Therapeutic Recreation

Become a health-care professional who improves lives through recreation

A student in the Therapeutic Recreation program at the University of Waterloo.

Discover how recreation can improve quality of life for everyone, including people with physical and developmental disabilities, older adults living in long-term care homes, people with substance use disorders, and children with chronic illnesses.

In Waterloo’s Therapeutic Recreation program — one of only three in Ontario — you’ll learn how to create, implement, and assess activities that support cognitive, physical, emotional, and social well-being. Not to mention you can apply what you've learned to any co-op job you land through the co-op stream.

By the time you graduate, you’ll have the skills to pursue careers like recreation and occupational therapy. The programs you design and run can empower seniors to live more independently, improve the long-term health of stroke patients, and more.

You’ll also graduate eligible to apply for registration with Therapeutic Recreation Ontario and for certification with the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification.

Program highlights

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. Plus, we're the only such program in Ontario to offer multiple co-op terms.


Offers of admission

If you're admitted to the program, your Offer of Admission will be to Recreation and Leisure Studies. Once you accept your offer, you’ll be enrolled in Therapeutic Recreation and start that major in September.

Discover if Therapeutic Recreation is right for you.


Getting paid to help people play

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

What will you learn?

First-year courses

You'll take mostly Recreation and Leisure Studies courses to provide you with strong foundations for your upper-year classes. After first year, about half of the classes you’ll take will be Recreation and Leisure Studies courses.

Learn about courses you'll take for your Therapeutic Recreation degree.

Customize your degree

Add areas of expertise to your degree by pursuing areas of focus within the program or by choosing a  double major  or  joint honours. You can add additional areas of interest by including one or more of the minors available to all Waterloo students. Popular choices include Gerontology, Psychology, and Aging Studies.


Get tips from Waterloo students

Sign up for insider advice that can help you now and in the future.

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.


Co-op = relevant paid work experience

Waterloo's co-op program, the largest in North America, is an amazing way to explore potential careers, learn to interview for jobs, graduate with up to two years of valuable experience – and make money!

Sample co-op job titles

  • Recreation therapist
  • Child and youth worker
  • Community recreation facilitator
  • Therapeutic recreation and community assistant
  • Research assistant

Co-op work-study sequence

Starting in second year, you'll normally alternate between school and work every four months, integrating your classroom learning with real-world experience. You can return to the same employer for a couple of work terms to gain greater knowledge and responsibility or work for different employers to get a broad range of experience.

Year September to December (Fall) January to April (Winter) May to August (Spring)
First Study Study Off
Second Study Co-op Study
Third Co-op Study Co-op
Fourth Study Co-op Study
Fifth Co-op Study -

Your first work term will be halfway through second year (January to April 2026).

Learn more about co-op →



megaphone icon"I’m convinced my acceptances into occupational therapy post-graduate programs was due to my practicum, internship, and paid co-op work experiences in Therapeutic Recreation. These experiences were so valuable."Esther, Therapeutic Recreation graduate
megaphone icon"Therapeutic Recreation is really versatile and easy to customize! If you're interested in art and music or enjoy working with children or older adults, you can take courses in those areas and customize your degree based on your interests and goals."Taryn, fourth-year Therapeutic Recreation student

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)

Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements for Recreation and Leisure Studies (RLS). You'll apply to RLS for the Therapeutic Recreation major.

How to apply

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

Connect with us

Questions about courses, programs, requirements, or careers?

Please contact Clare Stevens, our Faculty of Health recruitment co-ordinator who can answer any questions you have.

Headshot of Clare Stevens


Not sure which Recreation major is right for you?


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