Recreation Studies Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Recreation studies is a broad field; students who choose the major can find work within a variety of private and public organizations, including recreation centers, parks departments and summer camps. Read on to learn more about selecting a recreation studies program.

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Students looking to earn degrees in recreation studies can find relevant programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Accredited programs are available through public and private universities around the United States.

10 Schools Offering Accredited Recreation Studies Programs

Below are schools offering programs in recreation studies at various degree levels:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees, In-State (2015-2016)*
Arkansas Tech University Russellville, AR 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $6,192
Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $10,158
California State University - Chico Chico, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: $7,022, Graduate: $8,288
Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $6,273
Western Washington University Bellingham, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $8,611
Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: $9,480, Graduate: $11,136
University of Tennessee - Knoxville Knoxville, TN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: $12,436, Graduate: $12,356
Clemson University Clemson, SC 4-year, Public Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate Undergraduate: $14,272, Graduate: $9,220
Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, Ohio 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $10,796
Minnesota State University - Mankato Mankato, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $7,836

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Important considerations when deciding which school to attend include the following:

  • Prospective students should make sure that the program's curriculum coincides with their future career goals.
  • Interested students should find a program accredited by the National Recreation and Park Association, which shows employers that the graduate has received an education that adheres to national standards and has learned the theory, history and practice of recreation as it relates to activity and community.
  • Students may want to find out what the pass rate is for graduates on the certification exam for Certified Park and Recreation Professionals.
  • In programs that include internships, it can be helpful for students to find out where they are offered, in order to ensure that they will have the chance to gain experience in a setting where they would like to pursue a career.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs in recreation studies provide basic coursework in health sciences, recreation facility management and effective communication. Students are also required to complete general education requirements. Some schools allow students to specialize in a particular subfield of interest, such as activity/fitness or outdoor education. Graduates may get an entry-level job in the field or advance to a four-year bachelor's program in a related field.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs in recreation studies offer a more comprehensive introduction to the field than associate's degree program, covering the organizational, financial, cultural and environmental aspects of the field. In some programs, students can choose a specific focus area, such as event management, community recreation and park administration, hospitality management, parks and conservation or youth development. Students may also be required to complete one or more internships prior to graduation.

Master's Degree Programs

At the master's degree level, students who are interested in recreation studies can choose between thesis and non-thesis programs. Non-thesis programs consist entirely of advanced coursework and prepare students specifically for high-level management positions in the field. Courses may be offered online in order to accommodate the scheduling needs of working professionals. Alternatively, students may pursue a research-based Master of Science (MS) program. In these programs, students conduct high-level research in a recreation-related area, leading to a final thesis. Graduates typically advance to PhD programs.

Doctoral Degree Programs

PhD programs in recreation are relatively rare, but there are a few programs that allow students to pursue doctoral research in the field. Some programs are available online. Upon completion, graduates generally become academic researchers and teachers.

Certificate Programs

Individuals who earned their undergraduate degrees in recreation studies and want to advance to a management position without committing to a full master's degree program can earn a graduate certificate in the field. There are also graduate certificate programs that focus on a specific subfield of recreation studies, such as youth development leadership, allowing experienced recreation professionals to specialize their expertise.

Degree programs in recreation studies prepare students for work in parks, community or health centers through coursework in communications, business, management and research. These programs can be found at various levels, from associate's degrees to doctoral programs, and students should keep their career goals in mind when picking a program.

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