Recreation Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

About this article
Associate and bachelor's programs in recreation can lead to careers in public parks and private businesses. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
View available schools

Study Recreation: Degrees at a Glance

A degree in a recreation-related area may prepare you for several careers, including camp counselor, recreational therapists or recreational manager. While a degree may not be required for some careers, it may be advantageous in a competitive job market. Job duties may include organizing recreational events, supervising participants and ensuring that safety protocols are followed. In addition to a degree, some recreational professions, such as recreational therapists, may need certification as well.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for recreation workers were expected to increase 19% from 2010-2020. This is due to the growing number of recreational centers and emphasis on exercise. The BLS also predicted that employment for recreational therapists would increase 17% over the same time period.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work hands-on in the recreation industry Individuals seeking a management position or who are looking to work on the business end of recreation
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Camp counselor ($12,000 - $24,000)**
- Fitness trainer or instructor ($31,000)*
- Recreation worker ($22,000)*
- Recreational therapist ($41,000)*
- Recreational manager***($31,000 - $64,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 60 credits - Roughly 120 credits
- Internship or other experience requirement
Prerequisites - High school diploma or equivalent - High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability No, but general online associate programs are offered Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **PayScale.com (September 2012 figures, 10th-90th percentile), ***Experience is typically required in addition to degree

Associate Degree Programs

Associate programs in recreation typically require around 60 credits for completion. Depending on the exact major, professional experience may be required within the program. These programs may prepare you for specific certifications. Through these curricula, you will learn to design programs for individuals of all ages and how to manage various recreational facilities.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Coursework may be transferable to a bachelor's degree program
  • Some programs are designed toward a specific recreational area
  • May meet the requirements of professional certifications

Cons

  • May not be sufficient for management opportunities
  • May not be required for some jobs in the recreational industry
  • Recreational therapy degrees may require a background check for the professional experience requirement

Coursework and Requirements

Associate programs typically require basic science and math among the general education requirements. These may include elementary statistics or human biology. Other requirements outside of the recreational core may include coursework in psychology and public speaking. Core courses may include:

  • Health and wellness principles
  • Leadership in recreation and leisure services
  • Recreation programming
  • Emergency curriculum

Online Programs

While online programs specific to recreation aren't available, you may consider schools that offer general associate programs online. These programs will allow you to complete most of the general education requirements through distance learning. You may finish your core courses onsite.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

You may consider earning certifications that can help you handle emergency situations. These certifications may include Basic Life Support or CPR. The technical requirements of a job can vary by position. Some positions may require you to be knowledgeable in the operation of exercise equipment or therapeutic devices. Some management jobs may just require basic computer skills.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's programs in recreation may include specific concentrations, like parks and natural resource management or resort and lodging management. Some programs may have you select an approved minor in conjunction with your recreation major. These programs provide more in-depth topics than associate degrees, covering the business, communication and technical components of the profession.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • May qualify you for management positions
  • May meet professional certification requirements
  • Experience is often required within curriculum
  • Complete online programs are available

Cons

  • Demand more general education requirements than associate programs
  • Experience may still be required for management positions
  • May have to meet prerequisites for internships

Coursework and Requirements

These 4-year programs have similar general education requirements, which typically include statistics and lab-based sciences. Some business-related courses, such as marketing and management, may be required. Core coursework may include:

  • Foundations of leisure management
  • Design and maintenance of faculties
  • Program leadership
  • Planning and evaluation in park and recreation management

Online Programs

Complete online programs are available at the bachelor's degree-level. Some of these programs allow out-of-state students to pay resident tuition rates. Experience and seminar requirements that will need some on-site work may still apply.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

In addition to the same certifications that associate degree holders may seek, you may pursue certification through the National Recreation and Park Administration (NRPA). The BLS indicated that this credential can be attained through experience, but a bachelor's degree shortens the time needed for eligibility. If you graduate from an NRPA-accredited program, you may take the qualifying exam right away. While most bachelor's programs include a course in basic computer skills, you may want to maintain your skills in basic computer programs and applications.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
  • Providence, RI

    Johnson & Wales University

  • Marysville, CA

    Yuba College

  • Young Harris, GA

    Young Harris College

  • Rock Springs, WY

    Western Wyoming Community College

  • Altus, OK

    Western Oklahoma State College

  • Saratoga, CA

    West Valley College

  • Culver City, CA

    West Los Angeles College

  • Chula Vista, CA

    Southwestern College

  • Nashville, TN

    Welch College

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AASBA in Health Club Operations

Which subject are you interested in?

Yuba College

Young Harris College

Western Wyoming Community College

Western Oklahoma State College

West Valley College

West Los Angeles College