SUNY Cortland’s Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department has added an online graduate certificate program in therapeutic recreation — training that will offer master’s level coursework in a field focused on the quality of life of people with illnesses or disabilities.
The 18-credit program, which is slated to begin during the 2015-16 academic year, consists of six, three-credit courses. Applicants can apply immediately for fall semester admission.
“The reason I think people are drawn to this field is the variety it offers,” said Lynn Anderson, a SUNY distinguished service professor of recreation, parks and leisure studies. “You can work in areas like outdoor recreation and adaptive sports, all the way to a clinical psychiatric unit or a rehab hospital. There’s a lot of flexibility.”
Therapeutic recreation specialists work in many different settings, including hospitals, assisted living locations, recreation destinations and correctional facilities.
“You have to be a person in this field who doesn’t want routine or for every day to be the same because it never will be,” Anderson said. “That’s why people love it.”
The graduate certificate should appeal to people who are seeking the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) national certification but lack specific academic courses, especially professionals who may already work in the field. Currently only four states have therapeutic recreation or recreation therapy licensure laws in place. Several more are moving in that direction, including New York state, Anderson said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly half of all people in recreation therapist job titles are not nationally certified.
“If licensure laws go through, that’s a huge group of people that would have to change their job function or title,” Anderson said. “The good news is that they’re all people who would easily qualify for the national certification as long as they can get the academic coursework.”
The program’s online format allows easy access for people who might find it difficult to attend classes on a college campus because of work, family or location. An undergraduate degree in the recreation field is not required.
Only a handful of online programs exist in the therapeutic recreation discipline, Anderson said. SUNY Cortland already boasts the longest-running and most comprehensive recreation program in New York state. The College historically has been one of only three U.S. colleges or universities with national accreditation in all four of its recreation majors.
All of the certificate program’s coursework fulfills the requirements of SUNY Cortland’s Master of Science in Therapeutic Recreation, meaning students will need only 13 more credits and a three-credit capstone internship if they wish to continue on in their graduate studies. For students looking to take the CTRS national certification exam through an equivalency path, one year of paid experience supervised by a certified therapist or five years of work experience in the therapeutic recreation field are required.
Courses for the graduate certificate can be completed in as few as two semesters or they can be spread out over time. At the outset, courses will be offered in the fall and spring semesters.
Anderson said the department hopes to enroll 25 students from across the country in the program’s initial cohort.
“The people who succeed in this field are driven by their patients’ goals and dreams and needs,” Anderson said. “The medium is the whole world of recreation, which goes from very intellectual activities to high adventure activities.
“Therapeutic recreation really is a renaissance field.”
To learn more about the new graduate certificate program, visit the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department website or contact Anderson at 607-753-4942.