Schools for Aspiring Activities Directors: How to Choose

Aspiring activities directors can prepare for their career through a certificate or degree program in leisure and recreational studies. Get some suggestions on what to consider before choosing a school for a degree in recreation and leisure studies.

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Programs in recreation and leisure studies are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels throughout the U.S. Master's degree programs are appropriate for individuals interested in higher-level positions and research.

10 Leisure and Recreational Studies Schools

These universities offer programs for aspiring recreational directors.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition
(2015-2016)*
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 4-year, Public Certificate, Bachelor's, Graduate Certificate Undergraduate: In-state $10,358; Out-of-state $23,348; Graduate: In-state $8,691; Out-of state $17,802
Ohio University Athens, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: In-state $11,548; Out-of-state $20,512
Oregon State University Bend, OR 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: In-state $10,107; Out-of-state $28,767
Pennsylvania State University--Main Campus University Park, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate: In-state $17,514; Out-of-state $31,346; Graduate: In-state $19,328; Out-of state $33,142
Texas A & M University - College Station College Station, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate: In-state $10,176; Out-of-state $28,768; Graduate: In-state $5,598; Out-of state $15,125
University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate: In-state $8,522; Out-of-state $21,826; Graduate: In-state $7,199; Out-of state $17,775
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate: In-state $15,054; Out-of-state $30,214; Graduate: In-state $15,023; Out-of state $28,213
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: In-state $8,104; Out-of-state $27,890; Graduate: In-state $8,396; Out-of state $25,574
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: In-state $13,790; Out-of-state $22,210; Graduate: In-state $15,844; Out-of state $24,508
University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: In-state $6,898; Out-of-state $18,610

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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School Selection Criteria

There are several things to think about when choosing a program in this field.

  • Prospective activities directors might want to specialize in a specific area of recreation management, such as therapeutic recreation, recreation administration or child life.
  • Some schools feature organizations for recreation students, such as internships, career fairs, workshops or guest speakers, and some schools coordinate activities with local parks, schools, hospitals or nursing homes.
  • Once they've graduated, aspiring activities directors might choose to pursue certification, which could increase their job prospects, so they should look for programs that meet certification standards.
  • Students who plan to seek a professional designation might need to select an educational program that's earned specific accreditation, such as ones recognized by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT).

Certificate in Activity Direction or Leisure and Recreational Studies

Some certificate programs meet state educational mandates for activities directors or prepare students for national certification. Although many certificate programs are open to all high school graduates, others require the applicant to also hold a bachelor's degree. Certificate programs typically offer aspiring activities directors the opportunity to specialize in a particular area, such as outdoor recreation, travel and tourism, campus recreation and volunteer services.

Associate's Degree in Leisure and Recreational Studies

Like certificate offerings, associate's programs often allow students to specialize in an area of leisure and recreation studies. Students typically complete general education requirements and a sequence in psychology, in addition to courses in the major. Some programs include internships or other cooperative education experiences.

Bachelor's Degree in Leisure and Recreation Studies

Some bachelor's programs in this field divide their curricula into lower and upper divisions. Lower-division coursework generally introduces students to basic principles in planning and leading activities, while upper-division coursework covers advanced management topics. Many programs require completion of an internship prior to graduation. Some programs provide tracks students can take, such as therapeutic recreation or child life studies.

Master's Degree in Recreation Management or Leisure and Recreation Studies

Coursework in a graduate program for aspiring activities managers covers advanced topics in organizational behavior, recreation and management. Students also learn about the tools needed and processes employed in conducting research. Master's students often present a thesis or research project; however, some programs allow students to complete an internship instead.

Studies in recreational management or leisure and recreation studies are required to become an activities director. Many schools throughout the U.S. offer certificate and degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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