Therapeutic Recreation, also known as recreation therapy, is a unique profession that uses recreation and activity-based interventions to help improve people’s physical, emotional, cognitive, social, spiritual and leisure functioning to enjoy life more fully.

The Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, also known as a Recreation Therapist (RT), assists clients to develop skills, knowledge and behaviors for daily living and community involvement. As an RT, you will actively work with a client (and the family) to combine leisure interests and community resources together with therapy. This helps the client get the best results which in turn can help in his/her real life situation.

Why choose us?

  • You can become part of a growing field as the large baby-boom generation ages and needs RTs to help treat age-related injuries and illnesses.
  • You can benefit from an interesting mix of students from across the nation and also a variety of backgrounds, including traditional UWM students seeking a bachelor’s degree, TR and other human service professionals and second career students new to the field.
  • Recreation Therapist was cited as one of the “Top 10 Best Jobs to Save the World” by CNN Money and also as a “Best College Major for a Lucrative Career” by Kiplinger.

What can you do with a Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation?

There is much you may do with a TR Certificate. This program is designed to help build a pathway toward obtaining the credential in the field of TR. The content of the 6 required TR specific courses provide students with theoretical and practical backgrounds in recreation and activity-based interventions.

The content of the courses also has much carry over into other professional areas for employment. The topic of disability is explored heavily; this knowledge may be helpful when working in agencies serving persons living with a disability. Concepts of group process and facilitation are topics that may be useful in any professional job requiring small and large group undertakings.

The courses in the Certificate Program will prepare you to work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Ambulatory health care services
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)
  • Residential care facilities
  • Government institutions
  • Community park and recreation agencies
  • Disability agencies



Students need to be enrolled in a UWM undergraduate degree program or hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to enter the Certificate Program. In addition, individuals who are certified with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) may wish to complete one or more courses to comply with continuing education requirements.

The first step to declaring the Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation is to read the Gainful Employment Disclosure Information (PDF) and complete the form below. The second step is to submit an application for admission to UWM.

For further guidance, please contact the UWM Office of Admissions or the College of Health Sciences Office of Student Affairs.

UWM Office of Admissions
P.O. Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53201



Effective Fall 2020, six Therapeutic Recreation (TR) specific courses (18 credits) are required to successfully complete the online Certificate in TR. If you were enrolled in the certificate program prior to Fall 2020, you may elect to meet old or new requirements. Note: The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) requires six courses as of January 1, 2022. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 must be maintained on all required coursework.

Completion of this certificate program allows you to meet one portion of the academic coursework required for the credential as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) with NCTRC. Additional requirements (degree, supportive courses and paid experience) are needed to fully qualify for the credential.

If you are interested in obtaining NCTRC certification, visit and review the Equivalency Path information.

Introductory Course (Select 1)

THERREC 103: Introduction to LeisureF/S3
THERREC 202: Disability: Society and the PersonF3
THERREC 203: TR Process*SU/F

Intervention Courses (Select 4)

THERREC 300: Therapeutic Recreation Assessment and Documentation*S
THERREC 303: Inclusive and Disability Programs in the CommunityS3
THERREC 308: Therapeutic Recreation in Physical Rehabilitation and Behavioral Health*F
THERREC 309: Therapeutic Recreation in Pediatrics and Gerontology*S3
THERREC 310: Facilitation Techniques in Therapeutic Recreation*S

Capstone Course

THERREC 400: Issues and Trends in Therapeutic Recreation*SU/F

*Required for students seeking the credential as a CTRS with NCTRC.

F, S, SU (fall, spring, summer) refers to semesters in which courses are taught. Please see the Schedule of Classes for the most up-to-date course offerings.

Supportive Courses

Supportive coursework is NOT part of the TR Certificate Program. Eighteen credits of supportive coursework is a requirement to become a CTRS. Nine of the credits are required in specific topic areas. You may take UWM courses independent of the TR Certificate Program. If you are interested in becoming eligible to sit for the CTRS exam, there are many supportive on campus courses available to you including those listed below. Most of the courses are offered in the traditional face-to-face format though a growing number are offered online. Please see the Schedule of Classes for the most up-to-date listing and medium used.

Required Supportive Courses for NCTRC

BIOSCI 202: Anatomy & Physiology4
HCA 203: Human Life Cycle3
PSYCH 412: Abnormal Psychology
Prerequisite: PSYCH 100

Required Additional Supportive Courses for NCTRC

Choose from the courses below to complete the required additional 9 credits of supportive coursework for NCTRC. Many other courses may meet the supportive course requirements. Check with NCTRC. Please note, course offerings change each semester.

