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Top 11 Recreational Therapist Certifications

This article will provide an overview of the most popular recreational therapist certifications, including requirements and benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 19 min read

Certifications are important for recreational therapists in the job market because they demonstrate that an individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe, effective recreational therapy services. Certifications also give employers confidence that a recreational therapist is up-to-date on the latest standards and practices of the profession. Additionally, certifications may be required by employers or state licensing boards in order to practice as a professional recreational therapist. Finally, certifications can help to distinguish an individual from other applicants when seeking employment as a recreational therapist.

The purpose of this article is to review some of the top certifications for Recreational Therapists and explain how they can help advance a recreational therapist's career.

What are Recreational Therapist Certifications?

Recreational therapist certification is a credential that recognizes an individual's expertise in the field of therapeutic recreation. This certification is awarded by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) after an individual has met certain educational, experience and testing requirements.

By obtaining recreational therapist certification, individuals demonstrate to employers, clients and other professionals that they have achieved a level of excellence in their field. It also serves as evidence that they have a comprehensive understanding of the principles and practices associated with therapeutic recreation services. In addition, it provides recognition for individuals who are committed to providing quality care to their clients.

The certification process includes completing an approved educational program, gaining professional experience working with clients, and passing a national examination. Once certified, individuals must maintain their credentials through continuing education and participation in professional development activities in order to remain current on developments in the field.

Recreational therapist certification can be beneficial for those looking to advance their careers or obtain higher paying positions. It can also help open doors to new opportunities such as teaching or consulting work. Certified professionals may also find it easier to secure insurance coverage for their services, which can make them more attractive to potential employers or clients. Ultimately, recreational therapist certification demonstrates a commitment to excellence and integrity that can be invaluable in helping individuals achieve their career goals.

Pro Tip: When considering recreational therapist certification, make sure you research the requirements for each state. Each state may have different regulations or requirements for licensure and certification, so it's important to understand what is needed to be eligible to practice in your particular state.

Related: What does a Recreational Therapist do?

Top 11 Recreational Therapist Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Recreational Therapists today.

1. Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS)

A Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) is a professional who specializes in providing recreation and leisure services to individuals with disabilities or illnesses. CTRSs are trained to assess the needs of their clients, plan and implement appropriate therapeutic recreation interventions, and evaluate the outcomes of those interventions. They also provide education and support to families, caregivers, and other professionals.

To become a CTRS, you must have a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or a related field from an accredited college or university, as well as at least 480 hours of supervised experience working with people with disabilities or illnesses. You must also pass the national certification exam administered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

The process of becoming a CTRS typically takes two to four years depending on your educational background and experience. Once you have met all the requirements for certification, you can apply for the NCTRC exam which costs $385. After passing the exam and meeting any additional state licensing requirements (if applicable), you will be awarded your CTRS credential.

2. Certified Recreational Therapist (CRT)

A Certified Recreational Therapist (CRT) is a professional who provides therapeutic recreation services to individuals with physical, mental, emotional, and/or social disabilities. The CRT works with individuals of all ages and abilities to improve their quality of life through leisure activities. This includes helping clients develop skills such as self-awareness, problem solving, communication, and decision making.

To become a Certified Recreational Therapist (CRT), you must first complete an accredited recreational therapy program at the bachelor’s or master’s degree level. After graduating from an accredited program, you must then pass the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) examination in order to become certified. The exam consists of both written and practical components and covers topics such as assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation, documentation, advocacy, safety/risk management, professional development/ethics and research/programming.

The cost associated with becoming a Certified Recreational Therapist (CRT) varies depending on the school you attend for your degree program as well as any additional fees associated with taking the NCTRC exam. Generally speaking though it will cost several thousand dollars to become certified.

Once you have completed your degree program and passed the NCTRC exam you will be able to use the title “Certified Recreational Therapist” or “Recreation Therapist” after your name. You may also be eligible for higher pay rates than non-certified therapists due to your increased qualifications.

3. Certified Activity Professional (CAP)

Certified Activity Professional (CAP) is a professional certification program offered by the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP). This certification is designed to recognize and validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities of activity professionals who work in long-term care settings. It provides recognition of excellence in the field of activities and leisure services.

It typically takes six months to one year to complete the CAP certification process. The process includes completing an application form, passing a written exam, and demonstrating competency in the field through a portfolio review. Applicants must also meet NCCAP's qualifications for professional experience and education.

The cost of obtaining CAP certification varies depending on the type of application chosen. A standard application costs $200, while an expedited application costs $300. Additional fees may be required for taking the exam or submitting a portfolio review.

Overall, obtaining Certified Activity Professional (CAP) certification is an important step towards becoming a qualified activity professional in long-term care settings. It demonstrates commitment to quality care and professionalism in the field of activities and leisure services.

