Recreation is all around us. From national parks, to playgrounds. From high school athletics through your gym. From professional sports games through weekend hobbies. And while it may seem like only the “lucky few” get to work in an athletics or recreation field that they love, we’re here to tell you that it may be easier to find your dream job than you think.

Today there are a wide range of master’s degrees available completely online in physical education, recreation, tourism, athletics, training, and coaching. While this may seem like a wide range of degree types, we decided to pull them into the same ranking as there are often multiple degree types you can use to become involved with a recreation-related activity that you love as a career.

For example, if you’re into professional baseball, you could work on tourism related tasks for the city of a pro team. You could work your way up in the training staff. You could take an organizational perspective and move up within the business ranks of an athletic organization. And of course there are many jobs in physical education in K-12 schools as well as in coaching at the youth and collegiate levels.

For all you individuals who want to make your favorite sport or recreational location your career, we’re here to tell you that there are options galore. Here at DegreeQuery, we’ve helped 10,000’s of students find their dream degree (and afterwards, career). We’ve applied our expertise to recreation, tourism, and coaching degrees below.

How Did We Rank These Programs?

Here at DegreeQuery we use our years of experience researching higher education to inform our picks for “the best” programs of a given type. While we understand that no one program is going to be the best for every student. We try to weight factors that many online students particularly care about highly in our rankings. In the case of this ranking we looked at a number of factors including the affordability of the program, the accreditation level, the range of flexibility for adult or non-traditional learners, and the prestige of the program in question. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. And in the meantime, we hope you find your dream degree below!

1. North Dakota State University

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North Dakota State University provides the top-ranked program in DegreeQuery’s annual ranking of athletic, coaching, and recreational management master’s degree programs. North Dakota State University is known as a public research university with a main campus in Fargo, North Dakota, as well as a range of online degree options. Originally an agriculture and technology college, the University still pulls from these roots to offer many hands-on and applied degrees. With a 57% graduation rate, NDSU is a top-notch public school that offers in-person and online degrees.

One program North Dakota State University offers fully online is that of their master’s in health, nutrition, and exercise science. We like this program because it offers the ability to tackle many health, fitness, and recreation specialty areas within the same degree. The degree also offers two tracks, one that centers around the creation of a master’s-level thesis, and another that allows students to develop a paper or portfolio of projects of their choosing. As the fourth most affordable program surveyed in this year’s ranking, there’s also not much to loose from trying the program out. If you’re looking for an innovative and interdisciplinary online program related to coaching, recreation, or health, NDSU’s may be the one!

2. Tennessee Technological University

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Tennessee Technological University is a medium-sized public university with a main campus located in Cookeville, Tennessee. The university is known for a range of subjects including engineering-related degrees, as well as education and coaching. Unlike many universities — at least at the bachelor’s-level — health and physical education degrees are actually the fourth most popular degree type for students to take at the university. With close to 10,000 students, Tennessee Tech is large enough to be able to provide many of the opportunities available at large schools, while not being overwhelmingly large.

Our second pick for the best online master’s in exercise, recreation, or coaching can be seen in Tennessee Tech’s master of arts in exercise science. We like this degree program as it provides some of the widest range of options among competing degrees. Students in the program may select from a range of specializations, including elementary and middle school physical education, adaptive physical education, K-12 licensure in physical education, fitness and lifetime wellness, and sports management. Additionally, the program is one of the most affordable that we’ve surveyed for this year’s ranking, coming in as the 9th most affordable degree program we’ve looked at.

3. University of Florida

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The University of Florida is known for excellence in a wide range of disciplines, one of which is athletics. This carries over into their coaching and physical fitness offerings at the university level, which are routinely ranked as some of the strongest in the nation. The University of Florida is also known for being an academic powerhouse overall, with land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant designations marking the school as a center of research into agriculture, aerospace, and the natural sciences. With close to 50,000 students an an annual budget of over $6 billion, you can be sure that the University of Florida offers all of the support services and opportunities you need to complete your sports science, recreation, or physical education degree program.

