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Activity Director Certification Requirements

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Exercise, bingo and field trips -- an activity director might schedule, organize and participate in any of those activities. Retirement homes, adult day care centers and skilled nursing facilities often employee an activity director to organize activities for their residents or clients. Two types of certifications are available for this occupation.

Making Leisure Interesting

The aging baby boomer generation has created a demand for senior care services as many move into retirement homes or nursing care facilities. Developmentally delayed adults also benefit from structured activities provided by an activity director. Although each state regulates activity directors and educational requirements vary from one state to another, they typically have an associate or bachelor’s degree in a field such as gerontology or occupational therapy. Their focus is on designing leisure activities for people who are confined to care homes or who live in a retirement home.

Certification Basics

Certificate programs available from community colleges and universities provide basic education in recreational therapy. Programs vary from one state and institution to another. In Oregon, for example, initial certificates are state-approved, short-term credentials. Course work can be applied toward a one-year certificate program, which offers more extensive training. Portland Community College certificates can also be applied to an associate degree in gerontology. At Harper College, in Illinois, a student can complete a 36-hour certificate program to qualify as an activity director in long-term care. This sort of certificate program is often available online.

Going for the Nationals

National certification for activity directors is available from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals. The NCCAP offers four different tracks for certification, with varying requirements based on education and experience. All applicants must complete the Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals and take an exam to become certified. Those with a bachelor’s degree need less experience to take the exam than those with an associate degree or college experience without a degree. Professional experience requirements range from 4,000 to 6,000 hours within the five years preceding the exam. Continuing education prior to certification is also required. The initial fee for certification for an activity director was $70 as of 2014, according to the NCCAP.

Recertification and Specialization

Once certified, an activity director must maintain her certification. Recertification is required every two years. The activity director needs 30 hours of approved continuing education to recertify. A $50 recertification fee is required. In addition to the national certification, activity directors have the option to become certified in four specialty areas: Specialization in Assisted Living, Specialization in Memory Care, Specialization in Adult Day Programs, and Specialization in Educating.


Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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