Therapeutic Recreation (formerly named Leisure Studies) can lead to a career in a wide range of professions, including but not limited to 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 quality of life through recreational activities.

Why Study at Iowa

Students specialize in one of two areas in Iowa's therapeutic recreation 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 program's partnership with the University of Iowa Children's Hospital facilitates practicum and internship opportunities for Iowa students in the child life track.
  • Inclusive recreation is a branch of therapeutic recreation 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 in therapeutic recreation.

Course Work

The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program in therapeutic recreation 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 child life foundation courses as well as 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 inclusive recreation track complete foundation courses in therapeutic recreation (such as evaluation, programming, rehabilitation, and disabilities), several courses in supporting disciplines (such as anatomy, human development and behavior, human services, and psychology), and a pre-internship seminar and internship.

See Therapeutic Recreation in the UI General Catalog for information about course requirements and graduating with honors.

Minor in Therapeutic Recreation

Review Therapeutic Recreation in the UI General Catalog for more details.

Admission Requirements

Admission to either the child life or inclusive recreation track requires satisfactory completion of at least 24 semester hours of prerequisite college course work (12 for transfer students).

Visit the Health and Human Physiology website to learn about requirements for admission to either track.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to nearly 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

Many campus resources relate to the therapeutic recreation major, including the Division of Recreational Services, Student Health, Student Wellness, Disability Studies, and the Aging Studies Program. Visit the Health and Human Physiology 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.

Therapeutic Recreation 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.

Therapeutic recreation/inclusive 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.


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

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a therapeutic recreation major.


Therapeutic Recreation (BS)
Therapeutic Recreation
Honors Courses