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Recreational Therapists - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Therapists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions. Some teach, conduct research, or consult for health or social services agencies.

Recreational therapists held about 23,300 jobs in 2008. About 24 percent were in nursing care facilities. Others worked primarily in hospitals, residential care facilities, and State and local government agencies.

Job Outlook
Employment is projected to grow faster than the average. Applicants will face competition for jobs.

Job Growth
Employment of recreational therapists is expected to increase 15 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will stem from the therapy needs of the aging population. With age comes an inevitable decrease in physical ability and, in some cases, mental ability, which can be limited or managed with recreation therapy. In nursing care facilities—the largest industry employing recreational therapists—employment will grow faster than the occupation as a whole as the number of older adults continues to grow.

Employment growth in schools will result from the expansion of the school-age population and the federally funded extension of services for disabled students.

Reimbursement for recreational therapy services will continue to affect how and where therapeutic recreation is provided. As payers and employers try to contain costs, recreation therapy services will shift to outpatient settings and away from hospitals.

Recreational therapists will experience competition for jobs. Lower paid recreational therapy aides may be increasingly used in an effort to contain costs. Job opportunities should be best for people with a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation and the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist credential. Recreational therapists might experience more competition for jobs in certain regions of the country as jobs in therapeutic recreation tend to cluster in more densely populated areas.

Median annual wages of recreational therapists were $38,370 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,660 and $49,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,150, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,280.

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