Online Recreation Studies Certificate and Degree Program Overviews

Essential Information

Recreation studies is typically studied through a campus-based program, although some undergraduate certificate, bachelor's degree and master's degree programs are available. Programs may be titled parks and recreation, recreation and tourism, recreation and sports or recreation management.

Certificate programs may be completed entirely online, preparing graduates for entry-level jobs or strengthening the skills of current recreation workers. Bachelor's degree programs may have some on-campus classes or practical learning requirements that must be completed in-person, like a practicum or an internship, which help prepare them for the higher-level leadership roles they can obtain. Master's degree programs can prepare recreation professionals for career advancement, although students can usually complete all training online since they already have real-world experience.

Certificate in Parks and Recreation Management

An online certificate program in parks and recreation management gives students a foundation in the skills required to coordinate recreational programs for various groups. This program is usually geared toward those who have graduated from high school and either have experience working in parks and recreation or would like to begin their career.

Information and Requirements

This 16- to 18-credit program can be completed almost entirely online. Students fulfill the few in-person requirements through appropriate venues, like state or local parks.

Occasionally, students may be required to participate in real-time class discussions on their computers, but often courses are completed on the student's own time. Most discussions take place on Internet message boards, and students log into virtual classroom interfaces to submit assignments by their deadlines.

Common Courses for a Parks and Recreation Certificate

Coursework teaches students how to plan recreational programs and work in various capacities in the parks and recreation field. General education courses typically aren't required in this online certificate program.

Program Planning

Students use computers to develop recreational programs. Methodology and technology, such as specific software programs, are discussed.

Adaptive Recreation

Coordinating recreation services for populations with special needs is covered. Students learn how to adapt programs and settings for groups such as the elderly and handicapped.

Recreation History

The background of parks and recreation services is discussed. This course covers the role of recreation institutions and their relationship to other organizations.

Bachelor's Degree in Parks and Recreation

An online bachelor's degree program in recreation studies is often called a parks and recreation program. Bachelor's-level programs differ from certificate programs in that they include more coursework focused on leadership in the recreation field. Graduates typically receive a Bachelor of Science and are prepared to manage recreation programs at parks and other facilities.

Information and Requirements

Typically a 4-year course of study, the bachelor's degree program in parks and recreation often requires students to participate in internships and enroll in hands-on courses that can be completed near their home. Depending on their location, online students may not be able to complete all of the courses required for the degree through distance learning.

Schools offering online recreation bachelor's degree programs suggest that students be able to maintain consistent study schedules and log into class websites as often as possible. Students communicate with instructors and classmates via e-mail, message boards and chat platforms.

Common Courses for an Parks and Recreation Bachelor's Degree

Students gain skills that prepare them to lead recreation experiences at different sites and for different groups of people. General education courses - such as the natural sciences, humanities and math - are usually required in a bachelor's-level program.

Comprehensive Programming

Students learn how to create recreation programs of various sizes that provide universal access and enjoyable experiences. Computer use is covered.


This course examines organization and management philosophies. Students gain communication and motivational skills for the parks and recreation industry.


Students learn to create and promote programs that incorporate an understanding of environmental issues and local cultures. The history of ecotourism and its economic impact are discussed.

Master's Degree in Recreation, Sport and Tourism

Recreation professionals who wish to earn a master's degree online can enroll in recreation, sport and tourism programs. Upon completion of the program, graduates are awarded a Master of Science and are qualified to hold high-level management positions in parks, hotels and other leisure institutions. Prerequisites include a minimum GPA in undergraduate coursework, job experience and sufficient GRE scores.

Information and Requirements

Students in an online master's degree program in recreation, sport and tourism can often complete their degree in two years or less. The program can be completed entirely online. Though deadlines must be adhered to, students complete assignments, view lectures and contribute to class discussions on their own time. Occasionally, students might be required to log into class meetings and other real-time situations.

Typically, students must have access to programs like the Microsoft Office Suite and other software that can often be downloaded at no cost, including Adobe Reader and QuickTime. Web cameras, DVD players and video cards are some hardware requirements.

Common Courses for a Recreation, Sport and Tourism Master's Degree

The curriculum in a recreation, sport and tourism master's degree program covers in-depth theories of the recreation industry and practical methods for developing and guiding programs. Research and a thesis are often required toward the end of the program.

Recreation Management

Management procedures and styles are discussed. Students learn about the structure and capacity for change in large recreation organizations, such as tourism companies or park systems.


Students gain an understanding of how to attract and keep clients in the recreation industry. The course teaches students to create relationships with customers.

Facilities Management

Facility planning from the beginning stages through the maintenance stages is discussed. Students learn about business models and methods pertinent to recreation, sports attractions and tourism.

Career Information

Certificate in Parks and Recreation Management

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that there would be an average growth in opportunities for entry-level and seasonal recreation workers between 2014 and 2024, with a projected job growth of 10% in the field ( The BLS reported that volunteering and gaining temporary and part-time work in parks and recreation services can help applicants secure jobs.

Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Parks and Recreation reported that parks and recreation directors earned between $31,335 and $94,442 in 2015, though the median salary was $55,575. More than half of these jobs were filled by people who had more than ten years of experience, according to the site.

According to the BLS, some administration positions in the recreation field require applicants to have a master's degree. The BLS also stated that job-seekers with graduate degrees in recreation would have the most success in securing high-level jobs in parks and recreation (

Continuing Education Information

Certificate in Parks and Recreation Management

Those interested in managerial positions in parks and recreation organizations should earn bachelor's degrees, according to the BLS. The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) offers online courses and certificates for those who wish to further their credentials; some of these also require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degree in Parks and Recreation

The NRPA offers certification in specialized and technical areas, including aquatic facility operations and playground safety inspection. It also confers the Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) designation. All of these certifications require that candidates hold a bachelor's degree and successfully pass an exam. The BLS indicates that work experience is a vital aspect of career advancement in the recreation field, though a bachelor's degree or higher is an asset (

Master's Degree in Recreation, Sport and Tourism

Parks and recreation professionals with master's degrees can pursue a Ph.D. in parks, recreation and tourism. Programs involve research and prepare graduates to teach in college-level parks and recreation education programs. Ph.D. programs in parks and recreation are most often offered on campus rather than online.

Recreation studies programs are offered in fully online or hybrid formats. Program options range from certificates or bachelor's degrees in parks and recreation to master's degrees in recreation, sports and tourism, among other options.

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