Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some of our job opportunities information may have changed. We’re working on updating our job profiles as soon as possible.

Diversional Therapist

Kaihaumanu Rēhia

Alternative titles for this job

Diversional therapists plan and run leisure programmes that enhance the emotional, social and physical wellbeing of individuals.


Diversional therapists with no qualifications usually earn

$19 per hour

Qualified diversional therapists usually earn

$23-$27 per hour

Source: NZ Society of Diversional Therapists, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a diversional therapist are good due to growing demand.


Pay for diversional therapists varies depending on qualifications.

  • Diversional therapists with relevant experience, such as community work, but no specific qualifications can expect to earn minimum wage.
  • Qualified diversional therapists usually earn between $23 and $27 an hour.

Source: NZ Society of Diversional Therapists, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Diversional therapists may do some or all of the following:

  • plan recreational events and activities
  • encourage participation and enjoyment in events and activities
  • assess and document participants' progress
  • discuss participants' progress with medical and other professionals, and families.

Skills and knowledge

Diversional therapists need to have:

  • planning and organisational ability
  • communication skills
  • leadership skills and the ability to motivate people
  • knowledge of art and craft techniques, and sporting and cultural activities
  • knowledge of safety issues and first aid.

Working conditions

Diversional therapists:

  • work shifts, which can include evenings and weekends
  • may work in rest homes, community centres, schools, youth centres or early childhood centres.

What's the job really like?

Mark McDonald

Mark McDonald

Diversional Therapist

From oil rigs to massage

Co-ordinating activities at Chalmers Rest Home is a far cry from working on oil rigs overseas, which Mark McDonald used to do as an electrical technician. But after a number of years away, Mark decided to return home to New Plymouth to look after his elderly parents and focus on his passion for massage.

"I started going to the rest home once a week doing massages. Then I got more hours and moved into recreation work."

What Mark's job involves

Nowadays Mark organises and runs a variety of activities at the rest home. "We do various exercises, organise bingo nights and take people on trips. It could be taking the gentlemen to the pub or going to watch woodturning for the day."

Encouraging camaraderie among residents

"I don't think people realise how important it is for men to have male camaraderie. Some of the male residents have been brought up in a real man's world, so coming into a home where the majority of staff and residents are women does affect them. Talking to other men gives them a chance for a different type of communication, which is important."

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a diversional therapist. However, to become a registered diversional therapist you need to complete a New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Social and Community Services) (Level 4).

The Careerforce diversional therapy qualification is an apprenticeship, which means you need to be working as a diversional therapist or similar to enrol.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Secondary education

NCEA Level 2 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include English, health education, music, dance and drama, painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined, and physical education.

For Year 11 to 13 learners, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain relevant experience and skills.

Personal requirements

Diversional therapists need to be:

  • patient
  • enthusiastic
  • team players
  • caring
  • good communicators
  • respectful
  • practical.

You have to be a real people person to do this role, and a real team player. You work closely with other people all the time.

Photo: Mark McDonald

Mark McDonald

Diversional Therapist

Useful experience

Useful experience for diversional therapists includes work with the elderly, people with disabilities and children.

Physical requirements

Diversional therapists need to have a good level of fitness and must be reasonably strong, as they may need to help carry or move people.


The New Zealand Society of Diversional Therapists represents diversional therapists. Registration is not compulsory.

Find out more about training

Careerforce ITO
0800 277 486 - info@careerforce.org.nz - www.careerforce.org.nz
Society of Diversional Therapists New Zealand Inc
secretary@diversionaltherapy.net.nz - www.diversionaltherapy.net.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Diversional therapy growing

The number of diversional therapists grew from 822 in 2006 to 1,008 in 2013, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Demand is growing due to:

  • an ageing population
  • an increasing number of people with disabilities in supported living.

Registration boosts chances of getting work

Becoming a registered diversional therapist can increase your chances of finding work as it means you can prove you have at least 3,000 hours of experience, and that you follow a code of ethics.

Types of employers varied

Most diversional therapists work in rest homes and hospitals, but some may work for:

  • youth and community centres
  • agencies that support people with disabilities
  • childcare centres.


  • New Zealand Society of Diversional Therapists, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2017.
  • Ministry of Health, 'Rising to the Challenge: The Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012-2017', accessed June 2017, (www.health.govt.nz).
  • New Zealand Aged Care Association website, accessed April 2017, (www.nzaca.org.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2013 Census data', accessed June 2017, (www.stats.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Diversional therapists may progress to management and development roles, heading the recreation teams at rest homes and hospitals.

With further training, diversional therapists may progress to become occupational therapists.

Diversional therapists may specialise in:

  • art therapy
  • music therapy
  • play.
Diversional therapist plays the guitar while a woman smiles at the camera and plays the bongoes

Diversional therapists plan leisure activities that improve clients' wellbeing

Last updated 4 August 2020