If you are looking for a career focused on helping others, you may have wondered, "How do I become a therapeutic riding instructor?" A therapeutic riding instructor is a type of recreational therapist, providing treatment through recreational activities for individuals with disabilities, according to the United States Bureau of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. Unlike recreation workers who design and implement activities mainly for enjoyment, a recreational therapist's goal is improvement in a variety of possible medical conditions. Though some entry-level positions as a recreational therapist may be found, employment as a therapeutic riding instructor will require post-secondary education, along with further education specializing in this specific area and type of treatment.
- Get a bachelor's degree. Most recreational therapists have at least a bachelor's degree, even for entry-level positions. This may be in recreation with a focus on therapeutic uses or a specific therapeutic recreation program. There are over 100 such programs available in the United States, most of which provide internship opportunities as part of the degree program.
- Check licensing requirements for the state in which you plan to practice. Though only a handful of states currently require a license to practice recreational therapy, there may be other educational requirements or title limitations that apply. Be prepared to practice as a therapeutic riding instructor in a specific state by thoroughly reviewing all requirements prior to starting your education to become a therapeutic riding instructor.
Get further specialized education in the area of therapeutic riding instruction. After receiving a bachelor's degree in recreational therapy, further education will likely be required by many prospective employers to qualify for a job in the specific area of therapeutic riding instruction. The National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification offers a voluntary, though highly regarded, certification for recreational therapists in general. This certification may be required by employers looking for proven high-quality applicants. More specifically, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association offers certification at three different levels of increasing expertise.
- Locate opportunities to gain experience in the area of recreation, riding and therapy programs for disabled individuals. These may be paid or unpaid internships or volunteer positions within the community. The more experience and first-hand knowledge you can demonstrate, the more attractive you will be to potential employers.
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