4. Certified Leisure Professional (CLP)

Certified Leisure Professional (CLP) is a professional certification program offered by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). It is designed to recognize the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals who work in leisure services. The CLP credential is awarded to professionals who demonstrate mastery of core competencies in the field of leisure services.

The CLP program consists of four components: an online self-study course, an online assessment exam, a portfolio review, and a professional development plan. To earn the CLP credential, individuals must complete all four components within two years.

To get started with the CLP program, individuals must first register for the self-study course. This course covers topics such as recreation programming, facility management, risk management, budgeting and finance, personnel management, marketing and public relations, and legal issues. After completing the self-study course, individuals must pass an online assessment exam that tests their knowledge of the material covered in the course.

Once they have passed the assessment exam, individuals must submit a portfolio for review. This portfolio should include evidence that demonstrates their knowledge and experience in leisure services. Finally, applicants must develop a professional development plan outlining how they will continue to grow professionally in their field.

The cost of obtaining the CLP credential varies depending on which components are completed through NRPA or through another provider. The cost for completing all four components through NRPA is approximately $1125 USD ($575 for self-study course + $350 for assessment exam + $200 for portfolio review).

5. Certified Inclusive Recreation Specialist (CIRS)

Certified Inclusive Recreation Specialist (CIRS) is a certification program offered by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA). The CIRS certification is designed to provide recreation professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to create and deliver inclusive recreational programs that meet the needs of all participants.

The CIRS certification is a self-paced program, which typically takes about 8-12 hours to complete. It consists of four modules: Foundations of Inclusion, Accessibility, Universal Design for Learning, and Program Planning. Each module includes a quiz at the end to test comprehension.

To get certified as a CIRS, an individual must first register with NIRSA and pay the associated fee. After completing all four modules, they must pass all four quizzes with a score of 80% or higher in order to receive their certificate.

The cost for the CIRS certification varies depending on whether you are an NIRSA member or non-member. For NIRSA members, it costs $200; for non-members, it costs $250.

6. Certified Aquatic Therapist (CAT)

Certified Aquatic Therapist (CAT) is a professional certification that recognizes the expertise of aquatic therapists in providing safe and effective aquatic therapy services. It is designed to demonstrate a therapist’s knowledge and skill in aquatic therapy, as well as their commitment to professional excellence.

To become a Certified Aquatic Therapist, an individual must have completed a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical experience in aquatic therapy and passed the CAT examination. The exam consists of both written and practical components, testing the candidate’s knowledge and skills in areas such as anatomy and physiology, assessment techniques, therapeutic interventions, safety protocols, facility management, patient education, documentation and communication.

The cost for taking the CAT exam varies depending on location but typically ranges from $200-$400 USD. The exam must be taken at an approved testing center or online through an approved provider. Once the exam has been successfully completed, applicants will receive their official CAT certification from the Aquatic Therapy & Rehab Institute (ATRI).

The CAT certification is valid for two years from the date it was issued and can be renewed by completing continuing education credits or retaking the examination.

7. Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S)

A Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S) is a mental health professional who has met the qualifications set forth by the Association for Play Therapy (APT). These qualifications include completing a minimum of 500 hours of supervised play therapy experience, having a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, and passing an examination.

It typically takes two to three years to complete all of the requirements to become an RPT-S. To get started, you must first complete an APT approved educational program and obtain your master's degree in counseling or a related field. Once you have completed this step, you can then begin accumulating supervised play therapy experience. This experience should be obtained under the supervision of an APT approved supervisor. After completing 500 hours of supervised play therapy experience, you can then apply to take the RPT-S exam.

The cost for becoming an RPT-S varies depending on the educational program and other expenses associated with obtaining your master's degree and gaining supervised play therapy experience. Generally speaking, it will cost between $5,000-$10,000 USD to become an RPT-S.

8. National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)

The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) is a non-profit, independent certification organization that provides professional certification to qualified therapeutic recreation professionals. The NCTRC was established in 1981 to ensure the highest standards of professional practice in the field of therapeutic recreation.

To become certified, an individual must meet the educational and experience requirements set forth by the NCTRC and pass a written examination. The educational requirements include a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation or an equivalent degree from an accredited college or university, as well as supervised practicum experience. In addition, applicants must have at least one year of full-time paid work experience in the field of therapeutic recreation prior to taking the exam.

The process of obtaining certification typically takes between six months to one year depending on how quickly all required documents are submitted and reviewed by the NCTRC. Once all requirements have been met and approved, applicants can register for the exam which is offered twice a year at various locations throughout the United States.

The cost for taking the exam is $250 USD plus any applicable taxes and fees. Additionally, there is an annual renewal fee of $50 USD plus applicable taxes and fees to maintain certification status with the NCTRC.

9. American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor Certification

The American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor Certification is a certification program designed to teach individuals how to become certified lifeguard instructors. The program is designed to prepare individuals to teach the American Red Cross Lifeguarding course, which is a comprehensive training program for lifeguards.

