Activities Coordinator Certification and Degree Program Information
Activities coordinators, also known as activities directors, implement, oversee and conduct recreational, physical and individual activities programs for individuals in assisted-living facilities, such as nursing homes or adult day care centers. Coordinators initiate protocols, utilize community resources and organize individual or group events. Others pursue restorative and therapeutic occupations as recreational therapists.
Certification Programs for Activities Coordinators
Certification is not mandatory in this field, but could prove beneficial for career opportunities or advancement. The National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) offers voluntary certification for activity directors, specialists and consultants. Recreational therapists could earn optional professional certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Preparatory time for qualification depends on the type of education and amount of work experience required.
Requirements can include a high school diploma or its equivalent, an associate, bachelor's or master's degree in a related field, college credits in relevant subjects or previous work experience, depending on the certification option. Candidates can apply for certain certification programs while earning a degree or working in the field, though some require completion of a degree program for qualification. Professionals might need to to participate in specialized education courses or internships overseen by certified supervisors.
The certifying organization determines specific educational and course requirements for each level, and degree requirements don't always specify a particular field of study. NCCAP credentials require all candidates to complete the 16-week Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals that covers activity planning and coordination for adults, families and seniors. Students seeking both NCCAP and NCTRC certification should consider degree programs that offer coursework in:
- English and communication
- Psychology and sociology
- Recreational counseling
- Exercise therapy and first aid
Activities coordinators often work with the elderly or infirm in various settings, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and mental hospitals. Careers options include:
- Nursing home activities director
- Geriatric recreation director
- Recreational therapist
- Activities consultant
Continuing Education Information
Credentials offered by both NCCAP and NCTRC require certified professionals to complete continuing education courses to maintain a certification. Depending on the credential held, 20-50 hours of continued training must be submitted either annually or biannually, and certain restrictions about the type of training might apply. Additionally, a renewal fee is typically required for all certifications.
Associate Degree Programs
Students with a high school diploma who wish to become activities coordinators could earn associate degrees in therapeutic recreation, recreation therapy or gerontology. Students receive training in providing recreational assistance to those with physical, sociological and psychological disabilities. These programs take approximately two years to complete and are generally offered on-campus due to the clinical training and hands-on experience required.
Coursework requirements vary by school and specialty. Programs designed for activities professionals might focus on geriatric topics and fitness issues related to aging populations. Gerontology programs offer more healthcare-related curricula, covering age-related illnesses and diseases. Therapeutic recreation courses evaluate psychological effects of exercise, lifestyle readjustment and human development. Many programs in these fields include the following courses and requirements:
- Public speaking
- Social work
- Recreation leadership
In addition to working with the elderly, graduates can find employment at adult day care centers, group homes, substance abuse treatment centers or penal institutions. Job titles can include:
- Activities director
- Therapeutic recreation specialist
- Senior care specialist
- Juvenile outreach coordinator
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Bachelor's degree majors typically focus on recreational therapy. Educational prerequisites vary, though most require only a high school diploma. These degree programs usually take four years to complete and often include an internship or fieldwork. Some schools might require certification from the NCTRC to participate in clinical settings. Licensure could also be required for practical experience portions of the program, and applicants are encouraged to check with the school or contact state medical boards.
Programs typically combine didactic instruction with practical training through internships and lab work. Course topics often include:
- Leisure recreation
- Group dynamics
- Developmental psychology
- Recreational programming
- Therapeutic recreation research
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the recreational therapy field is competitive; however, job growth for recreational therapists, who usually need college degrees, was expected to increase 17% between 2010 and 2020. Recreation workers, who may find part-time jobs without degrees, could expect 19% growth (www.bls.gov) during that same time. The BLS also stated that individuals with bachelor's degrees and NCTRC certification might fare best in the job market. According to BLS salary statistics, the average annual wage for recreational therapists was approximately $44,280 in 2012, and recreation workers earned $25,430.
Continuing Education and Licensure
Recreational therapists could decide to obtain master's degrees for more intensive training and career advancement. Master's degree programs typically take two years to complete, but some truncate the program for applicants with bachelor's degrees in therapeutic recreation.
Only a few states required licensure for recreational therapists in 2010. Licensure requirements vary by state, but candidates might need a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited college or university, internship experience and passing scores on a state-approved certification or licensing exam.
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