Therapeutic Recreation program

MUndergrad major GGraduate program

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.


What is a recreational therapist?

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.


I couldn't have asked for a better college experience the last four years at UWL. A huge thanks to all of my supporters: my professors, my employers, my classmates, my friends and my family. La Crosse will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will cherish all of my memories made here, forever!

Maisie Radle

Recreational therapy jobs

UWL therapeutic recreation 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
  • Activity director
  • Life enrichment director
  • Activity therapist
  • Leisure education specialist
  • Recreation leader
  • Recreation therapist
  • 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 Therapeutic Recreation program?

Excellent career placement

The job placement rate for UWL therapeutic recreation 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 therapeutic recreation instructors, which is significant in that other universities may have only one staff member with a therapeutic recreation 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 Therapeutic Recreation. 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 Therapeutic Recreation.  

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 therapeutic recreation.

Areas of study

Sample courses