PSYCH 205: Personality3
PSYCH 230: Social Psychology3
PSYCH 260: Child Psychology3
SOCIAL 101: Intro to Sociology3
SOCIAL 104: Intro to Social Psychology3
SOCIAL 241: Criminology3
SOCIAL 246: Juvenile Delinquency3
SOCIAL 282: Sociology of Aging3
SOCIAL 331: Sociology of Healthcare3
HCA 222: Language of Medicine3
HCA 230: Health Aspects of Exercise & Nutrition3



You are required to complete the Certificate Program within 5 years of the start of your first certificate course. Ideally, you complete the coursework in 3 consecutive semesters or 1–1.5 years.

A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 must be maintained on all required coursework.

Professional Certification

Professional Certification

Certification Requirements for Professional Practice

The Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation will help you to meet the therapeutic recreation academic coursework eligibility requirements to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).

You are responsible for meeting the requirements to be eligible to sit for the CTRS certification exam. The requirements include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, supportive coursework and paid direct care experience in TR.

If you are completing the old (prior to Fall 2020) TR Certificate Program you are encouraged to apply to sit for the credentialing exam before the new standards go into effect. The exam is offered six times throughout the year. The last opportunity to sit for the CTRS exam prior to the new standards is the November 2021 certificate exam. New standards, requiring 6 TR courses, go into effect January 1, 2022. If you are completing the new (after Fall 2020) TR Certificate Program you will be in compliance with the new standard for 6 TR specific courses. Please refer to the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) Certification Standards for more information.

Employment Outlook

Employment Outlook


The median annual wage for recreational therapists was $48,220 per year or approximately $23.18 per hour in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,970.

Expected Growth

Employment of recreational therapists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than average for all occupations.

As the U.S. population ages, more people will need recreational therapists to help treat age-related injuries and illnesses. Older people are more likely to suffer from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and mobility-related injuries that may benefit from recreational therapy. Growth is expected in nursing care facilities, adult daycare programs, and other settings that care for geriatric patients.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Recreational Therapists .

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the target audience for this program?
This certificate program is designed for a broad audience of individuals who work with people with disabilities.

If you are seeking a bachelor’s degree and are interested in developing specialized skills in the therapeutic recreation profession, the entire 6-course certificate program (18 credits) may be of interest to you. It is recommended you begin the program by taking THERREC 203: TR Process. See the Schedule of Classes to see when it is offered.

If you are working in the human service field and are interested in enhancing your skills or credentials in the area of disability, group process or therapeutic recreation, one or more certificate courses may meet your needs. It is recommended you begin the program by taking THERREC 203: TR Process. However, you may start with any course that interests you. Contact the Certificate Coordinator with help on determining which course(s) best suit your interests.

If you are a CTRS and want to pursue continuing education for recertification with the NCTRC, one 3-credit course will meet 30 of the 50 hours required for recertification. THERREC 400: Issues and Trends in Therapeutic Recreation is the recommended course for continuing education. Contact the Certificate Coordinator for additional information.

Patricia Thomas, MPA, CTRS
Therapeutic Recreation Certificate Coordinator
College of Health Sciences
414-229-2507 (Monday thru Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST)

How are the courses taught online?
UWM uses an online platform called Canvas. Once you are enrolled in a class, you are given instruction on how to access the course through Canvas. The online courses may follow a traditional semester schedule (16 weeks) or a condensed 6-8 seek session. Most courses are taught asynchronously (you do not have to log into the course at a specific time). You are expected to be engaged in the course for the entire semester through various types of assessments such as discussions, completion of assignments, quizzes and exams. There are usually weekly assessments in each course to foster active participation. You should anticipate 3-6 hours/week for each course, for a total of 145 hours over the course of the semester for each course.

Visit for more information.

What are the computer requirements to take an online course?
It is recommended you have daily access to more than one computer. A high speed Internet connection is preferred. Computer problems are generally not accepted as reasons for late assignments, quizzes or exams. Contact your instructor as soon as possible if you have computer problems.

The following computer and internet specifications are recommended for success in an online learning environment. A tablet or phone may not be sufficient for all the activities required in the various courses.

Computer recommendations:

  • Mac laptop or computer running at least OS 10.13 (High Sierra), or Windows laptop or computer running Windows 10
  • Intel Core i5 or AMD A10 processor
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 256 GB solid state drive
  • 1280 x 768 screen resolution
  • Integrated webcam and microphone

Internet recommendations:

  • Reliable, high-speed internet connection
  • 15 megabit per second (Mb/s) or better download speed
  • 5 megabit per second (Mb/s) or better upload speed
  • Wireless hotspot or tethering from a cell phone will not be sufficient

Suggested Internet Browser: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox
Suggested Software Programs: Word, PowerPoint, Excel

Canvas is UWM’s learning management system and is used for all TR Certificate Program courses. On the log in page for Canvas there are resources to learn more. You may chat with someone, watch videos, review guides, search FAQs, or submit a form seeking specific assistance. Visit for more information.

