Recreational therapists, sometimes referred to as therapeutic recreation workers, plan and organize recreational activities such as games, arts and crafts, sports and drama to emphasize confidence building, enhance social skills, and help lessen the effects of an illness or injury.
Recreational therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, residential facilities, behavioral health centers, adult daycare programs, correctional institutions, substance abuse centers, and a few are self-employed. They may work in conjunction with other medical professionals including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists. Recreational therapists often work with patients suffering from physical, mental or emotional disabilities to help them build confidence and social skills. They may conduct leisure activities, teach relaxation and stretching techniques, or plan field trips and recreational games. Recreational therapists observe patients and record their progress during therapy. In some settings, recreational therapists may be required to conduct activities in a swimming pool, a recreation room or on a playing field. They usually work a 40-hour week, which may include evenings and weekends. Recreational therapists are not the same as recreation workers, who organize recreational activities for enjoyment only.
Education: 4 years
Patient Interaction: High
Physical Activity: Medium
Job Growth: Medium
Respiratory Therapist (RT)/Certified (CRT)/Registered (RRT)
Rehabilitation Counselors/Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC)
Recreational Therapist/Registered (RRT/RTR)
Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)
Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)
Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC)
High school students should study the basic sciences, health and related classes. Students are required to complete a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from an accredited program. Course work includes human anatomy, physiology, psychology, traits of illnesses and disabilities, professional ethics, medical and psychiatric terminology, and the concept of helping patients read.
Madison Area Technical College
Mount Mary College
University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
University of Wisconsin – Madison
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
University of Wisconsin – Superior
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
Society of Health and Physical Educators
1900 Association Dr.
Reston, VA, 20191-1598
703/476-3400 or 800/213-7193
American Art Therapy Association
4875 Eisenhower Avenue, Suite 240
Alexandria, VA, 22304
888/290-0878 or 703/548-5860
American Music Therapy Association, Inc
8455 Colesville Rd, Suite 1000
Silver Spring, MD, 20910
American Therapeutic Recreation Association
629 N. Main St.
Hattiesburg, MS, 39401
National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification
7 Elmwood Dr.
New City, NY, 10956
National Recreation and Park Association
22377 Belmont Ridge Rd.
Ashburn, VA, 20148-4501
703/858-0784 or 800/626-NRPA (6772)
Society for Public Health Education
10 G St., NE, Suite 605
Washington, DC, 20002
Wisconsin Health and Physical Education
University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
1725 State Street
La Crosse, WI, 54601
608/785-8175 or 800/441-4568
Wisconsin Park and Recreation Association
6737 W. Washington Ave., Suite 1300
Milwaukee, WI, 53214
Number Employed in 2014 (Wisconsin): 290
Number Employed in 2014 (U.S.): 18,600
Expected Employment in 2024 (U.S.): 20,900
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 12%
Expected Annual Openings: 660
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $36,400
Salary information is located at Career One Stop
Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.