In this year’s ranking of online degrees in coaching, physical education, and recreation, we would be remiss not to include the University of Florida. With what is routinely regarded as one of the very top sports management schools in the nation, the fact that University of Florida offers online degrees makes this program a great opportunity for many aspiring sports managers. Unique specializations in the program include sports law, athletic development, and high-performance coaching. Practicums, internships, and a final hands-on capstone project help students to hone real world skills throughout their course of study.

4. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

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North Carolina State University at Raleigh is a large-sized public university particularly well known for their engineering, life sciences, and agricultural programs. The university is a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution and one of three institutions that anchor the well-thought of “research triangle” of universities and cities. With over 35,000 students, North Carolina State University is the largest university in the Carolinas, and among the largest in the United States. This is great for students seeking a broad alumni network and wide ranging support services that are often only present at larger and well-funded schools.

We like North Carolina State University’s online parks, recreation, and tourism management degree for a range of reasons. The online and accelerated format is a great selling point for many individuals already working full time. The emphasis on a strong foundation of managerial courses is unique in programs we surveyed. Additionally, the subject matter of the degree as a whole centered on tourism and recreation location is unique. Additional program features include the fact that applicants do not need to submit a GRE score to apply, and that students are admitted and study in cohorts, increasing the chances of meaningful exchanges and relationships that can be carried beyond the degree program.

5. University of Illinois

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The University of Illinois is a public flagship and land-grant, space-grant, and sea-grant institution with a main campus located in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. The school is home to some 51,000 students making it one of the largest in the region as well as the nation. UI holds an R1 very high research level designation and is known for graduate-level programs in a wide variety of fields. Particularly noteworthy fields of study at the University include computer science, engineering, information science, business, accounting, and education. The University of Illinois is also known to have the second largest library collection of any school in the United States.

The fully Online Master of Science in Recreation, Sport & Tourism offered by the University of Illinois is one of our top picks for sports, recreation, and coaching degrees this year for a host of reasons. The program is accelerated, allowing students to complete the program in as little as 18 months. Students may select from a range of specialization areas through certificate programs that just require 3 eight-week courses for completion. Additionally, students may join cohorts with three entry points per year.

6. University of Southern Mississippi

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The University of Southern Mississippi is one of the largest online degree providers within the southeastern United States. This mid-sized public research university is home to close to 15,000 students and has a main campus located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Bachelor’s through doctoral degrees are available at the university which is classified as an R1 very high research activity institution. Particularly well-known degree programs at the school include psychology, nursing, business, and education.

For this year’s ranking of recreation, athletics, and coaching degrees we would be remiss for not including the University of Southern Mississippi. The University of Southern Mississippi is unique in our ranking in that they offer two fully-online degrees that meet the bill for our ranking. First is a fully-online master of science in sport coaching education. Secondly, a fully-online master of science in kinesiology with a physical education emphasis. Additionally Southern Mississippi has one of the longer standing online programs of this type in the nation, meaning there’s a strong alumni base, adding to the networking possibilities.

7. Western Michigan University

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Western Michigan University is a public research university with a main campus located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The school is home to some 22,000 students, making it one of the larger in the region, though still much smaller than the largest state schools. Well-known programs of study include a college of flight, offering one of the most prestigious flight science programs in the nation. Additionally, Western Michigan is known for one of the largest business schools (undergraduate and graduate) of any university in the nation. In 2008, a $100 million gift was given to the University to begin construction on a medical school.

We like Western Michigan University’s fully online master’s in coaching sport performance for a range of reasons. It’s one of only a handful of coaching programs with a level five accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education. Additionally, the program doesn’t require a GRE for acceptance, and provides one of the best “bang for your buck” among comparable programs nationally. If you’re looking for a program with proven success to preparing the next generation of elite coaches, at the youth, collegiate, or professional levels, look no further than the program at Western Michigan University.

