Recreation Major: Overview of Majors and Concentrations
Research bachelor's degrees in recreation. Get information on requirements, concentration options and career prospects to make an informed decision about your education.
Bachelor's Degree in Recreation
A recreation major, often offered as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree program, provides a broad range of academic opportunities and many areas of specialization. The core courses introduce students to the parks and recreation industry, teaching them how to how to provide programming and activities for a variety of populations, as well as how to demonstrate leadership and management in a leisure services setting. Students may enroll in a recreation major program with a high school education or GED.
Most recreation majors also complete field experiences, practicum courses and internships as part of the degree requirements, which gives them hands-on professional experience in their area of interest and allows them to make career connections. Many degree programs are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT) and prepare students for professional certification through the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) after graduation (www.nrpa.org).
In addition to a general recreation major, students can choose a concentration that will best prepare them for future parks and recreation careers. The therapeutic recreation concentration teaches students to design and provide recreation activities for people with physical or mental disabilities, or other special needs populations. It includes study of the human body, clinical assessment and psychology courses. Parks, recreation or tourism management concentrations approach the discipline from a business perspective and include coursework in marketing, promotion, public relations, management and administration. Students interested in outdoor activities can take a recreation major with a concentration in natural resources, parks or outdoor sports, in which they learn to provide high-adventure activities. They also study geology, ecology and resource management.
Though the curriculum for recreation majors may vary widely from one specialization to the next, most include a core of parks and recreation courses that will prepare students for a variety of industry careers. Some common recreation major courses include the following:
- Tourism studies
- Recreation management
- Leadership and administration
- Recreation programming planning
- Commercial recreation
- Inclusive leisure and recreation
Popular Career Options
After completing a bachelor's degree with a recreation major, students can gain employment at hotels and resorts, parks, outdoor recreation facilities, event venues, campgrounds and many other agencies. Some popular careers in recreation include:
- Recreation supervisor
- Outdoor activity leader
- Park ranger or superintendent
- Resort manager
- Activities director
Certification and Continuing Education Information
Recreation industry professionals can become certified through the NRPA to enhance their career opportunities and further develop their knowledge. The Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) credential is open to bachelor's degree graduates with at least one year of experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience, and requires passing an exam. The Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE) credentialing exam can be taken a year after the CPRP certification and requires either a bachelor's degree and five years of management experience or a master's degree and four years in a management position.
Students who pursue a major in therapeutic recreation typically qualify to sit for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) exam offered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (www.nctrc.org).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that although a bachelor's degree with a recreation major is often sufficient preparation for most recreation, parks and leisure activities careers, some employers might prefer or require an advanced degree for top management and administrative positions (www.bls.gov). A Master of Science (M.S.) degree in parks, recreation and tourism fosters management and leadership skills and includes courses in research methods, human resource management, marketing, finance and recreation planning.
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