How to Become a Certified Activities Director: Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a certified activities director. Research the job description and the education and certification requirements and find out how to start a career as a certified activities director.
Certified Activities Director Requirements
Certified activities directors most commonly design and implement activities for elderly populations. These activities may be physical, social or cognitive, and support health and general wellbeing. When designing activity programs, activities directors must stick to a budget. They must also recruit and supervise employees and volunteers. Certified activities directors may work in senior centers, retirement homes or adult day care facilities. They typically earn an associate's degree, although some certifications may require a bachelor's degree. The following table outlines the main requirements for certified activities directors:
|Degree Level||An associate's or bachelor's degree may be required*|
|Degree Field||Leisure studies or a related field*; a degree or coursework in therapeutic recreation may be required for certification**|
|Certification||Individuals can become certified through the National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification or the National Certification Counsel for Activity Professionals**|
|Experience||Up to five years of experience may be necessary***|
|Key Skills||Certified activities directors should have strong leadership, communication and problem-solving skills*|
|Computer Skills||Experience with record-keeping, word processing and spreadsheet software may be helpful****|
|Technical Skills||Certified activities directors should have some first aid skills and may use first aid kits****|
|Additional Requirements||A background check or drug screening may be necessary***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification and the National Certification Counsel for Activity Professionals, ***Monster.com job postings from November 2012, ****O Net OnLine.
Step 1: Earn a College Degree
Although educational requirements vary for certified activities directors, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that typically an associate's or bachelor's degree is necessary. Additionally, certain pathways to certification require a bachelor's degree, while others call for at least some college coursework. Some community colleges offer activities director programs resulting in the awarding of an associate's degree. However, for purposes of certification through the National Certification Counsel for Activity Professionals, the specific major is not important as long as course requirements are met. Certain coursework must be completed to qualify for certification, such as taking courses in English, art, science or management.
For individuals who wish to become certified through the National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, a bachelor's degree is required. While students do not necessarily need to major in therapeutic recreation, at least some coursework in the subject is required. Students in therapeutic recreation programs may complete coursework in psychology, sociology, leisure education, treatment interventions, research methods and recreation programming.
- Develop important communication skills. Activities directors are required to communicate activity instructions to others as well as direct assistants and volunteers. Students in degree programs may take this time to hone their communication skills by working collaboratively and by taking courses with strong writing components.
Step 2: Earn Certification
Certification is offered by the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) as well as the National Counsel for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Certification may show employers that a person has met a certain level of professionalism and is able to offer quality activity services. Additionally, some employers require certification for employment.
For individuals who wish to earn the Activities Director Certified (ADC) designation from the NCCAP, one of the most important steps will be to complete a Modular Education Program for Activities Professionals (MEPAP). These programs are offered through community colleges and online. There are two levels of MEPAP. Those who have some college credits may be required to complete both, while those who have sufficient college credits may only need to complete one. In addition to completion of a MEPAP, applicants with a bachelor's degree must complete at least 4,000 hours of activity work with elderly populations within the past five years to qualify for certification. Individuals with an associate's degree or college credits must complete at least 6,000 hours. Applicants are also required to complete 30 hours of continuing education over the past five years and take a certification exam.
Another certification option for activities directors is offered by the NCTRC. Applicants for this credential must hold a bachelor's degree. For applicants with a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation, experience in a field placement program is also required for eligibility. For applicants with bachelor's degrees in other subjects, some coursework in therapeutic recreation is necessary, as well as 1-5 years of professional experience. Applicants must successfully complete a base examination of 90 questions in addition to several testlets consisting of 15 questions each to become certified.
Step 3: Renew Certification
In order to continue to work as a certified activities director, an individual must take the proper steps to renew his or her certification. The ADC credential from the NCCAP must be renewed every two years by completing 30 hours of continuing education. Certification through the NCTRC must be renewed every five years. On one path to recertification, an activities director must complete 480 hours of professional work experience and 50 hours of continuing educations. Alternatively, individuals may recertify by reapplying and retaking the certification exam.
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