Recreation Major: Overview of Majors and Concentrations

On the bachelor's level, recreation degree programs might focus on park and resource management, therapeutic recreation, or recreation resort management and tourism. These 4-year degree programs are offered both at universities and online.

Essential Information

A high school diploma or the equivalent typically is needed to apply to a Bachelor of Science program focused on recreation. These programs usually take four years to complete and opting for a program that's accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT) could help students prepare for professional certification after graduation. Students in a general recreation major might be able to choose a concentration that will better prepare them for a specific parks and recreation career. For example, a therapeutic recreation concentration can teach students to design and provide recreation activities for people with physical or mental disabilities or other special needs. A parks, recreation or tourism management concentration might approach the discipline from a business perspective. Students interested in outdoor activities might choose a concentration in natural resources, parks or outdoor sports, in which they learn to provide high-adventure activities.

Coursework

The curriculum for recreation majors can vary widely from one specialization to the next, but most programs include core courses that can prepare students for a variety of industry careers. Some common recreation courses include:

  • Tourism studies
  • Recreation management
  • Leadership and administration
  • Recreation programming planning
  • Commercial recreation
  • Inclusive leisure and recreation

Popular Career Options

After completing a bachelor's degree with a recreation major, students might find employment with hotels and resorts, parks, outdoor recreation facilities, event venues, campgrounds, and many other agencies. Some popular careers in recreation include:

  • Recreation supervisor
  • Outdoor activity leader
  • Park ranger or superintendent
  • Resort manager
  • Activities director

Certification and Continuing Ed

Recreation industry professionals can earn voluntary certification through the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) to enhance their career opportunities and further develop their knowledge. The Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) credential is open to bachelor's degree graduates with at least one year of experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience. It requires passing an exam. The Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE) credentialing exam can be taken a year after earning CPRP certification and requires either a bachelor's degree and five years of management experience or a master's degree and four years in a management position.

Students who pursue studies in therapeutic recreation might qualify to sit for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) exam offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that, although a bachelor's degree with a recreation major is sufficient preparation for most recreation, parks, and leisure activities careers, some employers prefer or require an advanced degree for top management and administrative positions. A Master of Science in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism program can foster management and leadership skills. These programs typically include courses in research methods, human resource management, marketing, finance, and recreation planning.

In summary, Bachelor of Science programs focused on recreation usually take four years to complete. These programs might offer concentrations in park and resource management, therapeutic recreation, or recreation resort management and tourism.

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