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How to Become a Certified Activities Director in Pennsylvania

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Activity directors create and manage a wide variety of recreational activities for such audiences as residents of nursing homes, students in residential schools and passengers on cruise ships. Those who work in nursing homes typically arrange activities such as water aerobics, bingo, and special day trips for the elderly residents in their care. It is not a requirement that activity directors in Pennsylvania be certified through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP), though such certification can give an applicant a competitive edge.

Visit the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Health to learn state requirements for certification. There, state regulations only require activity directors to either be a therapeutic recreation specialist or have two years of experience in a social or recreational program within the last five years, one year of which was full-time in a patient activities program in a health-care setting.

Meet the education qualifications to be certified by the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP), which provides the only professional certification recognized by most employers in Pennsylvania. Earn first a high school diploma or GED, and enroll in classes to achieve a bachelor's degree in social work, therapeutic recreation or recreation if you wish to make yourself eligible for positions in hospitals or health-care clinics. Certification applicants can hold bachelor’s degrees in a variety of fields, including science, business and communications. Review the website of the Pennsylvania Activity Professional Association (PAPA) for seminars and other educational opportunities that can be credited toward your NCCAP certification requirements.

Update your vaccinations, and keep them current. Pennsylvania requires its health-care providers to follow the Center for Disease Control’s schedule of recommendations for adult immunizations. Consult the requirements of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for a complete list. The state’s vaccination requirements include influenza, pneumonia, tetanus, tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

Earn between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of activity experience working with elderly residents within a five-year period. Once you have done so, complete and mail the NCCAP application and pay a $40 processing fee and application fee (ranging from $60 to $80), as of the time of publication. Follow the NCCAP guidelines on continuing education to maintain your certification.


Background checks are required of applicants. You must be at least 18, free of felony convictions, and speak, read, write and understand English.


Angela Campbell began writing professionally in 1997 for Easley Publications in Easley, SC, and later for Gannett newspaper properties. A graduate of the University of South Carolina's mass communications and journalism program, she has won numerous South Carolina State Press Association awards for spot news reporting, business reporting, feature writing, photography and page design.

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