Students who pursue a PhD in recreation may study under program titles such as Recreation Management, Leisure and Recreation, Leisure Behavior, or Parks and Recreation Management. The study of recreation and leisure and their effects on human lives spans across many different fields. However, students may choose a field of specialty, such as hospitality or natural resource management, to narrow the focus and research. Students are often encouraged to formally or informally participate in a minor field of study, such as public administration, to ensure an easy transition out of academia and into the workplace.
Though most candidates who apply for doctoral candidacy will already have a master’s degree level of education, some exceptions are made for those whose education or background falls short of this benchmark. Such candidates are generally required to take on extra course work in order to satisfy the prerequisites for the Ph.D. study. Once enrolled in the program, it takes most students four years to complete their schooling.
About Online PhD Programs in Recreation
An online Ph.D. in recreation allows students to learn and work at an individualized pace. Clemson University, based out of South Carolina, offers an online PhD Program in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Such programs emphasis an evaluation of the student’s grasp of subject matter as well as the ability to plan and conduct research effectively. Upon enrollment, a student will consult with an advisory committee to plan an area of focus and to map out course requirements.
- Marketing of Recreation Services. Students will learn how to apply marketing and advertising strategies to the development and delivery of recreation services.
- Political and Legal Aspects of Recreation Services.This course examines the roles each level of government plays in the provisions of recreation services.
- Adventure-based Programming and Administration. Students will learn how to utilize wilderness and backcountry to design programs and how to evaluate the level of challenge the course presents to participants.
- Leisure Education in Therapeutic Recreation. Students will examine intervention strategies and therapeutic recreation services implemented in clinical and community settings.
- Leisure Studies Foundations. Students will receive a general background on leisure studies.
- Tourism Behavior. Using an interdisciplinary approach, students will explore the various approaches of social science that explain tourism behavior.
PhD candidates in recreation studies will spend a majority of their time conducting research for their final dissertations. Students are required to pass a final dissertation defense at least three weeks prior to the student’s commencement date. At this time, a student’s research methodology and communication skills will be evaluated on a pass-fail basis.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Recreation
By participating in a PhD program in recreational studies, students will have the opportunity to coordinate research and collaborate with peers and mentors in their fields. Also, gaining an advanced degree is the necessary requirement for most research-based positions or professorships. Students who wish to delve into a particular topic associated with recreational studies will benefit from the sheer accumulation of knowledge an advanced degree provides. Candidates will learn to refine and strengthen critical thinking skills and to become an authority in their fields.
Because of the immense amount of time and money required to pursue a terminal degree, potential candidates should research the benefits of earning a Ph.D. before making the commitment. Students who have never participated in the workforce may find that they are too inexperienced to find a position in their fields; and some may not be able to afford to be in training for several years at a time. Also, holding a Ph.D. is no guarantee for a higher paying salary, which could be problematic for those who fund their education through student loans.
Application & Admission Requirements
Most institutions require GRE scores as well as transcripts evidencing past academic performance. International and ESL students will be required to reach a benchmark score on the TOEFL test. Generally, letters of recommendation and an updated CV are requested to supplement an application. Some students may be required to submit a preliminary thesis topic or interest of study.
Career Options & Job Market
A degree in recreational management can apply to various career paths. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor,recreational workers earn an average salary of $22,260 per year. This figure, however, is for an entry-level position with an educational requirement of a bachelor degree. Research, teaching, and government positions are all estimated at higher salaries.
Where to Find Information
- Career Profile for Recreation and Leisure Studies This resource provides career information for recreation management and leisure studies majors.
- National Park Foundation: The official charity of America’s parks provides volunteer opportunities as well as examples of charitable work and projects.
- U.S. Department of the Interior:This government department provides an overview of the country’s national parks and career opportunities.
How to Get Funding
Earning a Ph.D. takes many years of study, and students need to have a financial plan in place before committing to a program. Because many careers in recreation management are associated with government parks departments, there are many publically funded grants and scholarships available in this field. Visit your program’s financial aid office in order to access a complete list of scholarships, grants and loans for which you may be eligible. Candidates may wish to defer enrollment until funding is obtained.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan: All U.S. graduate students are eligible for the Stafford Loan which awards a maximum of $12,000 per year. Students can benefit from the fixed interest rate of 6.8%.
- Federal Perkins Loan: The Federal Perkins loan is awarded based on financial need, and eligible graduate students receive an average of $3,500 per academic year. The interest rate of the Federal Perkins Loan is fixed at 5.0%.
- Campus-Based Aid: Many universities offer their own merit-based or need-based scholarships and grants. Checking with your school’s financial aid officer will also connect you to a federal database of scholarships and grants.
- As with any advanced degree, the commitment of time and money is extensive when pursuing a Ph.D. Before committing to a program, it is always wise to develop a financial plan that will provide for both your tuition and your living expenses. This financial forecast should also be extended to any future career prospects. Use data and statistics to estimate your future earnings and to determine whether the academic investment will yield a financial return.
- Before choosing a program, potential candidates should seek advice and insight from current students and professors. Gaining inside perspective to the course requirements will leave students better prepared to face and overcome challenges during their studies. Also, reaching out to members of your field is an excellent opportunity for networking, which could prove helpful support in years to come.
- In addition to the preparation that goes into planning for a course of study, it is also necessary to consider the career opportunities that await the doctor of philosophy. Participating in internships or volunteer work will supply students with experience and will connect them to the larger recreational community. Connecting with leaders in the professional sector is advantageous to acquiring a job in any field.
- It should be emphasized that many graduate students of leisure studies and recreational management earn credentials in separate, yet supporting, fields of study. Choosing a supplementary field of study will coincide with career research and should be determined after discussing your options with program mentors and industry leaders. If interested in obtaining a government position, candidates should research further to identify special requirements or potential disqualifiers.