10 Best Masters in Parks and Recreation Degrees Online 2023

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for recreation workers is expected to grow by 10% through 2031, faster than average for all other occupations. Parks and recreation managers play a key role in the administration and management of:

  • recreation centers
  • summer camps
  • resorts
  • National Parks
  • community parks
  • recreation organizations

Parks and recreation management professionals have a wide variety of responsibilities including:

  • fiscal oversight
  • facilities management
  • HR
  • general programming

This diverse area is ideal for those with a passion for the outdoors as well as community health. Earning an online master’s in parks and recreation management can give you the knowledge and skills to be successful in this exciting field.

We created a ranking of the top 10 best online master’s in parks and recreation management degree programs using information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. In order to be considered for our ranking, schools need to be accredited and offer a parks and recreation management degree online. We looked for programs with:

  • a comprehensive curriculum
  • expert level faculty
  • flexible online courses

We then applied our ranking criteria to determine the top 10 best masters in parks and recreation online.

Ranking the Top Online Masters Degree in Parks and Recreation Management

Overall Graduation Rate

  • Less than 50%= 1 Point
  • Between 50% and 70%= 2 Points
  • Greater than 70%= 3 Points

We also looked at a school’s student/faculty ratio and awarded more points to schools with a lower ratio. We believe a lower student to faculty ratio allows students to receive individualized attention and support throughout the program.

Student to Faculty Ratio

  • 15:1 or less= 5 Points
  • 16:1 to 20:1= 3 Points
  • Greater than 20:1= 1 Point

Average Graduate Tuition

  • Less than $10,000 per year= 5 Points
  • $10,000 to $15,000 per year= 4 Points
  • $15,001 to $20,000 per year= 3 Points
  • $20,001 to $25,000 per year= 2 Points
  • Greater than $25,001 per year= 1 Point

Below are the 10 schools that offer the best parks and recreation degrees online in the United States.

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#10 – United States Sports Academy – Daphne, Alabama

Masters Degree in Recreation Management

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $19,440/year
Overall Graduation Rate: N/A
Points: 8
The top best-value online master’s in recreation management from The United States Sports Academy is designed for students who want to become leaders in the field of recreation management. The curriculum includes online coursework in:

  • Sports Club Management
  • Fundraising in Sports
  • Recreation Programming and Administration
  • Inclusive Recreation Services

Program start dates are the 1st and 15th of each month allowing students to enroll and begin this affordable online master’s degree program at their convenience. Students complete a mentorship experience, working closely with a mentor who assists in career development.

#9 – Western Kentucky University – Bowling Green, Kentucky

M.S. in Recreation & Sport Administration with a concentration in Facility & Event Management

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $12,140/year in-state and $18,340/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 54%
Points: 9
Western Kentucky University features a top affordable online master’s in recreation and sport administration with a concentration in facility and event management. This unique 33 credit hour online master’s degree program covers areas like:

  • Facility and Event Security Management
  • Recreation and Sport Administration
  • Facility Management
  • Public Relations in Recreation and Sport

All students complete a practicum in recreation and sport, providing them with programming and/or professional administrative experience. This inexpensive master’s degree program is delivered in a convenient 100% online format, making this a great choice for working professionals.

#8 – Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado

Master of Tourism Management Online

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $10,834/year in-state and $26,564/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 69%
Points: 9
The inexpensive online top master’s in tourism management from Colorado State University is a 30-credit hour program that helps students see the bigger picture of sustainable tourism management. Courses are delivered in eight-week sessions. This coursework only online master’s degree program includes courses in:

  • Natural Resources Management and Tourism
  • Organizational Management in Tourism
  • Strategic Management for Travel and Tourism
  • Global Tourism Policy

Students with a passion for tourism in the ski industry can substitute some of the required courses with online ski area management courses. Graduates have the skills needed for positions as event coordinators, sales managers, tourism program directors, and customer experience managers.

#7 – University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida

Online M.S. in Tourism and Recreation Management

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $10,770/year in-state and $27,335/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 91%
Points: 10
The inexpensive online top-value master’s in tourism and recreation from the University of Florida includes a specialization in hospitality business management. The curriculum was developed to meet industry needs, with coursework vetted by leading companies like Universal Parks and Resorts and The Ritz Carlton. Online master’s degree courses cover areas like:

  • Tourism Planning and Development
  • Trends and Issues in Tourism and Recreation Management
  • Strategic Hospitality Business Management

Students can choose to complete either a practicum or a professional paper. Graduates are prepared for career advancement in the industry.

#6 – Clemson University – Clemson, South Carolina

M.S. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Online

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $10,600/year in-state and $22,050/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 85%
Points: 10
Clemson University features a non-thesis top online master’s in parks, recreation and tourism management. This cheap online master’s degree program is focused both on theory and practical application. Online coursework is delivered through both asynchronous and synchronous methods allowing students to connect with peers. Core classes cover areas like:

  • Behavioral Aspects of PRTM
  • Strategic Planning in PRTM
  • Research Methods in PRTM

Students can customize their parks and recreation degree online with a concentration. Concentrations are available in Parks and Conservation Areas Management, Travel and Tourism Management, Community Recreation Management, and Recreational Therapy.

