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Recreation Therapist

Recreation therapists work with people who have illnesses and disabling conditions. They strive to improve clients’ health and quality of life through leisure and recreation.

  • Avg. Salary $69,602.00
  • Avg. Wage $44.90
  • Minimum Education 2 years post-secondary
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 1,500
  • In Demand High
Also Known As


NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment (3144) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment (D044) 
  • 2011 NOC: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment (3144) 
  • 2016 NOC: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment (3144) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Interest Codes
The Recreation Therapist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Other Professional Occupations in Therapy and Assessment

Interest in mentoring patients by providing treatment and advising them on how to deal with their mental and physical abilities; and in consulting with other health care professionals to evaluate treatment plans


Interest in co-ordinating, initiating, designing and implementing specialized therapy programs for the general patient population and in the community; may conduct research in respective field of specialization


Interest in operating - manipulating equipment and following procedures to implement treatment plans by carrying out specialized therapy sessions employing techniques such as art, athletic, dance, music or recreational therapy or remedial gymnastics; and in observing and analyzing patients during treatment sessions

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Oct 20, 2014

Recreation therapists help people with illness or disability (whether physical, mental, emotional, cognitive or social) maintain healthy, balanced lifestyles. They address clients’ barriers to leisure and recreation, independent social contact, and being active in the community.

Recreation therapists:

  • identify and address barriers that keep clients from leisure activities
  • teach clients about the health benefits (physical, mental, social and emotional) of recreation
  • help clients learn new skills so they can pursue interests
  • help clients practise skills and maintain or improve their quality of life and overall health.

As members of a health care team (alongside doctors, nurses, nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers), recreation therapists:

  • assess client skills, needs, interests and values related to recreation and leisure
  • develop action plans and programs
  • deliver programs one-on-one or for groups
  • keep records about client progress and share them with the health team
  • assess the success of plans and programs.
Working Conditions
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Recreation therapists may work in health care settings, private homes, community facilities or outdoors. They may work wherever recreation or leisure pursuits take place. As a result, working conditions vary. Recreation therapists may work shifts that include evenings and weekends.

They may have to take part in activities that require above-average strength and stamina.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 10 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Recreation therapists need to possess:

  • excellent people skills
  • excellent listening, speaking and writing skills
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to work with individuals, and small or large groups
  • creativity and resourcefulness
  • enthusiasm and a positive, flexible attitude
  • good judgment, initiative and accountability
  • the ability to work on their own and as part of a team.

They should enjoy:

  • working with people in a leadership role
  • developing and delivering creative programs
  • using specialized equipment and techniques.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment
NOC code: 3144

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 12 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 03, 2021 and Jan 20, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Interview patients and review reports from health care professionals to determine patients' current and potential functioning levels
Record observations, write progress reports and consult with other health care professionals to evaluate treatment plans
Design specialized therapy programs to maintain, rehabilitate or enhance movement, musculoskeletal functioning and performance in sports, work and recreation
Prepare a treatment plan for each patient
Observe and analyze patients during treatment sessions
Initiate, design and implement specialized therapy programs
Implement treatment plans
Conduct research in the field of specialization
Benefits: Medical Benefits
Area of Specialization: Recreational therapy
Educational Requirements
Updated Oct 20, 2014

The minimum education requirement is a degree or diploma in recreation with a specialization in therapeutic recreation. A 4-year degree is generally required for employment as a recreation therapist in public health facilities and programs. Graduates of a 2-year diploma program may be hired as recreation therapy assistants. Employers also may require applicants to have:

  • first aid and CPR certification
  • a clean Police Information Check with vulnerable sector check
  • training in group-based fitness instruction or therapy
  • specialized training regarding the client group (such as dementia, mental health, geriatrics)
  • a valid Class 4 or 5 driver’s licence.

Additional information about education related to recreation therapy is available from the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association website and the Therapeutic Recreation Directory.

Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Oct 20, 2014

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Recreation therapists work in a variety of settings, such as:

  • hospitals and related urgent- and community-care facilities
  • long-term care and assisted-living residences
  • rehabilitation hospitals and clinics
  • day programs and outpatient services
  • private community-based agencies.

Advancement opportunities vary depending on the organization and the therapist’s academic qualifications.

Recreation therapists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 3144: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance [pdf] industry.

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events that affect overall employment (especially in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities that come up when people leave existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities that come up when new positions are created)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

In Alberta, the 3144: Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 3.8% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 56 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the 56 new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Wage & Salary
Updated Oct 20, 2014

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.

Other professional occupations in therapy and assessment

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.68 $76.09 $37.84 $35.81
Overall $17.77 $87.82 $44.90 $42.63
Top $20.91 $101.29 $49.98 $47.67

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Oct 20, 2014

Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association website:

Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association website:

Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 22, 2018. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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