8. University of Nebraska at Kearney

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The University of Nebraska at Kearney is a medium-sized public research university that is part of the University of Nebraska System. This university, originally started as an educational college (or “Normal school”) for the state of Nebraska, today offers a wide range of degrees to over 6,000 students. In recent years, the university has made a sustained push into online as well as blended (online mixed with in-person meet up) delivery methods for degrees. The University of Nebraska at Kearney has been ranked the 9th best public school in the region, as well as the 35th best public university for online study in the nation by a variety of publications.

We like the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s fully online Master’s in Physical Education for a variety of reasons. It’s one of only a few fully-online physical education programs to make it on our list, offers a range of specialization options, and draws from the history and strength of the university as a historical teacher’s college. The two specializations that students may endeavor upon include an online pedagogy route as well as a special populations emphasis. Additionally, the program is one of the most affordable within our list. Of note is that successful applicants should already hold a bachelor’s degree as well as a teaching license as this is not a licensure program for physical education.

9. Eastern New Mexico University

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Eastern New Mexico University is a public comprehensive university that has a main campus in Portales, New Mexico. Home to over 6,000 students, the University is the largest comprehensive university (offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees without a heavy research component) in the region. Eastern New Mexico University is the first designated Hispanic-serving institution on our list, and has been featured in rankings about social mobility-produciving universities. Many of the most popular majors and degrees at the school are applied and career centered.

We wanted to include Eastern New Mexico University’s fully online degree program in Online Master of Science in Physical Education with an emphasis in Sport Administration in this year’s ranking due to a number of factors. First, the program is one of the most affordable we surveyed within online coaching, recreation, and related degrees this year. Secondly, students may choose between two versatile focus areas within the degree program, including a coaching emphasis and a sport administration emphasis. Additionally, electives allow students to further tailor their already flexible course of study.

10. Clemson University

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Clemson University is a public land- and sea-grant research university with a main campus located in Clemson, South Carolina. With close to 25,000 students, Clemson is one of the larger universities in the Carolinas, and is well known for a range of fields of study. Some particularly noteworthy fields studied at the university include economics, automotive research, historic restoration, and education. Overall the university is often ranked as one of the 25 best public universities in the nation.

Our tenth favorite pick for this year’s ranking is Clemson’s fully online master’s in parks, recreation, and tourism management. Besides the general prestige of the university and their solid track record with online education, one of our favorite elements of this program is the range of concentrations. Current program concentrations that individuals can pursue include parks and conservation areas management, travel and tourism management, community recreation management, and recreational therapy. Additionally, courses are offered in adult learner-friendly, 6-week increments.

11. Valdosta State University

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Valdosta State is located in Valdosta, Georgia just minutes away from the Florida state line. Valdosta State started as a normal school and over the years evolved into the university it is today. This unique comprehensive university offers in-state tuition to Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In addition to associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees Valdosta State offers professional certifications and online courses. Among their online offerings is the Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree in Coaching Pedagogy in Physical Education.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • A Minimum of a Master’s Degree
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Physical Education Teaching Certification in Georgia or a reciprocal state

The program is 27 credits hours and taught online and offers a potential T-6 certification. Students undergoing this program can expect to study the following courses:

  • Coaching Pedagogy
  • Coaching Pedagogy Research Methods
  • History of Sport
  • Sport Coaching Pedagogy
  • Communication Skills for Coaches

It is assumed that those enrolled in this online course will already be involved in a coaching program as this course does include professional development. The Ed.S from Valdosta State is known for its affordable programming.

  • No GRE Required
  • Degree is 100% Online

12. University of Arkansas Global Campus

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The University of Arkansas (UArk) is a public university located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The U.S. News and World Report ranks UArk as one of the top 100 public schools in the US. The university was founded in 1871 and currently awards undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and specialist degrees as well as graduate certification programs. UArk has innovated over the years and currently boasts some of the best online programming in the nation according to U.S. News. Among their online degree offerings is the online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Physical Education.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • An Undergraduate Degree in Kinesiology or a Related Field
  • 3.0 GPA

The program of study is 33 credit hours and may be completed in as little as two years. To graduate with this degree students must have a 3.0 or higher and pass a culminating written comprehensive exam. Students enrolled will have the opportunity to study the following courses:

  • The Physical Education Curriculum
  • Risk Management in Physical Education and Athletics
  • Scientific Principles of Movement and Performance
  • Sport Psychology
  • Professional Issues in Physical Education and Sport

One of the flexible aspects of this degree is that students may enter into the program at any time. To complete this degree in 2 years expect to study full-time.

