How to Become an Activities Director at a Nursing HomeHow to Become an Activities Director at a Nursing HomeHow to Become an Activities Director at a Nursing Home

Moving into a nursing home or assisted living center can be challenging for seniors. It requires adjustment to new surroundings, routines, and a new group of people to socialize with. The activities director plays the critical role of injecting fun into this new environment, making it an exciting place to live. What activities directors do goes beyond organizing games and craft days; they create opportunities for friendship, teamwork, and the vital physical and mental activity that helps seniors stay healthy. Within the broader context of healthcare, this important work ensures a higher quality of life for nursing home residents.

The activities director hands out the daily activity list to nursing home residents.

What Does a Nursing Home Activities Director Do?

If you’re interested in helping seniors have a fulfilling, fun experience in a nursing home setting, an activities director position may be for you. When considering what nursing home activities directors do and how they impact the lives of those they work with, it’s important to note a common thread of compassion, creativity, and desire to help others.

These directors have the opportunity to profoundly influence their place of work. If you pursue this career path, you’ll find yourself scheduling lectures, exercise classes, game nights, outings in the community for cultural events, and more. The ways you can improve the lives of residents at these facilities are limited only by your imagination and resources.

Creating a programming schedule that balances mental and physical well-being is a key part of what nursing home activities directors do. Before scheduling activities, senior living specialists often perform patient assessments to determine individuals’ ability to participate. They also frequently interact with residents, getting a sense of the general interests of their clients and what activities they would like to see more or less of.

This career path will ask you to flex your communication, planning, and interpersonal skills. In addition to engaging with residents, you’ll likely interact with direct care staff, such as nurses and doctors, as well as their supervisors — typically the director and assistant director of operations. Becoming an activities director at a nursing home means making use of skills in teamwork, organization, and adaptability.

Steps to Become a Nursing Home Activities Director

There are different ways to become a nursing home activities director, though the skills and abilities required remain largely the same.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s in healthcare management with a certificate in senior living management from an accredited school such as Maryville University creates the foundation for a successful career in senior care. The curriculum prepares students for success through courses in healthcare management, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, long term care laws and regulations, and gerontology. Understanding the needs of an aging population, treatments for common conditions, and ethical approaches to care and programming allows graduates to act as conscientious and thoughtful activities directors.

Gain Experience

Many nursing home employers place significant value on experience — and rightfully so. The best way to learn if an approach to programming and interacting with clients is successful is to put it into action. Many students find that volunteering at assisted living centers during their undergraduate study illustrates best practices and clarifies the responsibilities of a role such as activities director. Alternatively, others find entry-level work in a nursing home environment provides the right introduction to the field.

Earn Certificates

Although a certificate is not required for consideration to take on the role of nursing home activities director, earning one may boost your marketability as a job candidate. There are several certificate programs employers in this field look upon highly. Among them is the activity director certification from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP). Certification verifies experience and expertise in professionally directing activities in all sorts of environments. Typically, to earn this type of credential, one must have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 180 hours of practicum experience. To maintain these certifications, nursing home activities directors often have to enroll in continuing education courses or pass an exam.

Nursing Home Activities Director Salary

If you enter this field, your activities director salary may vary based on the organization, your years of experience, and geographic region. Despite these variations, the average activities director salary in the United States is around $33,000, according to July 2019 data from PayScale. There is room for you to grow in such a position, and Glassdoor reports that NCCAP certification may increase your earning potential. In addition, when you take the time to put into practice the soft skills essential to the position, such as patience and flexibility, you may see plenty of opportunities to advance your career within a nursing home.

Future Growth for Nursing Home Activities Directors

What a nursing home activities director does is important — even more so given that the aging population in the U.S. is growing. In fact, according to the Population Reference Bureau, the 65-plus demographic will more than double by 2060, reaching an estimated 98 million. Many of these new senior citizens come from a baby boomer generation that values physical activity, socialization, and the ability to explore new hobbies. For this reason, assisted living facilities will remain a highly in-demand service, and the role of the nursing home activities director in maintaining health will continue to be vital.

Discover How Becoming a Nursing Home Activities Director Helps Improve Lives

With compassion and creativity, nursing home activities directors improve the health and well-being of seniors. Learn more about how to enter this rewarding field and how an online bachelor’s in healthcare management with a certificate in senior living management can boost your prospects of securing a job you love.


Glassdoor, Salary for Certification: Activity Director Certified

Maryville University, Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management

Maryville University, Online BS in Healthcare Management Curriculum

National Certification Council for Activity Professionals

PayScale, Activities Director Salaries

Population Reference Bureau, Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States

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