Should Rec Therapy require a Master’s degree to practice?


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Should RT require a Master’s degree as entry level?

I had the opportunity to attend a training session titled, “What next… is it time to move towards a master’s degree as an entry level degree [in recreational therapy] – is this the way to?”

This session was on Sun. Sept. 11, 2016 at the ATRA conference in the Chicago-area.

It was co-presented by several wonderful people, including:

  • Fran Stavola Daley, Ed.D., CTRS
  • Teresa Beck, D., CTRS
  • Deb Hutchins, Ed.D., CTRS
  • Anne Richard, M.S, CTRS; and
  • Candy Ashton, Ph.D., CTRS

And the big news is: NCTRC is now requiring a master’s degree. [JUST KIDDING, they didn’t say that].


They presented a chart to show what our allied professional require as an entry level position:


Nurses:                                                associates degree, bachelors, or master’s degree

Physical therapy:             moving to a doctorate

Occupational therapy:   masters or doctorate

Speech language:            masters (since 1965)

Social worker:                   bachelor or masters

Counselors:                        masters

Child Life                            moving from bachelors to masters

Art therapist:                     masters (since 70s)

Music Therapist:              bachelors: moving to masters

Dance/ movement therapist: masters

Drama therapist:              masters

Psychology:                        masters or doctorate

Rec therapy:                      bachelors


  • Please note: OT and PT make more than a psychologist who require a Ph.D. to practice.
  • Requring a master’s degree in Rec Therapy may not increase pay/ salary for RTs
  • A Master’s degree in Rec Therapy would provide greater protection to the public/ consumers of services.


  • One problem: Our profession lacks the current doctorates to teach courses to prepare students for a master’s degree.


Who would mandate that a master’s is required?

Anne Richards (with NCTRC) said that they are “glad to be on the bus [driving towards a master’s degree] but they aren’t going to be driving the bus.” NCTRC won’t mandate this.

The mission of NCTRC is to protect the public/ consumers by promoting quality.

The three things needed for practice consist of: skills to do the job, knowledge to do the job, and ability.

Those with a bachelor’s degree are trained in those three areas.

Danny Pettry comments:

There is a debate about requiring a master’s degree to practice Rec Therapy. Some argue because many of our allied professionals require an advanced degree to practice.

I personally think that a bachelor’s degree to practice is right for rec therapy (at least right now). Here are a few reasons why I think this:

  • Affordability of degree: there are many people (students) who can afford to get an undergraduate degree and by raising the bar, we could be losing professionals.
  • Marketability to employers: other allied professional require a higher degree to enter and are often higher salaries. We, RTs, can argue to hire several RTs at a more affordable rate opposed to one higher paid – master’s degree professional in a related field.
  • Not quite possible: our profession is currently lacking the number of doctorates to provide the training for master-level degrees.


I [Danny Pettry] think:

Bachelor’s degree with license to practice should be the entry level. I’d argue that the CTRS exam should be used as the exam for the license as well. We don’t need to have two exams. Why reinvent the wheel?

Master’s degree is bench mark for those who earn a specialty certification (by NCTRC). Those with a master’s degree provide a higher quality of service that is more specialized for better outcomes and higher patient protection. Those with a master’s degree can go on to teach as adjunct faculty, be mangers of departments, consult, train, and provide online courses (like I do):

Doctorate: Be professors at a university. Conduct research. (Altough people with bacehlors or masters could do that too – the doctorate is more capable (based on their experience). The doctorates can also be practitioners (bachelor’s degree) or do services provided by master’s degree and possible charge more.

Want to Succeed as a Recreation Therapist? Follow these simple steps.

Submitted by: Charlie Dixon, MS, CTRS, FDRT
Therapeutic Recreation Directory

  1. Smile, appear joyful.
  2. Recognize patients and staff each and every day by their name and greeting.
  3. Laugh.
  4. Listen as if each person you are talking to is the most interesting person in the world.
  5. Learn new things regularly.
  6. Get to know administration and doctors on a personal level.
  7. Write well… especially patient documentation. Make your notes invaluable to the team.

When I look to hire staff I look at personality 1st.  Motivation, joyfulness, character, creativity, and such are things that I want in staff.  Skills can be taught and learned but personality is difficult to shape.  Are there traits that you want to improve upon.  Start today… smile at the next person you see and say “hello” in a joyful way.  It’s a step towards a different inner attitude.  Come to work each day with a mindset that you are going do this – every day, even if you had a rotten day at home.


Charlie Dixon, MS, CTRS, FDRT
Therapeutic Recreation Directory