Recreational Therapist Jobs

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Recreational therapists hold about 25,000 jobs. About 70 percent of these jobs are in nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals. Others work in State and local government agencies and in community care facilities for the elderly, including assisted-living facilities. The rest work primarily in residential mental retardation, mental health, and substance abuse facilities; individual and family services; Federal Government agencies; educational services; and outpatient care centers and only a small number of therapists are self-employed, generally contracting with long-term care facilities or community agencies to develop and oversee programs.

Overall employment of recreational therapists is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations and competition for jobs is expected. Employment of recreational therapists is expected to increase only four percent from 2006 to 2016, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment of recreational therapists will grow to meet the therapy needs of the increasing number of older adults. In nursing care facilities the largest industry employing recreational therapists employment will grow slightly faster than the occupation as a whole as the number of older adults continues to grow.

Fast employment growth is expected in the residential and outpatient settings that serve people who are physically disabled, cognitively disabled, or elderly or who have mental illness or substance abuse problems. Employment is expected to decline in hospitals, however, as services shift to outpatient settings and employers emphasize cost containment. Health care facilities will support a growing number of jobs in adult day care and outpatient programs offering short-term mental health and alcohol or drug abuse services. Rehabilitation, home health care, and transitional programs will provide additional jobs.

Recreational therapists will experience competition for jobs. Job opportunities should be best for people with a bachelor degree in therapeutic recreation or in recreation with courses in therapeutic recreation. Opportunities also should be good for therapists who hold specialized certifications such as aquatic therapy, meditation, or crisis intervention. Recreational therapists might experience more competition for jobs in certain regions of the country.

Median annual earnings of recreational therapists are about $35,000. The middle fifty percent earn between $27,000 and $45,000. The lowest ten percent earn less than $21,000, and the highest ten percent earn more than $55,500. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of recreational therapists are as follows: recreational therapist jobs in general medical and surgical hospitals pay around $39,500, jobs in State government facilities pay about $38,260, jobs in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals pay around $37,500, nursing care facilities pay about $30,500 while jobs in community care facilities for the elderly pay around $28,980. Recreational therapists primarily design activities to help people with disabilities lead more fulfilling and independent lives. Other workers who have similar jobs are occupational therapists, physical therapists, recreation workers, rehabilitation counselors, and special education teachers.