Graduate Program Overview

The Department

The Penn State Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management (RPTM) is one of the most well-respected programs of its kind in the nation. Established in 1946, its goal is to improve understanding of the leisure experience as well as human well being across the life span through interdisciplinary and internationally relevant research, teaching, and service related to recreation, park, and tourism phenomena and resources.

The Program

RPTM’s multidisciplinary graduate program is designed to educate students about research, theory, and practice related to leisure and recreation as experienced at the individual, societal, and cross-cultural levels. Both the M.S. program and Ph.D. program help students develop an understanding of the social, environmental, psychological, and economic aspects of human behavior in recreation and leisure activities. The programs allow students to concentrate their studies in a variety of areas: recreation/tourism management and marketing; commercial recreation and tourism; therapeutic recreation; outdoor recreation and protected area management; community recreation; and general leisure behavior. Entering students who lack a background in RPTM are required to take course work to provide the necessary foundation for continued graduate study. Both the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees require the completion of a research-based thesis.

The Penn State Difference

Penn State is one of the leading research universities in the United States. According to the National Science Foundation, it consistently ranks among the top 15 major U.S. universities in research expenditures in science and engineering fields. Its graduate programs attract students from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds and from more than 100 countries all over the world.

Penn State has an enrollment at its main campus University Park of nearly 45,000 students, some 7,000 of which are graduate students. The University invites students to consider its graduate programs, whether they aspire to conduct research that will contribute to global knowledge or to hold a leadership position in their field with government or industry.

Master of Science (M.S.) Degree

The M.S. degree is designed for students who wish to continue their studies at the doctoral level at Penn State. Students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree but do not have an M.S. degree will complete a thesis and earn a master’s degree in the process of working toward the doctorate.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree

The Ph.D. degree provides in-depth preparation for research and teaching positions at the college and university levels as well as higher-level administrative positions with public or private recreation providers.

Course work

The department offers an interdisciplinary set of core and elective courses.

Core courses include:

  • Leisure studies foundations
  • Social psychology of leisure
  • Philosophical and social bases of leisure
  • Scholarly writing in leisure studies
  • Research methods
  • Leisure studies surveys and appraisals

Elective courses in the following programmatic areas also are available:

  • Leisure, culture, and diversity
  • Leisure and disability
  • Leisure, health, and wellness
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Tourism

Other Opportunities

Students can enter a dual-degree program in RPTM and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment (HDNRE). Please feel free to visit the link:


Graduates typically are employed in academic settings; as researchers at governmental agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or the U.S. Forest Service; as employees of consulting firms; or as owners of their own businesses.


Teaching and research assistantships, as well as fully funded university fellowships, are available to cover tuition and to help with living expenses. In addition, students often can obtain employment as research assistants through faculty research grants.


Through interdisciplinary and innovative research projects, faculty members in the department explore a variety of factors that influence the leisure behavior of individuals and communities. Using a variety of methods, they study:

  • Positive youth development through leisure
  • Visitor use monitoring for and management of natural resources
  • Recreation for individuals across the life span, especially those with disabling conditions
  • Health consequences of the cultural and behavioral consonance of leisure lifestyles
  • The complex mix of physical, cultural, and biological impacts of recreation and tourism
  • Sustainable use of recreation spaces


Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management
The Pennsylvania State University
801 Ford Building
University Park, PA 16802

814-867-1751 (fax)