A degree in leisure studies will teach students about the history and philosophy of leisure, preparing them for field work or a pursuit in academia. Programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels provide students with a wide array of specialization options such as recreational therapy, sport management, exercise science, and child life. Some of these programs may require licensing for employment, and many provide field and internship experiences as well. Doctoral programs require research and a dissertation. Some of these programs can be completed online, particularly at the graduate level.
Bachelor's Degree in Leisure Studies
Students in a leisure studies bachelor's degree program learn about providing recreational activities and services to the community. Students learn the history and philosophy of leisure while developing communication, organization, and leadership skills. In addition to classroom instruction, hands-on experience through an internship or field work is standard for many programs. Several colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in this field, and graduates may earn either a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science, or a Bachelor of Applied Science in Leisure Studies. A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for admission into a college or university. Common course topics include:
- Leisure in society
- Recreation, parks and leisure services
- Human development
- Evaluating leisure activities
Master's Degree in Leisure Studies
Master's degree programs in leisure studies offer advanced theoretical and practical study in the field, and specializations are typically required. Conducting research in the student's chosen specialty is common, and outcomes must usually be presented through a thesis or final project. Schools may offer the degree as a Master of Arts, Master of Science, or Master of Education. A bachelor's degree is necessary for admission into a master's degree program. Master's degree-level coursework usually pertains to leisure philosophies, research methodologies, and management concepts. Master's degree-seeking students may also complete internships or teaching assistantships. Common course topics include:
- Program design and evaluation
- Leisure and work in America
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Leisure Studies
While enrolled in leisure studies Ph.D. programs, students often work closely with faculty members in research, teaching and field experiences. Research is at the heart of Ph.D. programs, and a dissertation in a specific aspect of leisure studies is required for graduation. Coursework is often flexible and customized by the student and faculty. Graduates of leisure studies doctoral programs typically enter the field of academia. Admission requirements vary for each school, but typically require at least a bachelor's degree. Some schools require a major in a related field, while others do not. Common course topics include:
- Leisure behavior
- Leisure psychology
- Research methods
- Data interpretation
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program may qualify for jobs in a variety of work environments, such as community sports organizations, fitness clubs, and parks. Potential job titles might include:
- Exercise instructor
- Child life specialists
Career Outlook and Salary Information
One career option master's graduates may qualify for is recreational therapy. Recreational therapists organize and assist disabled or ill people with various recreational activities in order to promote overall well-being. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated a 12% increase in employment growth for recreational therapists between 2014 and 2024. According to May 2015 BLS data, there were 17,880 recreational therapists in the U.S. who earned a mean salary of $47,790. Some states regulate recreational therapists, reported the BLS. Regulation requirements vary by state, and individuals can inquire about specifics by visiting their state's medical board.
Ph.D. programs in leisure studies can prepare individuals to become college professors in the field. BLS projections for 2014-2024 indicated that employment for all postsecondary teachers should increase 13%. Helping fuel this increase is the anticipated number of students who are expected to enroll in college. The BLS reported that the mean salary of recreation and fitness studies postsecondary educators was $66,090 as of May 2015.
Bachelor's degree programs in leisure studies help students explore recreational activities and services that they can provide in the community. Graduate students dig deeper and learn about the practical study in the field by choosing a specialization to become more advanced in.