Therapeutic Recreation

Create caring communities and help people get more out of life

Discover how recreation can improve quality of life for everyone, including people with physical disabilities, people with developmental disabilities, older adults, patients in long-term care, and at-risk youth.

In Waterloo's Therapeutic Recreation (TR) program — one of only three in Ontario — you’ll learn how to develop recreation activities and leisure opportunities for people with varying abilities. Not to mention you can apply what you've learned to any co-op you land through the co-op stream.

By the time you graduate, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to make a real difference. As a recreation therapist, the programs you design and run can help teenagers stay off drugs, empower seniors to live more independently, improve the long-term health of stroke patients, and more.

Getting paid to help people play in Therapeutic Recreation

Wondering how to get paid by helping people play? Applied Health Sciences student, Esther, talks about her experiences in Waterloo's Therapeutic Recreation program.

Questions? Ask our student ambassadors

Learn why our Recreation student ambassadors chose their program... and ask them any questions about what it's like!

15 electives = lots of choice

With 15 electives from disciplines that can include social work, psychology, and health, you’ll have the flexibility to shape your degree according to your specific interests.

Build an awesome résumé

Get plenty of hands-on experience through practical courses, volunteer placements, and a required full-time internship in fourth year. We're the only such program in Ontario to offer multiple co-op terms.


#1In North America for recreation and leisure research

Breif CaseAvailable as a co-op and regular program

Money FlowerOnly Therapeutic Recreation program in Ontario to offer paid co-op work terms


Admission requirements

Ontario students: six Grade 12 U and/or M courses including

  • Any Grade 12 U English (minimum final grade of 70% is required)

Admission average: Low 80s (co-op and regular)

You'll apply to Recreation and Leisure Studies and choose Therapeutic Recreation as your major.

We recommend completing the Admission Information Form once you've applied.

Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements.


A student in the therapeutic recreation degree program sits with a youth at edge of swimming pool

Practical courses, volunteer placements, and internships provide experience in clinical and community settings.

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First-year courses

September to December

  • REC 100 - Introduction to the Study of Recreation and Leisure
  • REC 101 - Introduction to Recreation and Leisure Services
  • REC 120 - Program Management and Evaluation
  • PSYCH 101 - Introductory Psychology
  • AHS 107 - Sociology of Activity, Health, and Well-being

January to April

  • REC 151 - Foundations of Therapeutic Recreation Practice
  • AHS 150 - Foundations of Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • SOC 101 - Introduction to Sociology
  • Two electives

After first year

About half of the classes you’ll take will be Recreation and Leisure Studies courses. With your remaining classes, you can choose electives from many of the 100 subject areas at Waterloo.

View all the courses required for your degree.

Sample upper-year courses

REC 251 - Therapeutic Recreation: Developmental and Emotional Disabilities

REC 252 - Therapeutic Recreation: Physical Disabilities
REC 253 – Practicum
REC 405 – Leisure and Well-being


CapEarn a Bachelor of Arts in Therapeutic Recreation 


Co-op = relevant paid work experience

By alternating school terms and paid co-op work terms throughout your degree, you can explore new career areas and types of employers as your career interests evolve.

Sample co-op job titles

  • Recreation Therapist
  • Child & Youth Worker
  • Community Recreation Facilitator
  • Therapeutic Recreation & Community Assistant
  • Research Assistant

Sample co-op employers

  • Stratford Children's Services
  • Community Head Injury Resource Services of Toronto
  • Chartwell Seniors Housing
  • Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • Toronto Rehabilitation Institute

Customize your degree

You can add additional areas of interest and expertise by including one or more of the minors available to all Waterloo students. Popular choices include Gerontology, Psychology, and Aging Studies.

What can you do with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation?

As a graduate, you can work with clients in settings ranging from long-term care facilities to local community agencies. You’ll also be eligible to apply for registration with Therapeutic Recreation Ontario and for certification with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification in the United States.

Recent graduates 

  • Vocational Instructor – Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences
  • Child Life Specialist – Hospital for Sick Children
  • Therapy Assistant – Mackenzie Innovation Institute
  • Recreation Therapist – West Park Healthcare Centre
  • Counsellor – Alzheimer Society of Peel 
  • Outreach Worker – St. Matthew’s House
  • Communications Officer – Carey Outreach Ministries

Learn about the future of careers in health and helping professions.

Further education

While the full range of further education depends on your individual interests, graduates commonly pursue a master's, PhD, or other professional health-care program in occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work, and public health.

Ready to learn more?