How do I get an Activity Director Certification?

Carol Francois

An activity director certification program is available from a limited number of colleges. Someone who is interested in pursuing certification typically is already working in this capacity or in a similar role. There are three steps required: find an accredited school, apply for admissions, and meet the certificate requirements. The primary benefit of this type of certification is to provide assurances to potential employers about your education and related work experience.

Coordinating things to do is the role of a certified activity director.
Coordinating things to do is the role of a certified activity director.

Someone who works as an activity director works in the health services industry, usually in a long-term care facility. He or she is responsible for scheduling and organizing activities for the residents. Depending on the setting, this can include day trips, fitness classes, or arts and crafts. Providing a variety of activities is an important part of the overall mental health program for patients who reside in a long-term care facility.

Nursing homes often hire certified activity directors.
Nursing homes often hire certified activity directors.

The first step required to get certification is to find an accredited school. Accreditation is a granted by an independent agency that usually is responsible for maintaining professional standards for a specific career or designation. The agency reviews the program curriculum, course materials, academic policies, and related information. An accredited school will display a seal or stamp from the accredited agency, providing assurances to potential students about the quality of the program.

An individual may be required to complete and pass a written examination in order to achieve activity director certification.
An individual may be required to complete and pass a written examination in order to achieve activity director certification.

The next step is to apply for admission into the certification program. The list of prerequisites usually includes a combination of academic credentials and workplace experience. For example, a program might require a minimum three-year diploma in social work, occupational therapy or recreational/activity therapy. Some certification agencies require a specific number of hours of work experience and the submission of letters of reference.

Review the program requirements before applying for admission. Some certification agencies require successful completion of a written examination or specific courses as part of their program. Other associations require a certain number of supervised hours of work in recreation therapy or a similar role. Explore the steps and plan ahead to meet program requirements.

Once you successfully complete an activity director certification program, there often is a continuing education commitment that is required. Students are expected to complete a minimum number of courses over a two- or three-year period, and these courses must be within a related field of study and taken from an accredited school. The list of acceptable courses often includes seminars, conferences, or lectures hosted by a professional association. This requirement encourages ongoing learning and keeping skills up to date.

Activity directors make sure seniors stay active and healthy.
Activity directors make sure seniors stay active and healthy.

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Discussion Comments


Activities in long term care facilities promote positive well being. Many places look at the different dimensions of wellness, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual.


I have worked in a nursing home facility for a couple of years and have helped out the activities director from time to time.

This is an area that I find myself really enjoying. You can really learn a lot from listening to many of their life stories as you work with them.

There aren't any accredited schools close to where I live where I could get certified. Does anybody know if you can get an activity director certification online?

This would be a great way to get the schooling I need and still be able to work full time while I am working on my certification.


When my grandma was living in a nursing home, she could be as busy as she wanted to be. They had a great activities director who gave them many opportunities to be active and engaged.

When I would visit her and saw the nursing home activity calendar, I told my grandma she could be busier than I was.

At any age it is nice to have options and choices for activities to be involved in. I think some people think as people age, they want to be less active and involved.

I know it depends on each individual, but there were many people in her nursing home who really enjoyed and looked forward to the group activities that were planned. My grandma participated in as many of them as she was able to.

Others were not in good enough health where they could participate, or just chose not to.


My cousin started out working part time at a nursing home, and through the years has worked her way up to activities director.

She has had many jobs at this nursing home, and says the one she has enjoyed most is planning and organizing activities for the residents.

Not only does she plan activities outside the nursing home, but also plans special activities for them to participate in during the week at the home.

She took advantage of an educational opportunity and took an activity director certification course. This makes her much more marketable, and with her combined years of education and experience there are more job opportunities available for her.


I didn't realize there was an actual certification program for an activities director.

My mom works at a county home where people with disabilities of all ages live. I don't think the person who organizes the activities for their residents is a certified activities director.

I do know they try to keep the residents as active as possible. Many times you will see a group of them at a local event like a parade or the county fair.

This gives them a good opportunity to get out of the center, socialize with other people and keep them busy at the same time.

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