Recreation Major: Overview of Majors and Concentrations

Learn about the curriculum and requirements of a bachelor's program in recreation. Read about major concentrations, careers and continuing education options for this field.

Essential Information

Graduates of recreation degree programs earn Bachelor of Science degrees with majors such as park and resource management, therapeutic recreation or recreation resort management and tourism. These 4-year degree programs are offered both at universities and online, and most include field experiences, practicum courses and internships.

Degree programs which are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT) prepare students for professional certification through the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) after graduation ( Applicants will need a high school diploma or equivalent for admission.


In addition to a general recreation major, students can choose a concentration that will best prepare them for future parks and recreation careers. The therapeutic recreation concentration teaches students to design and provide recreation activities for people with physical or mental disabilities, or other special needs populations. It includes study of the human body, clinical assessment and psychology courses. Parks, recreation or tourism management concentrations approach the discipline from a business perspective and include coursework in marketing, promotion, public relations, management and administration. Students interested in outdoor activities can take a recreation major with a concentration in natural resources, parks or outdoor sports, in which they learn to provide high-adventure activities. They also study geology, ecology and resource management.

Course Topics

Though the curriculum for recreation majors may vary widely from one specialization to the next, most include a core of parks and recreation courses that will prepare students for a variety of industry careers. Some common recreation major courses include the following:

  • 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 can gain employment at 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 Education Information

Recreation industry professionals can become certified through the 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, and requires passing an exam. The Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE) credentialing exam can be taken a year after the 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 a major in therapeutic recreation typically 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 (BLS) noted that although a bachelor's degree with a recreation major is often sufficient preparation for most recreation, parks and leisure activities careers, some employers might prefer or require an advanced degree for top management and administrative positions ( A Master of Science (M.S.) degree in parks, recreation and tourism fosters management and leadership skills and includes courses in research methods, human resource management, marketing, finance and recreation planning.

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