Therapeutic Recreation is a health-oriented and client-centered field of human services.

Therapeutic practice involves a continuum of services that use recreational activities to improve functional abilities; leisure education to help individuals acquire skills, knowledge, and attitudes that facilitate an independent lifestyle; and other programs to enhance health, growth, development, and independence through rewarding leisure activities.

Why Iowa?

The Therapeutic Recreation Program prepares students for professional work with persons in various underserved populations and as advocates for social inclusion. Students learn to use a systematic process of assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation to provide equitable opportunity for recreation, leisure, and play by diverse populations.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in this major must meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission to the NCTRC Certification track is selective. Students can be admitted to the program after completing 24 s.h. at Iowa (or 12 s.h. for transfer students) with a University of Iowa GPA of at least 2.50 and a cumulative GPA of at least 2.50.


Therapeutic Recreation
Inclusive Recreation
Inclusive Recreation
NCTRC Certification
  Honors Courses
  Four-Year Graduation Plan
  Selective Admission
NCTR Certification Track
Admission Process

Careers and Outcomes

Iowa graduates have a 95 percent job/grad school placement rate within six months of graduation. Our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Recreational therapists work in clinical and community-based settings with a wide variety of populations. They work with persons with mental illness, spinal cord and brain injuries, substance abuse, or developmental disabilities, or with at-risk youth and frail older adults.

Clinical settings tend to focus on psychiatric or physical rehabilitation where the therapist works with a team of allied health professionals or in long-term care, where therapists provide services to enhance residents' quality of life.

Community-based therapeutic recreation is the fastest-growing and most varied area of practice. Therapists may be affiliated with community recreation departments, school systems, community mental health agencies, or semi-independent living situations. The goals in such settings are enhancing quality of life, health promotion, and integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities in regular recreation programs.

Therapeutic Recreation is a popular major for students pursuing careers or graduate degrees in other human service fields such as occupational therapy, child life, and social work.

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from more than 100 Study Abroad Programs and multiple Undergraduate Research Opportunities.


The University of Iowa provides a variety of scholarships to eligible undergraduate students through the Iowa Scholarship Portal. Scholarships are available to first-year, transfer, and currently enrolled students. For details on scholarships for your program of study, check directly with the department or college.

The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.


The Therapeutic Recreation major requires a minimum of 120 s.h., including 60-63 s.h. of work for the major. A therapeutic recreation internship is required and students must complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences GE CLAS Core.

Tracks in Therapeutic Recreation

The NCTRC track (63 s.h.) focuses on developing therapeutic recreation competencies necessary to sit for the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) exam and to pursue a career in clinical or community therapeutic recreation. Students who complete the curriculum and pass the NCTRC Certification exam will earn the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential.

The Inclusive Recreation track (61-63 s.h.) focuses on a variety of domains related to adaptive and inclusive recreation. Students can concentrate on a certain population or diversify their experience through curriculum design. This track does not meet requirements for the NCTRC certification exam and students in this track will not be eligible for the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) credential.

To learn about required coursework and graduating with honors, view Therapeutic Recreation in the UI General Catalog.