Students studying therapeutic recreation work with a child.

BS in Therapeutic Recreation

University of Iowa Therapeutic Recreation logo.Therapeutic recreation is a health-oriented and client-centered field of human services. It involves the provision of recreation therapy and leisure-based programs designed to improve or support the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning of the people it serves. Therapeutic recreation specialists use treatment interventions, leisure education and recreation opportunities to promote a satisfying leisure lifestyle among persons with disabilities or other barriers to rewarding leisure engagement.

Degrees Available

  • Bachelor of Science (BS)

Tracks in Therapeutic Recreation

The Therapeutic Recreation curriculum consists of two tracks designed to allow students to acquire in-depth knowledge in their chosen area of interest. The courses comprising each track provide an opportunity for students to tailor their degree to best fit their career and academic interests.

The NCTRC Certification track (63 SH) is a selective track that focuses on developing therapeutic recreation competencies necessary to sit for the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC) examination and successfully pursue a career in clinical or community therapeutic recreation.  Students who complete this track and pass the NCTRC Certification exam will earn the CTRS credential.

**The NCTRC Certification track is a selective track.  Students must complete 24 s.h. at the University of Iowa (or 12 s.h. for transfer students) and must have a University of Iowa g.p.a. of at least 2.50 and a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 2.50 to enter the track. Entrance to the track can occur after completion of HHP:1400 Human Anatomy and Physiology, TR:1070 Perspectives on Leisure and Play, and TR:3160 Introduction to Therapeutic Recreation.  Meet with your advisor once you have completed entrance requirements to declare this track.

The Inclusive Recreation track (61-63 SH) is an open track that can be declared at any time and allows students to gain knowledge in a variety of domains related to adaptive and inclusive recreation. Students can choose to focus on a certain population or diversify their experience through their curriculum design. (This track does not meet eligibility requirements for the NCTRC certification exam.; students who complete this track will not be eligible for the CTRS credential.)

Post-Graduate and Career Options

Therapeutic recreation is a professional field that involves providing recreation programs designed to improve or maintain the physical, emotional, mental, and social functioning of patients and consumers.  The therapeutic recreation program prepares students for professional work with persons in various underserved populations and as advocates for social inclusion. The major emphasizes the use of a systematic process of assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation to provide equitable opportunity for recreation, leisure, and play by diverse populations.

Certified therapeutic recreation specialists (CTRS) work in both clinical and community-based settings with a wide variety of client populations. The most common clientele groups include persons with mental illness, spinal cord and brain injuries, older adults, individuals who experience chemical dependence and substance abuse, youth at-risk, and people with developmental disabilities.  Settings often focus on psychiatric or physical rehabilitation, where the therapist works with a team of allied health professionals to provide treatment through recreation and leisure-based interventions. Services may also be provided in long-term care settings, where the therapist works with the health care team to provide treatment interventions and recreation opportunities to enhance quality of life for residents in nursing homes, memory care and assisted living centers, or respite care agencies. Many CTRS’s are also employed by community and non-profit agencies that provide services for underrepresented populations.  

**The NCTRC Certification Track within the Bachelor's degree in Therapeutic Recreation qualifies the student to sit for the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification examination.

Inclusive recreation in community-based settings is the fastest growing area of practice in therapeutic recreation and the most diverse. Community-based inclusive recreation specialists may be affiliated with community recreation departments, adaptive sports programs, school systems, independent living support services, special recreation associations, and community mental health agencies. The goals of inclusive recreation in community-based settings are equally diverse, for example enhancing quality of life, health protection and promotion, and integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities in recreation programs.

Our current student pool includes those students planning a career in therapeutic and inclusive recreation settings but has also become popular with students pursuing careers or graduate degrees in other human service fields such as occupational therapy, child life, social work, etc.

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