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 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.
In North America for recreation and leisure research
Only Therapeutic Recreation program in Ontario to offer paid co-op work terms
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 for Recreation and Leisure Studies (RLS). You'll apply to RLS for the Therapeutic Recreation major.
Getting paid to help people play in Therapeutic Recreation
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Topics include how to choose a program, what it's like to be a Waterloo student, the differences between high school and university, and more.
Questions? Ask a student!
Connect with a current student ambassador to learn about their experience in the program.
Ask them questions such as why they chose Therapeutic Recreation, what the classes are like, and how you can get involved on campus.
First-year courses and beyond
September to December
January to April
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 coursesREC 251 - Therapeutic Recreation: Developmental and Emotional Disabilities
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.
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.
Learn about Esther's co-op experiences on our Beyond Ideas website.
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
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.
- 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
Visit our Beyond Ideas website to learn about what recent graduates are doing with their degree
Learn more about the future of careers in health and helping professions.
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.
Common questions about the program
What do recreation therapists actually do?
While this program can lead to a range of careers, many graduates choose to work as recreation therapists. Recreation therapists "use recreation, leisure, and play as treatment modalities to support purposeful and meaningful interventions that are based on individual strengths and values, and are guided by assessments." (Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association)
What’s the difference between Therapeutic Recreation and similar programs at other universities?
Waterloo’s program includes an overview of the entire recreation and leisure sector and has developed a solid reputation amongst employers. We work with a large network of organizations for our 105-hour practicum and 560-hour internship requirements, and with additional experiential learning opportunities like co-op and our EDGE certificate program, you’ll have a distinct advantage when applying to careers or further studies.
As a Waterloo graduate, you can also be eligible for registration with Therapeutic Recreation Ontario (TRO) and certification with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC).
What’s the difference between a diploma and a degree in Therapeutic Recreation?
According to the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association, "recreation therapists need a bachelor’s degree, usually in a recreation therapy or related field such as recreation and leisure studies with an emphasis or concentration in recreational therapy/therapeutic recreation. The bachelor’s degree programs usually includes the following programs along with an internship: assessment, foundations, interventions, human anatomy, psychology, and courses on specific demographics."
How long does it take to complete this program?
- It takes four years to complete this program as a full-time student through the regular system of study in which you’ll take courses between September and April each year and have your summers off.
- You can also choose the co-op system of study where you’ll alternate between full-time studies and full-time jobs relating to your program. A co-op program takes five years to complete – and you’ll graduate with nearly two years of paid work experience.
- It could also be completed over a longer period as a part-time program.
Is this program available online?
No. While you may be able to take some courses online, most courses required for the degree are available through in-person classes only.
Offered by the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences
Apply to Recreation and Leisure Studies
Earn a Bachelor of Arts in Therapeutic Recreation
Ready to learn more?
- Visit the Therapeutic Recreation website
- Contact our Applied Health Sciences recruitment co-ordinator who can answer any questions about the program
- Subscribe to our newsletter to get tips and advice from current students
- Related programs
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.