How Much Does a Recreational Therapist Make?

by Forest Time

Recreational therapists use games, sports, arts or crafts, to improve the physical, emotional or psychological state of their patients. They typically find work in institutions such as general hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, and nursing homes. A bachelor's degree is usually needed to become a recreational therapist.

National Wage and Salary Information

As of 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that recreational therapists in the United States made an average of $20.65 per hour and $42,940 a year. The median-earning 50 percent of recreational therapists reported hourly earnings of between $15.50 and $25.27, and annual earnings ranging from $32,250 to $52,560. The highest-paid 10 percent of recreational therapists made $31.27 or more per hour and $65,040 or more per year.

Pay by State

In general, recreational therapists in the West and Northeast tended to earn the most in 2011, while the lowest average salaries were found in the Midwestern and South Central regions of the United States. The District of Columbia reported the highest average salary, $58,770 per year, followed by California at $57,400, Oregon at $51,990, Connecticut at $50,420 and New Jersey at $50,270. The lowest average salary in the nation, $32,760, was reported in Montana. Mississippi reported the second-lowest average salary, $33,820.

Pay by Employment Situation

More recreational therapists were employed by nursing homes than by any other type of employer in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also tended to earn below the national average for this occupation, a mean annual income of $37,980. Those working for community care centers for the elderly averaged even less, $35,790 per year. On the other hand, those working for psychiatric hospitals and state institutions averaged between $44,000 and $45,000 per year, while those employed by general hospitals averaged $47,020 per year.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 22,400 recreational therapists were working in the United States as of 2010. Jobs for recreational therapists are expected to grow at a rate of about 17 percent over the decade, leading to an estimated 3,800 new positions by 2020. This job growth will primarily be driven by the growth of America's elderly population, and many of these new positions are expected to be in nursing homes.