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What Are the Top Schools with Recreation Degree Programs?

Review what you should look for in a strong recreation degree program. Read about three nationally ranked schools with programs in this field, and find out what types of recreation degrees each school offers.

What Makes a Top Recreation Degree School?

When searching for a top school with recreation programs, you should look for one that has excellent outdoor and indoor recreational training facilities and laboratories. You could consider independent academic rankings as well as accreditation by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (www.nrpa.org). Graduates of accredited programs, like those below, are eligible to sit for the National Recreation and Park Association's Certified Park and Recreation Professional examination.

What Are Three Schools with Recreation Degree Programs?

Indiana University (IU) in Bloomington, IN

IU tied for 89th in U.S. News & World Report's best national universities list for 2019. The school's Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands provides technical assistance across the country to enhance outdoor and recreational experiences. The Global and Community Health Program, part of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER), promotes research collaborations with a worldwide network of scholars.

HPER has a number of programs that support research in outdoor recreation, sports management, tourism management and therapeutic recreation. Students can also take advantage of some of the facilities, such as the HPER Library, the Bradford Woods outdoor education center, the Counsilman Center for swimming, the tennis center and nine human performance laboratories. Therapeutic recreation studies for people with severe mental illness may include involve outdoor programming and adventure therapy. Some courses for this program are available online. These programs are offered:

  • Bachelor of Science in Recreation (BSR) in Therapeutic Recreation
  • BSR in Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Human Ecology
  • BSR in Public, Nonprofit and Community Recreation
  • BSR in Recreational Sport Management
  • BSR in Recreational Therapy
  • BSR in Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management
  • Master of Science (M.S.) in Outdoor Recreation
  • M.S. in Recreation Administration
  • M.S. in Recreational Sport Administration
  • M.S. in Recreational Therapy
  • M.S. in Park and Public Lands Management
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Leisure Behavior

University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, GA

U.S. News & World Report's 2019 rankings of best national universities placed UGA in a tie for the 46th position. Recreation-related programs are offered through the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Education's Recreation and Leisure Studies Program. Natural Resources, Recreation and Tourism majors can complete service learning capstone projects. They may study abroad in places like Antarctica, Fiji, Belize, New Zealand, Brazil or Finland. The Cooperative Education Program permits students to alternate semesters on and off-campus to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources or the U.S. Forest Service.

The College of Education offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs through its Department of Counseling and Human Development Services. Faculty members have won awards from the National Recreation and Park Association, the Society of Park and Recreation Educators and Russia's minister of education for a study abroad program. Students may have help securing external funding for research projects through the college's Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Education and Human Development. These degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources in Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism
  • Master of Forest Resources
  • Master of Natural Resources
  • Master of Science in Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism

Utah State University (USU) in Logan, UT

At Utah State University, both the College of Natural Resources and the Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism support education programs and research on natural-resource based recreation. The Department of Environment and Society offers natural resource-based undergraduate and graduate recreation resource programs. There's also a Natural Resources and Environmental Education Graduate Certificate to prepare students for careers in wild land recreation environments. Undergraduates may work in faculty laboratories or design personal research projects.

The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services offers a major and honors program in parks and recreation and a health education master's degree through its Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. The parks and recreation major requires an internship and offers a cooperative work option. The master's program, designed for health, physical education and recreation teachers, incorporates recreation studies in a curriculum that also includes sport performance. These degrees are offered:

  • Bachelor of Science in Parks and Recreation
  • Bachelor of Science in Recreation Resource Management
  • Master of Science in Recreation Resource Management

Other Schools with Recreation Degree Programs

College/UniversityInstitute TypeLocationEstimated Undergrad In-State Tuition*
Arizona Western College2-year, Public Yuma, AZ$3,000
Central Michigan University4-year, PublicMount Pleasant, MI$13,000
Kean University 4-year, PublicUnion, NJ$12,000
University of Rio Grande4-year, PrivateRio Grande, OH$27,500
Utica College4-year, Private Utica, NY$21,000
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania4-year, PublicEast Stroudsburg, PA$11,500
Florida State University4-year, PublicTallahassee, FL$6,000
Rust College4-year, PrivateHolly Springs, MS$10,000
Snow College4-year, PublicEphraim, UT$4,000
Illinois State University4-year, PublicNormal, IL$14,500

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education