Play therapists, or recreational therapists, use play therapy to teach educational, physical, behavioral, emotional and social skills to children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Play therapists need to complete a bachelor's or master's degree in therapeutic recreation. In some states, recreational therapists must be licensed by the state before working with patients. Many facilities prefer play therapists to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification. Median annual wages of all play therapists was $38,370 in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hospital Play Therapists
Play therapists in hospitals may work with children or adults who are in hospital rehabilitation programs or those who are dealing with terminal illnesses. Play therapists in hospital settings earn a median wage of $42,201 as of 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those working in psychiatric hospitals earn a median wage of $40,150.
Government Agency Play Therapists
Play therapists who work for social service agencies work with children and adults who participate in these social services. These play therapists may meet with clients in an office or provide in-home services. Play therapists working for the government earn a median wage of $40,310, as of 2008.
Geriatric Play Therapists
Play therapists who work with geriatric patients may work in nursing homes or elderly daycare facilities. Those who work in nursing homes earn a median annual wage of $33,920, while those who work in community day care settings earn a median annual wage of $33,490.
To become a certified recreational therapist, you need to complete a degree in recreational therapy and obtain passing scores of the NCTRC Exam. Those who have five years of work experience in therapeutic recreation and at least 18 credit hours in recreational therapy may also qualify to take the certification exam. This exam is offered 3 times each year in January, May and October.
2016 Salary Information for Recreational Therapists
Recreational therapists earned a median annual salary of $46,410 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, recreational therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,570, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,680, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,200 people were employed in the U.S. as recreational therapists.