Are you creative and compassionate? Do you enjoy helping others? Most importantly, are you comfortable around ill and disabled individuals? If so, studies in recreational and therapeutic activities may be right for you.
Recreation has long been described as the activities that a person engages in during their leisure time. It used to mean a person doing activities that were classified as enjoyable and fun when he or she was off from work. However, recreation has taken on additional meaning in today's world. Now, recreation is looked at as an activity that not only is fun but is therapeutic for the mind and body, as well.
As a recreational therapist or recreational therapy aide, you may work with people who have varying disabilities and illnesses, using activities such as art, dance and games in order to improve their mental and physical well-being. Recreational therapists and aides can work for home health agencies, nursing homes, hospitals and clinics. Many recreational therapists travel locally to see their clients, often holding therapy sessions at parks, playgrounds and other public areas.
If you're interested in pursuing a career in recreational and therapeutic activities, you should expect favorable job prospects over the next several years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for recreational therapists is expected to grow by 15% over the 2008-2018 decade (www.bls.gov). However, you should expect job competition, especially if you plan to work in a highly populated city. The best opportunities are expected for those with a bachelor's degree, as well as individuals who hold a voluntary Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential.
There are many academic programs at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels that may prepare you to work in recreational therapy. Most entry-level positions in recreational therapy, though, will require at least a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation. As a student in this type of program, you may take courses in human anatomy and physiology, first aid, safety education, general psychology, individual and group counseling, kinesiology, motor behavior and recreation programming.
If you're interested in pursuing careers in administration, academia or research, you may benefit from earning a master's degree in recreational therapy. Programs at this level may include courses such as sports and activities management, risk management and legal liability, research methods in recreational therapy, psychopathology and clinical programming.