Feet of people running in a race.

Improving lives through research in recreation and leisure 

The PhD program provides opportunities for advanced study and research in the field of Recreation and Leisure Studies. The degree culminates in the completion of a doctoral thesis, which is expected to make an original and substantial contribution to knowledge in areas such as sport, therapeutic recreation, tourism and events. Students are also provided with opportunities for teaching and research assistantships, and are encouraged to participate in undergraduate teaching.

Application deadline 

  • February 1. Late applications will be reviewed and considered until June 1.

Considerations for international students before submitting an application:

  • While the Faculty of Health at the University of Waterloo values international students in our graduate programs, we can only accept a small proportion of these students. 
  • Guaranteed funding packages may not be able to cover all tuition and living expenses incurred during a graduate program and students are encouraged to understand more about the cost of completing their graduate program before applying.

Resources: Tuition fees | Estimated living costs | Funding and Awards

Program overview 

The primary objectives of the program are to foster each student's ability to:

  • conduct high calibre research and to contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the field
  • analyze and evaluate programs, policies and organizational structures aimed at understanding and improving the use of free time and quality of life
  • apply and disseminate this knowledge to practitioners, policy makers and managers

The doctoral program is designed for students who plan to teach and/or pursue research careers. It provides a training opportunity for students seeking careers as scholars, researchers, and policy analysts for government, private sector and university positions.


The PhD program may be completed either on a full- or part-time basis, but must be completed within the following time periods from completion of the master's degree, unless an extension has been granted (see Graduate Studies Calendar for more information):

  • 12 terms | 4 years (full-time from master's level)
  • 18 terms | 8 years (part-time from master's level)
  • Doctoral thesis

The PhD program requires a minimum of 9 graduate courses (0.5 unit weight each) beyond the Honours BA level. For full details - including course descriptions - see the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.

Students entering the PhD program following completion of the MA degree in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies (University of Waterloo), or an equivalent, will typically have already completed 5 of the 9 required courses, and therefore will need a minimum of 4 additional (0.5 unit weight) graduate courses.

Admission requirements | How to apply | Tuition fees | Estimated living costs  

Student stories

Influenced by her own experiences as a community-based female coach, Haley Baxter's research investigates the experiences of women and girls as volunteers in the community sport context. 

Learn more about Haley and other graduate students in the Department of Recreation and Leisure studies on our graduate students profile page.

Read Haley's story

Haley Baxter laughing and standing at the side of a hockey rink.