Recreational Therapy program

Undergrad major Graduate degree

Recreational therapists help people adapt and grow through recreation and leisure.

Your future could be working to improve the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities or illnesses by creating therapeutic programs. These goal-directed programs are in areas such as exercise, aquatics, expressive arts, music and more.

UWL has been recognized nationally for "Excellence in Therapeutic Recreation Education." And the university is one of the few nationwide to offer therapeutic recreation as its own independent major.


Recreational therapy jobs

UWL recreational therapy graduates are eligible to become certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRSs) through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Agencies that have employed UWL graduates include: Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Wisconsin Resource Center, Wis.; Gundersen Health System, Wis.; Mendota Mental Health Center, Wis.; and North Suburban Special Recreation Associations in Illinois and more.

Entry-level positions

  • Certified therapeutic recreation specialist
  • Recreational therapist
  • Activity director
  • Life enrichment director
  • Activity therapist
  • Leisure education specialist
  • Recreation leader
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Inclusion specialist

Work settings

  • Hospitals
  • Adult daycare centers
  • Adventure programs and camps
  • Senior citizen centers
  • Chemical dependency treatment programs
  • Correctional centers
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Mental health facilities
  • Veterans administration and medical centers
  • More

What distinguishes UWL's Recreational Therapy program?

Excellent career placement

The job placement rate for UWL recreational therapy graduates has consistently been more than 90 percent.

Accredited program

The program is accredited by The Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT).

Nationally-recognized program

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association has awarded UWL with recognition for “Excellence in Therapeutic Recreation Education.”  

Committed faculty

The award-winning faculty members in the program have diverse professional interests and are committed to scholarship and the professional development of students. All hold the credential as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). UWL has a large number of recreational therapy instructors, which is significant in that other universities may have only one staff member with a recreational therapy background.

Program of Merit designation

The program received the Program of Merit for Health Professions designation from the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Master's degree in five years

Some graduates decide to continue their education, earning a master's degree in Recreational Therapy. UWL's program established a 4 + 1 graduate program in fall 2018, which provides an alternative and faster option to earn a master’s degree in Recreational Therapy.  

Student organizations

Students have the opportunity to join the active Therapeutic Recreation Majors Club. Objectives of the club are to enhance learning and increase professional development in all areas of recreational therapy.

Areas of study

Recreational Therapy

Recreational therapists assist people who are marginalized and/or live with disabilities and illnesses to help them improve their health and well-being. This is achieved through a wide range of recreation and leisure activities, as well as techniques to improve their physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure needs.


Undergrad major View a sample plan for Recreational Therapy Catalogfor Recreational Therapy Learn more for Recreational Therapy

Undergrad + graduate dual degree

As the field of recreational therapy moves toward master’s level entry, this dual degree program offers students a more efficient path toward completion of their master’s degree. Students earn a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in recreational therapy.

Undergrad major Graduate degree View a sample plan for Undergrad + graduate dual degree Catalogfor Undergrad + graduate dual degree

Sample courses

RTH 456 Program Design and Administration of Recreational Therapy This course is designed to present a rationale and foundation for systematic program design, program implementation and program evaluation in various recreational therapy settings. Students develop competence in the planning and development of evidenced-based recreational therapy programs using a structured and systematic process for purposes of improved client functioning and independence in life activities. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: RTH 319, RTH 352, RTH 355, RTH 376; junior standing. Offered Fall, Spring.

RTH 250 Introduction to Recreational Therapy The course introduces the history, service models, theory/philosophy, social implications, and potentials of recreational therapy practice. Basic skills of a recreational therapist are described and practiced. The need for, use of, and employment opportunities in recreational therapy are examined. Prerequisite: REC 150 or taken concurrently. Offered Fall, Spring.

RTH 492 Clinical Education Experience in Recreational Therapy This course provides opportunities to practice and integrate cognitive learning, with the associated psychomotor skills requirements of the profession, in accordance with professional standards of practice, to develop entry-level clinical proficiency and professional behavior as a recreational therapist as defined by professional guidelines for competencies necessary for safe and effective recreational therapy practice. This course is taught largely at an undergraduate level. Graduate students will have additional course requirements/expectations. Prerequisite: RTH 452, RTH 456, RTH 470; RTH major; junior standing. Offered Fall, Spring.