Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) | HER | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Education and Human Services

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS)

In addition to earning a Bachelor of Science, graduates also have the opportunity to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) a nationally recognized certification for therapeutic recreation professionals from the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Please visit www.nctrc.org for more information.

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Curriculum Requirement


All students majoring in recreation at SIU Carbondale are required to complete two field experiences and an internship with a professional recreation agency. Field experiences are usually arranged with local agencies, but may also be approved off-campus during the summer months.

The internship, a more formal relationship, is a semester-long, full-time experience, often with a salary or stipend; students are chosen on their merits. Our students have completed internships with Chicago Rehabilitation Institute, Veterans Administration hospitals, Illinois Children's Research Hospital, among others. Our students gain first-hand experience by doing field work under the supervision of trained recreation professionals who may assist in future job searches.

The need for Certified Recreation Therapist

For decades, recreation therapy has been recognized as a valuable profession within health care and human services. Today the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) exemplifies the profession's dedication to quality standards and professional excellence. There are nearly 30,000 recreation therapists in the United States, with over 16,000 professionally certified by NCTRC.

As demand for recreation therapy increases from acute care hospitals to community living settings, the certification of increasing numbers of recreation therapists is expected to rise and provide the recognition of the important role that CTRSs play in today's healthcare arena.

Why Choose Certification

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists Salary
The median expected salary for a typical Recreational Therapist in the United States is $48,311. This basic market pricing report was prepared using our Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes, industries, and geographies.

The median expected salary for a typical Recreational Therapy Director in the United States is $88,689. This basic market pricing report was prepared using our Certified Compensation Professionals' analysis of survey data collected from thousands of HR departments at employers of all sizes, industries, and geographies.

  • Low Unemployment rate: 2.6%
  • Low Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4%
  • Median salary: $62,000
  • Median salary for recent grads: $60,400
  • Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 33%
    While physical therapists typically need a doctorate degree, respiratory, radiation and recreational therapists make the big bucks on a B.A. alone. Recent grads start off at $60,400, one of the highest salaries on our list. Radiation therapists, for example, stand to make $75,000, the national median for that particular therapy field, after a few years. Treatment therapy programs generally include anatomy and physiology courses, as well as chemistry, physics, and pharmacology. Regardless of specialty, most therapists work in hospitals or nursing homes.

CRTS Are Beneficial to Employers

The employment of a CTRS enhances the healthcare consumer's receipt of professionally delivered recreation therapy. The CTRS is well trained to significantly contribute to the therapeutic delivery system. It is well documented that CTRSs increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of routine care in comparison to noncertified individuals.

In healthcare settings where professional credentials and training are the benchmarks of quality, the CTRS is recognized as the highest level of certification within recreation therapy, providing value-added services that include:

  • Recognition as a rehabilitative service covered by governmental regulatory agencies and third-party payers
  • Extensive knowledge and skill-based training to enhance quality of care
  • Organized and team-oriented approach to care delivery
  • Multi-functional and diversified skill base to reach a wider spectrum of consumers
  • Training in group-oriented processes to enhance cost-effectiveness and efficiencies in service delivery
  • Ability to handle greater professional responsibilities and authority

Training and demonstrated abilities in core therapy skills including assessment, planning, implementation, documentation, and evaluation. (Job Tasks of the CTRS; https://www.nctrc.org/documents/5JobAnalysis.pdf)

Certified Therapeutic Recreation specialists work in a wide array of settings, including:

  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care or skilled nursing facilities
  • Parks and Recreation Districts
  • Wilderness Settings
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities
  • Mental  Health Facilities
  • And many other human service agencies....

What types of people are served by Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists?

  • Older adults – People who live in nursing homes, assisted living, senior centers
  • Children – Children who are patients in pediatric hospitals, or on units with TR and Child Life Departments
  • Adolescents – Teens who are in Youth Development Programs, are hospitalized or enrolled in drug abuse centers
  • Adults – Adults who are patients of mental health services, including addictions units
  • People who need physical rehabilitation because of a diagnosis of:
    • Spinal cord injury
    • Brain injury
    • Cancer
    • Neuromuscular disorders
    • Stroke
  • People who live in correctional settings but also have a diagnosis of an illness or disability such as a:
    • Psychiatric problem
    • Developmental disability
  • People  who live in the community and need to be included in programs
  • Students who receive special education
  • People who have been diagnosed with Developmental Disabilities/Intellectual Disabilities
  • Wounded Warriors

10 Best College Majors for a Lucrative Career

(Kiplinger Finance Magazine, August 2012, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-best-college-majors-for-a-lucrative-career.html)

Kiplinger analyzed the unemployment rates and salaries for graduates of the 100 most popular college majors, using data from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce and Payscale.com.