Learn how to use leisure, sport, play and community participation to bring real functional improvements to people with disabilities and other health conditions.

As a therapeutic recreation major, you'll begin training for an exciting field of health care. Rebuild strength and meaningful functioning for people with disabilities or health conditions using recreation activities as treatment tools.

Recreational therapists are nationally certified and use the clinical process of assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation. If you would like to work in a health-care career and have a strong interest in helping people with health limitations, you should consider this profession.

As a four-year college degree, our program also allows students to specialize in Child Life. The Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) serve children in hospital settings, helping them develop through play, education and purposeful social interaction.

Course Requirements


Therapeutic Recreation Internship

The therapeutic recreation internship provides majors with a full-time structured learning experience in a therapeutic setting. Learn more about internships.


Upon successful completion of all coursework and internship requirements, graduates with the bachelor of science degree in therapeutic recreation are eligible to sit for the national certifying examination in therapeutic recreation administered by the Educational Testing Services (ETS) and the National Council on Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). The NCTRC pass rate of students from Calvin College therapeutic recreation program is well above the national rate.

As a four-year college degree, our program also allows students to specialize in child life. The Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) serve children in hospital settings, helping them develop through play, education and purposeful social interaction.


Students are encouraged to join professional associations as student members. Consider joining the ATRA:

American Therapeutic Recreation Association
PO Box 15215
Hattiesburg , MS 39404-5215

Michigan Therapeutic Recreation Association
P.O. Box 445
Byron Center, Michigan 49315 

Employment among recreation therapists is expected to grow by 13% from 2012 to 2022, faster than all occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports in its 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook. The job growth is expected to be due to a growing number of school-age children and aging adults.

Work at:

  • Acute care hospitals
  • Inpatient psychiatric hospitals
  • Partial psychiatric hospitals
  • Residential psychiatric facilities
  • Community-based treatment centers
  • Inpatient rehabilitation hospitals
  • Outpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Intensive care units for children
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Private practice
  • At-risk youth services
  • Adult day centers
  • Municipal parks and recreation departments
  • Public or private school systems
Learn more about careers and outcomes for therapeutic recreation majors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • IT'S CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE. I don't know of another Christian college other than Messiah that offers therapeutic recreation curriculum and they do it in concert with Temple University so students don't have all Christian faculty.
  • GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH AREA PROFESSIONALS. We have very good relationships with a variety of recreation organizations agencies in our community so our students are able to volunteer or find part-time work in the field along with the classroom work. This helps them identify the area of specialization they want to pursue.
  • CERTIFICATION. Our students score better on the national certification exam for therapeutic recreation than other students in our region and nationally so this indicates that they have a better knowledge of the field than their peers from other institutions.
  • PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE OF OUR FACULTY. Our faculty who are Christians, have been heavily involved in the profession at a national, state and regional level and are recognized as leaders in their respective fields. They have authored textbooks in recreation and therapeutic recreation and served on national professional association boards in leadership positions.
  • INTERNSHIP PLACEMENT. We place students in internships around the country, including some of the best internship sites such as the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill or the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia .

Our placement rate has been very good both in jobs and in graduate schools. The job market is tighter in some areas of the country than others but generally speaking the field of TR is continuing to grow, especially in the area of elderly care/programs.

All over the country including: the Grand Rapids area, Denver, Colorado Springs, Seattle, Montana, Florida, Chicago, etc. They are working in a variety of settings including nursing homes, community recreation programs serving persons with disabilities, therapeutic camps, children's hospitals, psychiatric facilities with children and adult services, substance abuse programs, corrections facilities, therapeutic play centers, senior centers and rehab centers. Locally, some graduates are working at the Mary Free Bed Hospital, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health, Spectrum Health Rehabilitation and Nursing, Bethany Christian Services, Holland Home and Care Resources.


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