What type of assistance is offered if I have trouble with an online course?
UWM provides many resources to help you succeed in an online environment. Potential students are encouraged to review the following resources prior to starting the program:

How much does the Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation cost?
There is a flat fee for the 6 TR specific courses that meet NCTRC requirements. This fee is for TR Certificate only (non-degree seeking) students. Each of the six 3-credit courses cost approximately $1,150 each. This does not include the cost of books. You must enroll in the correct section to be assessed this flat fee (vs a higher out of state tuition cost). It is your responsibility to enroll in the correct section. Each fee is listed in the “Class Notes” section for each course in the Schedule of Classes .

For the alternative TR courses that do not meet the NCTRC requirements, regular tuition will be assessed. Students residing outside of Wisconsin will be charged out of state tuition rates. For the most up-to-date information, visit the UWM Enrollment & Financial Services website . Be sure you are viewing the Undergraduate Fee Schedule for the appropriate semester.

How do I register for an online class?

  1. To facilitate a successful application, please contact the Certificate Coordinator, Patricia Thomas, MPA, CTRS at for detailed directions.
  2. Apply to UWM
  3. Complete the application and await your acceptance letter. It may take up to 10 days for you to be notified of your admission.
  4. Once you are notified and have an ID number and PIN you may begin to register for courses in the Schedule of Classes under Therapeutic Recreation (THERREC). Online registration is through your PAWs account. Please refer to the Coursework section above. The 6 courses with an asterisk (*) are the courses that meet the NCTRC requirements. Not all TR courses listed in the schedule are part of the certificate program or meet NCTRC requirements. For help with PAWS go to .
  5. Reach out to the Certificate Coordinator for TR Certificate only (non-degree seeking) students for questions related to course, sequence and more:
    Patricia Thomas, MPA, CTRS
    Therapeutic Recreation Certificate Coordinator
    College of Health Sciences
    414-229-2507 (Monday thru Fridaym 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST)

How do I request accommodations for a disability?
Visit the UWM Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) to learn more about what services are provided and how to request them.

For additional information, please contact:

Patricia Thomas, MPA, CTRS
Therapeutic Recreation Certificate Coordinator
College of Health Sciences
414-229-2507 (Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST)

How long does it take to complete the certificate program?
You are required to complete the certificate program within five years of the start of your first certificate course. Ideally, you could complete the coursework in 3 consecutive semesters or 1 – 1.5 years.

What is the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)?
NCTRC is the internationally-recognized credentialing organization for the profession of recreation therapy. For decades, therapeutic recreation has been recognized as a valuable profession within health care and human services.

The Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) has become the industry standard that exemplifies each professional’s dedication to quality standards and excellence in practice.

Currently, over 15,000 practitioners are professionally certified as CTRSs by the NCTRC. The CTRS credential is the most advanced professional credential for the field of therapeutic recreation. Obtaining the CTRS credential is the best predictor for employment in the TR field. For more information visit the NCTRC website .

What is state licensure?
There are 5 states that require licensure to practice TR at this time: NH, NC, OK, UT and very recently NJ. If you want to practice in any of those states you will need to hold the CTRS credential and meet the licensure standards. Completion of the UWM TR Certificate Program alone does not meet requirements to sit for the various state licensing exams.

Am I eligible for financial aid?
Financial aid (scholarships and loans) is different for every student. Generally speaking, to qualify for financial aid as a certificate student you must be taking a minimum of 6 credits (or 2 courses) per semester.

The TR Certificate Program is approved for students to receive federal loans if requirements are met. For more information, explore the UWM One Stop Enrollment and Financial Services website .

If you are in a stand along program (such as the TR Certificate Program) and are seeking financial assistance, you may be eligible for private loans. Private loans are not guaranteed as they are subject to lender approval, including a credit check. Use the Fast Choice private lending tool to help you learn what to look for when shopping for a private loan. At the end of the short tutorial, it will provide a comparison shopping tool allowing you to sort, filter and compare up to 5 lenders at one time. Upon applying for the loan of your choice and being approved, the UWM Financial Aid Office will be notified by the lender to provide enrollment information. At such time the loan will be added to your financial aid award.

You may also want to explore local scholarship and grant opportunities. Often times state TR organizations may offer scholarships to student members.