interests.
  • Conduct therapy sessions to improve patients' mental and physical well-being.
  • Plan, organize, direct, and participate in treatment programs and activities to facilitate patients' rehabilitation, help them integrate into the community, and prevent further medical problems.
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What does a Recreational Therapist do?

Recreational Therapists plan, direct, or coordinate medically-approved recreation programs for patients in hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutions.

In addition, Recreational Therapists

  • activities include sports, trips, dramatics, social activities, and crafts,
  • may assess a patient condition and recommend appropriate recreational activity.

What kind of tasks does a Recreational Therapist perform regularly?

Recreational Therapists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Obtain information from medical records, medical staff, family members and the patients, themselves, to assess patients' capabilities, needs and interests.
  • Conduct therapy sessions to improve patients' mental and physical well-being.
  • Plan, organize, direct, and participate in treatment programs and activities to facilitate patients' rehabilitation, help them integrate into the community, and prevent further medical problems.
  • Observe, analyze, and record patients' participation, reactions, and progress during treatment sessions, modifying treatment programs as needed.
  • Confer with members of treatment team to plan and evaluate therapy programs.
  • Instruct patient in activities and techniques, such as sports, dance, music, art, or relaxation techniques, designed to meet their specific physical or psychological needs.
  • Develop treatment plan to meet needs of patient, based on needs assessment, patient interests, and objectives of therapy.
  • Encourage clients with special needs and circumstances to acquire new skills and get involved in health-promoting leisure activities, such as sports, games, arts and crafts, and gardening.
  • Prepare and submit reports and charts to treatment team to reflect patients' reactions and evidence of progress or regression.
  • Counsel and encourage patients to develop leisure activities.
  • Develop discharge plans for patients.

The above responsibilities are specific to Recreational Therapists. More generally, Recreational Therapists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Scheduling Work and Activities
Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.

What is a Recreational Therapist salary?

The median salary for a Recreational Therapist is $47,710, and the average salary is $51,260. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Recreational Therapist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Recreational Therapists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Recreational Therapists earn less than $31,450 per year, 25% earn less than $37,570, 75% earn less than $62,440, and 90% earn less than $79,250.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Recreational Therapists is expected to change by 10.6%, and there should be roughly 1,900 open positions for Recreational Therapists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$31,450 - $79,250
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Recreational Therapists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Recreational Therapist are usually higher in their Social and Artistic interests.

Recreational Therapists typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Recreational Therapists typically have moderate Artistic interests. Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Recreational Therapist tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Independence.

Most importantly, Recreational Therapists very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Recreational Therapists strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Recreational Therapists moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Recreational Therapists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as adaptability/flexibility, integrity, and concern for others.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Recreational Therapists, ranked by importance:

Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.

What education and training do Recreational Therapists need?

Many Recreational Therapists will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Recreational Therapists usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Recreational Therapists

  • 2.2% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 15.5% completed high school or secondary school
  • 9.7% completed some college coursework
  • 4.8% earned a Associate's degree
  • 53.2% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 12.9% earned a Master's degree
  • 1.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Recreational Therapists

Recreational Therapists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as psychology, therapy and counseling, or customer and personal service knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Recreational Therapists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Sociology and Anthropology
Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures, and their history and origins.

Important Abilities needed by Recreational Therapists

Recreational Therapists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Recreational Therapists need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Recreational Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Critical Skills needed by Recreational Therapists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Recreational Therapists frequently use skills like social perceptiveness, service orientation, and coordination to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Recreational Therapists, ranked by their relative importance.

Social Perceptiveness
Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Service Orientation
Actively looking for ways to help people.
Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.