The certification process typically takes around two days and consists of both classroom and in-water components. During the first day, participants will receive instruction on teaching strategies, risk management, course organization, and more. On the second day, participants will be tested on their knowledge of the material by demonstrating their ability to teach a sample lesson plan.

To get certified as an American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor, you must first complete an online application form and pay a fee of $200. Once your application has been accepted, you will need to attend an instructor training course that meets the requirements set out by the American Red Cross. After completing the instructor training course and passing all required tests, you will receive your certification card from the American Red Cross.

The cost of becoming an American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor varies depending on where you take your training course. Generally speaking, it can range from $250-$500 for two days of instruction and testing.

10. Adapted Physical Activity Certification (APAC)

Adapted Physical Activity Certification (APAC) is a certification for professionals who work with individuals with disabilities. It is designed to ensure that these professionals have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe and effective physical activity programming for individuals with disabilities.

The APAC certification requires applicants to complete 40 hours of coursework, pass an online exam, and complete a supervised practicum experience. The coursework covers topics such as adapted physical activity, motor development, exercise physiology, anatomy and kinesiology, disability studies, and program planning. The online exam consists of multiple-choice questions related to the topics covered in the coursework.

To get the APAC certification, applicants must first complete the required coursework and pass the online exam. Then they must complete a supervised practicum experience that involves working directly with individuals with disabilities. This practicum must be completed at an approved site under the supervision of an approved supervisor.

The cost of obtaining the APAC certification varies depending on where you take your courses and how much time it takes you to complete them. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500-$2000 or more depending on your specific circumstances.

11. Adventure Based Counseling Certification (ABCC).

Adventure Based Counseling Certification (ABCC) is a certification program for mental health professionals who wish to use adventure-based activities and experiential learning in their work. The ABCC program provides training and resources to help counselors and other mental health professionals incorporate adventure-based activities into their practice, with the goal of providing clients with an engaging, meaningful experience.

The ABCC program takes approximately two years to complete. It consists of three core components: an online course, a field practicum, and a written exam. The online course covers topics such as safety protocols, risk management strategies, group dynamics, counseling theory, and ethical considerations. During the field practicum, participants receive hands-on experience leading adventure-based activities with real clients. Finally, the written exam tests participants’ knowledge of the material covered in the course and practicum.

To get certified through the ABCC program, interested individuals must first apply for admission by submitting an application form and fee. After being accepted into the program, applicants must complete all three components within two years in order to become certified.

The cost of the ABCC certification varies depending on where you live and which organization you choose to pursue your certification through; however, it typically ranges from $500 - $2,000 USD.

Do You Really Need a Recreational Therapist Certificate?

The answer to whether or not you need a recreational therapist certificate depends on your goals and the requirements of the job you are seeking. If you are looking to work as a recreational therapist in a professional setting, then it is likely that the employer will require some form of certification. Depending on the state, this may mean that you need to complete an accredited program and obtain a certificate from an organization such as the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).

Recreational therapy is a field that is growing rapidly and becoming increasingly important in healthcare settings. The demand for certified therapists is growing each year, so having a certificate can help you stand out from other candidates. Having a certificate also provides evidence of your commitment to learning about therapeutic recreation and shows employers that you have taken the time to invest in your career.

In addition to providing evidence of your commitment, having a recreational therapist certificate can also give you access to additional resources, such as continuing education opportunities or specialized training programs. This can help keep your skills up-to-date and ensure that you remain current with best practices in the field. Furthermore, many states require therapists to be licensed in order to practice professionally; having a certificate can make this process easier by providing proof of completion of educational requirements.

Ultimately, whether or not you need a recreational therapist certificate will depend on what type of position you are seeking and what qualifications are necessary for it. However, having one can provide numerous benefits and show employers that you are committed to furthering your career in therapeutic recreation.

Related: Recreational Therapist Resume Examples

FAQs About Recreational Therapist Certifications

1. What certifications are available for recreational therapists?

Answer: The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) offers the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) certification, which is the highest level of certification in the field. Additionally, some states may offer additional licensure or certification options.

2. How do I become a certified recreational therapist?

Answer: To become a CTRS, you must meet certain educational and experience requirements, pass an exam, and pay an annual fee to maintain your certification. For more information on how to become certified, visit the NCTRC website.

3. How long does it take to become a certified recreational therapist?

Answer: The length of time to become certified depends on your current qualifications and experience level. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from one to three years to complete all of the requirements for certification.

4. Is recertification required for recreational therapists?

Answer: Yes, recertification is required every five years in order to maintain your CTRS status. You will need to complete continuing education credits and pay an annual fee in order to remain certified.

5. Are there any specialties within the field of recreational therapy?

Answer: Yes, there are several specialties within recreational therapy including gerontology, mental health/behavioral issues, physical disabilities/injuries, and aquatic therapy among others.

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