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Top Schools for Recreation Studies

Read about degree programs in recreation studies, which can help students prepare for careers in parks departments, the tourism industry or other related venues. Learn about academic options and courses at three top-notch universities, and find a handy list of other schools in the U.S. that offer programs in recreation studies.

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Recreation studies-type degrees are not that common, but some of the nation's top schools provide such programs, usually in multiple forms. Let's get a more detailed look at these schools and what they have to offer.

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School Information

Students enrolled in recreation studies programs learn how to plan and facilitate leisure activities, which can help to improve overall community health or boost tourism for local economies. Each of the four good-standing universities, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, offer an undergraduate program in a recreation-related area, as well as graduate degrees in similar fields of study.

University of Illinois at Urbana in Champaign, IL

School Highlight: Eight of the school's faculty members have received the 'Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching' in the past 10 years.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign (UIUC) tied for 10th place on its list of best public schools and tied for 44th on its best national university survey for 2017. UIUC offers a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Management through the College of Applied Health Sciences. Once enrolled, students take courses in public recreation planning, leisure studies and recreation marketing.

The university also offers a Master of Science in Recreation, Sport and Tourism, available on campus or online. Areas of concentration include park and recreation management, leisure behavior, sport management and tourism management. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in the same field of study is also available.

Texas A&M University in College Station, TX

School Highlight: Texas A&M offers outreach programs through the AgriLife Extension Service.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Texas A&M University (TAMU) 21st in its Best Value Schools category for national universities for 2017. The university's Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences offers a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Services. Areas of emphasis include community recreation and park administration, parks and conservation, tourism management and youth development. The school also offers a Master of Recreation Resources Development and a Ph.D. in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences.

University of Georgia in Athens, GA

School Highlight: UGA is home to the Center for Physical Activity and Health.

The University of Georgia (UGA) tied for 18th place among public national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2017. The university's College of Education offers a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in exercise and sport science; program emphasis is on developing and supervising physical activity and exercise.

Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ

School Highlight: Research opportunities are available through the Center for Sustainable Tourism.

As noted by U.S. News & World Report, Arizona State University was ranked #1 in most innovative schools for 2016. The College of Public Service and Community Solutions provides a B.S. in Tourism Development and Management, sustainable tourism being the concentration. A similar degree, a B.S. in Parks and Recreation Management, is offered as well. Both programs are available at the master's level, which may be combined into an accelerated degree plan.

Top Recreation Studies Programs

The following schools also offer quality recreation studies programs:

  • Brigham Young University, in Provo, UT offers two majors.
  • California State University of Long Beach, CA offers a post-baccalaureate certificate program focusing on recreation therapy.
  • The program at California State University, in Northridge, CA is accredited through the Council on Accreditation for Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT).
  • Indiana University, in Bloomington, IN is home to the Leisure Research Institute and the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands.
  • Students can complete internships with local professional sports organizations at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Students can combine recreation studies courses with electives in social work, sports management or tourism, among other areas at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, located in Minneapolis, MN.

A number of good colleges, some high-ranked, offer programs in a recreation studies field. The specific area of focus varies by school, and some have more than one, often at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

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