#5 – Slippery Rock University – Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Master of Science degree in Park and Resource Management Online

Website
Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $9,288/year in-state and $13,932/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 68%
Points: 10
Slippery Rock University features a top low-cost online master’s in park and resource management. This 30-credit hour online master’s degree program provides students with the flexibility needed to balance coursework with personal and professional obligations. There are no campus visits required. Courses cover areas like:

  • Recreation Resources Management
  • Management Strategy in Parks and Recreation
  • Natural and Cultural Resources Law

All students participate in an internship which is usually completed during the summer. Most students can complete the program in two calendar years.

#4 – Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana

Masters in Recreation-Recreation Administration

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $9,909/year in-state and $31,932/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 81%
Points: 11
Indiana University features a high-value top online master’s in recreation administration that prepares students for executive and administrative positions. Online master’s degree courses cover areas such as:

  • finance and budget
  • kinesiology and recreation
  • statistics in public health
  • HR management

There is no thesis requirement, but students need to complete a capstone project or an experiential internship. Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of areas including:

  • parks and recreation
  • general park administration
  • campus recreation programs

#3 – University of Wisconsin-La Crosse – La Crosse, Wisconsin

Online Masters in Recreation Management Degree – Professional Development

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $8,651/year in-state and $18,637/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 73%
Points: 11
The low-cost master’s in recreation management degree online from the University of Wisconsin is a professional development program focused on advanced management skills. This 30-credit hour online parks and recreation degree program follows a cohort model and includes projects, discussions, and research-based content in the recreation management area. Online courses cover:

  • Diversity and Social Justice in Recreation
  • Collaborative Approaches to Recreation and Leisure Service Delivery
  • Contemporary Issues in Recreation Management

All online parks and recreation management degree students complete a capstone seminar. This capstone allows students to apply the knowledge gained throughout the program into an action plan to address an issue in recreation or leisure service delivery.

#2 – Frostburg State University – Frostburg, Maryland

M.S. – Recreation, Parks and Sport Management Online

frostburg-state-university

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $8,028/year in-state and $10,332/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 48%
Points: 11
Frostburg State University features an affordable online top master’s in recreation, parks and sport management that takes just two years to complete. The high-value master’s degree program follows a cohort model and is delivered in a flexible online format to accommodate working professionals. Students complete two intensive online courses each semester. Concentrations are available in either Recreation and Parks Management or Sport Management. Courses cover areas like:

  • Organizational Behavior and Leadership
  • Developing Promotional Information Systems in RPM
  • Communications and Organizational Decision Making in RPM

#1 – North Carolina State University – Raleigh, North Carolina

PRTSM Online Master’s Degree

School Profile

Student to Faculty Ratio: 15:1
Average Graduate Student Tuition: $9,095/year in-state and $27,082/year out-of-state
Overall Graduation Rate: 84%
Points: 13
Our top affordable online master’s in parks, recreation, and tourism management is offered by North Carolina State University. This two year online master’s degree program features courses that align with industry needs.

There is no GRE requirement for admission. Students move through the online program taking one course at a time, during seven-week semesters. New students are admitted as a cohort in the fall semester of each year. Required online courses cover areas like:

  • Data Management and Evaluation in Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport
  • Advanced Fiscal Management for Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport
  • Risk Management for Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Sport

The flexible online format allows students to continue working full-time while earning their degree.

What Can I Do with a Degree in Parks and Recreation Management?

A degree in parks and recreation management is a flexible degree with a wide variety of professional opportunities available for graduates.  Students learn valuable business skills in the context of parks and recreation management including:

  • Financing and budgeting
  • Strategic management
  • Marketing
  • Management

Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings including National Parks, community organizations, and recreation centers.  A bachelor’s degree will prepare students to work in entry level roles.  A master’s in parks and recreation can build a foundation for leadership roles and career advancement opportunities. 

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master’s in Parks and Recreation Management?

A master’s degree typically takes full-time students two years to complete.  Part-time students may take longer.  Adding an internship or field experience may extend the time it takes to complete this degree.  While some programs offer students the flexibility to choose how many courses to take in any given semester, some are offered exclusively in a cohort format.  These programs admit a cohort of students who complete courses together, moving through the program in lockstep with one another and finish at the same time.

Is a Degree in Parks and Recreation Management Worth It?

Parks and Recreation is a great field to work in.  Earning a master’s degree can position you for exciting leadership roles and advancement opportunities.  According to payscale.com, the average base salary for an individual with a Master’s in Parks and Recreation Management.  Some of the best-paying roles include:

  • Recreation Manager- $57,000 to $89,000/year
  • Parks and Recreation Director- $38,000-$79,000/year
  • Chief Executive Officer- $36,000-$134,000/year

Salary ranges are significant in the parks and recreation industry. Professionals with experience and education are compensated well. 

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