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Recreation: Recreation Leadership

Recreation and leisure is America’s number one economic activity. Leisure time experiences are big business and organized recreation offerings are growing, creating demand for capable recreation leaders and managers to develop and coordinate an array of recreational, cultural, and athletic activities for people to enjoy and improve their quality of life.

The recreation leadership program provides a solid core of liberal arts courses complemented by more specialized courses in leadership, programming, diversity and inclusion, human relations, and recreation management. This combination of theory and applied knowledge plays a vital foundation for further study toward a bachelor’s degree. By the time you complete the recreation leadership program, you will have toured community facilities, worked at two different agencies, heard multiple guest speakers from your field, interviewed a recreation professional, participated in a team challenge course with classmates, and networked with other recreation leaders.

Degree Requirements

Degree Tracks:

Through advisement, students accepted in the A.S. in Recreation Leadership degree program will choose one of two career oriented tracks based on their goals, transfer opportunities and community needed.

Recreation Leadership Track - Recreation Management:

Students who are interested in the management and business of recreational programming should consider this track. You will take the core recreation courses that will develop leadership and recreational programming skills. You will also be advised to take two electives in the business field such as BUAD103, BUAD204, BUAD208, ACCT101, or ECON120. These electives, along with the core recreation courses will prepare you to be 첥Ƶful Recreation Managers as well as provide you with greater transfer opportunities into a 4 year degree in Recreation Management or Business.

Recreation Leadership Track - Therapeutic Recreation

Therapeutic Recreation is one of the fastest growing areas of the Recreation Field. Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS) work in community centers, assisted living centers, long term care facilities, physical therapy businesses, hospital, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, community recreation departments and other agencies where CTRS are in demand. Like all recreation leaders, CTRS provide recreational opportunities for the people they serve. They focus on improving the quality of life for individuals with illnesses, disabilities, and other limitations. If you are in the Therapeutic Recreation track, you will take the core recreation courses such as, Developmental Psychology, Introduction to Therapeutic Recreation and Human Anatomy and Physiology. These course selections will aid you in transferring to a 4 year degree program in Therapeutic Recreation. To be certified as a CTRS, you must complete your Bachelor's degree in Therapeutic Recreation after transfer.

Field Experience

Field experience is an exciting component of the recreation leadership program. Volunteer work provides the opportunity to learn and apply inclusive leadership skills and knowledge in a variety of agencies in 첥Ƶ, Cortland, and Tioga counties. Field experience opportunities, including those at the Town of Dryden Recreation Department, the Dryden After School Program, the Cortland Teen Center, local YMCA’s, Ithaca Youth Bureau, and the College's Campus Recreation Department provide hands-on experience developing skills and social networks necessary for your career in recreation.

Through the College's partnership with the , students in Recreation Leadership will also have the opportunity to receive certification as a “Certified Inclusivity Assessor (CIA)” through the NYS-IRRC.


Recreation leaders develop and manage recreational, cultural, and athletic activities in a variety of settings. These include school districts, corporations, community and municipal facilities, correctional facilities, health care organizations, and private clubs and resorts. Among the fastest growing specialties are tourism, therapeutic, and commercial recreation. 

Recreation leaders who pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree are more likely to be offered higher-level management positions. 

Get more information about recreation careers and salaries through the National Recreation and Park Association's recent , or explore more careers related to all of the Recreation programs. 

Learn more about related jobs: 

 Program Chairs




When I was completing my undergraduate degrees in Recreation, Outdoor Management, and Leisure Commercial Management at Lock Haven University, I stumbled across a sign while rock climbing during spring break at Seneca Rocks in WV. It read, “Here ends the Realm of the Hiker...” As an Outdoor Educator and Associate Professor, I heed the message from this sign as I help people overcome their own challenges to experience something greater or more intense in the field of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

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Patty Tvaroha








Associate Professor, Human Services

Patty Tvaroha is a proud alumnus of 첥Ƶ Cortland’s Human Services program. After graduating from 첥Ƶ Cortland in 1998, Patty transferred to SUNY Cortland to become the first student to complete the two plus two articulation agreement and earn a BS in Human Services.

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Transfer Options

The recreation leadership program provides a strong foundation for transfer as a junior to a four-year college. Graduates have transferred to:

  • SUNY Cortland
  • Ithaca College
  • Lock Haven University in PA
  • SUNY Brockport
  • Penn State University