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?

  • UWM’s College of Health Sciences is widely known for its excellent teaching and student learning environment, innovative research programs, community engagement and service to various health care professions.
  • 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?

This program is designed to create a pathway toward certification for RTs, and will provide you with theoretical and practical backgrounds in recreation and activity-based interventions.

The Certificate 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



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



Five courses are required to successfully complete the totally online Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 must be maintained on all the required coursework.

Select 1 Introductory Course

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

Select 3 Intervention Courses

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 310: Facilitation Techniques in Therapeutic Recreation*S

Capstone Course

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

Total: 17-18 Credits

* Required for students seeking the credential as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)

F, S, SU (fall, spring, summer) refers to semesters in which courses are taught

Completion of this certificate program allows the individual to meet one portion of the academic coursework required for the credential as a CTRS with NCTRC. Additional requirements are needed to fully qualify for the credential.

Students interested in obtaining NCTRC certification are encouraged to visit the NCTRC website .

Supportive Courses

If you are interested in becoming a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, there are numerous supportive on campus courses available to you including those listed below. Most of the courses are offered in the traditional face-to-face format. Please see the semester Schedule of Classes for the most up-to-date listing and medium used.

Course NumberCourse NameCredits
BIOSCI 202Anatomy & Physiology4
HCA 203Human Life Cycle3
PSYCH 412Abnormal Psycopathology*3

*PSYCH 100 is a required prerequisite.

Choose from the courses below to complete the required additional 9 credits of supportive coursework

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

Please note, course offerings change each semester.



Students are required to complete the Certificate Program within 5 years of the start of their first certificate course. Ideally, a student interested in taking all 5 certificate courses could 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 persons to meet the therapeutic recreation academic coursework eligibility requirements to become a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).

Each person is responsible for meeting the requirements to be eligible to sit for the CTRS certification exam. The requirements include supportive coursework and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and direct care experience. Note: Students completing the current TR Certificate Program are encouraged to apply no later than the November 2021 certificate exam. New standards go into effect January, 2022. Please refer to the NCTRC Certification Standards for additional information at

Employment Outlook

Employment Outlook


The median annual wage for recreational therapists was $47,860 in May 2018. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,590, and the top 10 percent earned more than $77,050.

Expected Growth

Employment of recreational therapists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the 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 are the target audience for the certificate program?
This certificate program is designed for a broad audience of individuals who work with people with disabilities.

If you are a student seeking a bachelor’s degree and are interested in developing specialized skills in the therapeutic recreation profession, the entire 5-course certificate program (18 credits) may be of interest to you. It is recommended you begin the program by taking the course, “THERREC 203 TR Process.” This course is offered twice a year, usually during the Fall and Summer Semesters.

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

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)

If you are a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and want to pursue continuing education for recertification with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC), one 3-credit course will meet 45 of the 50 hours required for recertification. One 4-credit course will exceed the 50-hour continuing education requirement for recertification. The course, “THERREC 400 Issues and Trends in Therapeutic Recreation” is the recommended 3-credit course for continuing education. Contact the TR 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. – 4:30 p.m. CST)

How are the courses taught online?
UWM uses a web-based platform, Desire 2 Learn (D2L). Once students are enrolled in a class, they are given instruction on how to access the course on the D2L website. The online courses follow a traditional semester schedule (16 weeks for the Fall and Spring semesters and condensed 6-8 seek sessions for the Summer semester). Students are expected to be engaged in the course for the entire semester. There are usually weekly assignments in each course to foster active participation.

What are the computer requirements to take an online course?
It is recommended students taking online courses have daily access to more than one computer. Computer problems are not accepted as reasons for late assignments.

Desire to Learn (D2L) is UWM’s leaning management system, and is used by most (but not all) UWM courses. Your instructor may use D2L for sharing news and files, or they may use the course for all course activities. If your instructor is using D2L, a course will appear under My Courses, and instructors can choose when to hide courses once the semester has ended.

To prepare for the start of classes, use the D2L System Check tool to ensure your computer or device is ready for D2L. Review the D2L Made Easy for Students website for quick tips. Contact the UWM Help Desk for assistance, or use the ‘Get Technical Help’ button in your course.

Suggested Internet Browser: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox

Suggested Software Programs: Word, Powerpoint, Excel

What type of assistance is offered if I have trouble with the online course?

  • UWM Help Desk (technical support personnel)
    Consultants are on duty 7:00 am through midnight (CST) 7 days per week. After hours you may contact the Help Desk though email at
  • UWM University Information Technology Services (UITS)

How much does the Certificate in Therapeutic Recreation cost?
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.

Students who are from outside of Wisconsin will be charged a flat fee for each of the online courses. Three credit courses cost approximately $1,100 each and 4-credit courses cost approximately $1,500 each. This does not include the cost of books. Each fee is listed in the “Comments” section for each course. See Schedule of Classes , Therapeutic Recreation, then the specific course and section for the fee.

How do I register for an online class?

  1. Apply online at the University of Wisconsin Online Application website.
  2. Most returning students will fall under the category of Special/Guest Student at the UWM campus.
  3. Complete the application form and await your acceptance letter. According to the website, online applications are processed the next day but 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 found in the Schedule of Classes , Therapeutic Recreation. Some TR courses listed in the schedule are NOT part of the certificate program. Be sure to register for the certificate courses, see list above. Students residing outside of Wisconsin will register for the totally online section starting with a 200 number.

How do I request accommodations?
If you wish to request accommodations due to a disability, 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?
Students are required to complete the certificate program within five years of the start of their first certificate course. Ideally, a student interested in taking all 5 certificate courses could complete the coursework in 3 consecutive semesters or 1 – 1.5 years.

What is the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification?
NCTRC is the nationally-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. For more information visit the NCTRC website .