Therapeutic Recreation (formerly named Leisure Studies) can lead to a career in a wide range of professions, including but not limited to collegiate, amateur, and professional sport administration, commercial leisure endeavors, community recreation programs, non-profit leisure organizations, specialists who assist children and their families in coping with illness and life-changing events, and recreational therapists who help individuals improve their quality of life through recreational activities.
Why Study at Iowa?
Students specialize in one of three areas through Iowa's leisure studies degree program, each leading to a career that involves helping people and meeting challenges across the spectrum of leisure activities:
- Child life specialists help children and families adjust to the stress of serious illness and other challenging life events. They also are dedicated to improving children’s well-being and growth. Play and leisure activities are important tools they use for improving physical, emotional, social, and cognitive functions. The leisure studies program's partnership with University of Iowa Children's Hospital facilitates practicum and internship opportunities for Iowa students in the child life track.
- Recreation and sport business professionals provide leadership in sport and recreation. They are skilled at planning, budgeting, organization, and promotion in a variety of sport and recreational settings. Students in this track pursue careers with collegiate, amateur, and professional sport administration, community recreation programs, sports marketing and promotion, and commercial fitness management.
- Therapeutic recreation is a health-oriented field that involves using recreation services to improve or maintain physical, mental, and emotional well-being as well as positive social function in people with disabilities or special needs. Students who complete this track are qualified to sit for the exam required for national certification.
The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program in leisure studies is offered through the Department of Health and Human Physiology. Course work varies depending on the track you choose.
- Students in the child life track will take several foundation courses in addition to courses in therapeutic recreation, leadership, and programming. The program also requires an internship and course work in supporting disciplines, including education, psychology, social work, and sociology.
- Students in the recreation and sport business track will take core courses on leisure and society, psychology, sociology and statistics. They'll also take foundation courses in recreation and sport administration, business practices, facilities design and management, liability, and promotion. An internship is optional.
- Students in the therapeutic recreation track complete foundational courses in therapeutic recreation (such as evaluation, administration, programming, rehabilitation, and leisure), several courses in supporting disciplines (such as anatomy, human development and behavior, human services, and psychology), and complete a pre-internship seminar and internship.
See Leisure Studies in the UI General Catalog for information about course requirements and graduating with honors.
Minor in Leisure Studies
Review Leisure Studies in the UI General Catalog for more details.
Students interested in the recreation and sport business track need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Admission to either the child life or therapeutic recreation track requires satisfactory completion of at least 24 semester hours of prerequisite college course work (12 for transfer students); refer to the Leisure Studies Program website for specific information about the courses and Grade-Point Average (GPA) required for admission to either track.
Admission Requirements Tabs
Faculty, Facilities, and Resources
Many resources on campus relate to the leisure studies major, including the Division of Recreational Services, Student Health and Wellness, and the Aging Studies Program. Visit the Leisure Studies Program website for links to other resources.
Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.
Leisure studies graduates find jobs in a variety of settings.
The majority of children’s hospitals and pediatric units in other health care facilities employ child life specialists to address cognitive, social, and psychological issues associated with child illness and hospitalization. Child life specialists also work in rehabilitation centers, private practice and consulting, school systems, special-purpose camps, and hospice.
Recreation and sport business specialists work with professional and amateur sport teams, college and high school athletic programs, national and international sport organizations, firms specializing in sport marketing and sponsorship, and commercial fitness businesses.
Graduates work in recreation management as activity directors, community or campus recreation professionals, program coordinators and directors in park and recreation departments, and non-profit or commercial leisure-related organizations.
Therapeutic recreation professionals are employed in settings such as skilled nursing facilities, community recreation centers, state and community mental health institutions, general medical hospitals, physical rehabilitation centers, special recreation districts, correctional facilities, senior centers, facilities for the mentally delayed or emotionally disturbed, and substance-abuse programs.
Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a leisure studies major.