  • GRE May Be Required
  • Degree is 100% online

13. Ohio University

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Ohio University was founded in 1804 just one year after Ohio officially became a state. In 1808 Ohio University opened its doors it had 3 students and one faculty member. Today Ohio University enrolls nearly 30,000 students and maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1. Ohio is the home to Fulbright Scholars and Pulitzer Prize winners. Some of the most impressive accolades include 77th most innovative schools, 122nd best value school and 32nd best online master’s in engineering programs according to U.S. News. It’s no wonder their online programming ranks among the top in the nation. Ohio strives to create academic programming that is unique and accessible. One such program is their online Master’s in Coaching Education.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • A Minimum of Three Years Experience Coaching
  • 2.75 GPA or and Above
  • An Undergraduate Degree

The Master’s in Coaching has been newly revamped for 2020. It is 30 credit hours in length and consists of 8 core courses and 2 elective classes. Let’s take a closer look at a few of their core requirements:

  • Dynamics of Skill Acquisition
  • Foundations of Coaching
  • Injury Prevention & Risk Management
  • Ethics and Diversity in Athletic Coaching

The elective courses give you a unique opportunity to study according to your areas of interest. This online degree is designed with the busy professional in mind.

  • GRE Not Required
  • Degree is 100% online

14. Xavier University

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Xavier is a private Jesuit Catholic university located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was founded in 1831. Currently, Xavier offers over 90 undergraduate programs. This is a comprehensive university that offers a full range of academic degrees and certifications. It is military-friendly and currently ranks as the 5th best regional school in the Midwest. Some of its other accolades include the ranking 4th in the region as one of the best colleges for veterans, 18th for best undergraduate teaching, and 8th for most innovative schools. Part of what makes Xavier innovative is its online academic offerings and are currently offering nearly 20 online degrees in the fields of business and education including their online Master of Education in Coaching Education and Athlete Development (CEAD).

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • A Degree from a Regionally Accredited University
  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or Higher
  • Coaching Experience

The CEAD program may be completed in 24 months and requires 33 credit hours for completion. The course material aligns with the NASPE and the NCAE. Like with many on-campus graduate programs this online degree is taught a cohort. You should expect the study the following courses among others:

  • Psycho-social Aspects of Coaching
  • Coaching Ehics and Phylosophy
  • Sport Leadership and Team Building
  • Sports Safety, Risk Management and Injury Prevention
  • The Science of Performance

For professional development, students will complete a residency. This program has a unique focus on long-term athlete development and includes 2 courses in the second year with this focus. Students will also complete a research project in the field of coaching.

  • GRE Required
  • Degree is 100% online

15. State University of New York – Cortland

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SUNY Cortland is a public university located in Cortland, New York that was established in 1868. The university offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as post-master’s certifications. SUNY Cortland is regionally accredited and ranked 63rd in the North. Their academic offerings include a number of career-ready degrees in fields like education, social sciences, public administration and more. They also offer a number of standard student services like academic counseling as well as career counseling. This is a great option for New York residents seeking an affordable degree. Their Master of Science in Education (M.S. Ed.) in physical education. This program is unique as it has two core concentrations: one in adapted physical education and another in coaching pedagogy.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • Completed a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Documentation of Initial Certification in Physical Education
  • Professional Experience

The course material differs depending on your area of concentration and each course requires 30 credits for completion. Some of the unique courses include:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder and Education (Adaptive)
  • Inclusive Coaching Methods (coaching/inclusive)
  • Lifespan Motor Development
  • Comprehensive Examination Seminar
  • Research in Adaptive Physical Activity

Individuals looking to make a difference in the lives of differently-abled individuals or investigate fresh ways to inspire youth in schools are going to love this program.

  • GRE Required
  • This program is a hybrid

16. Jackson State University

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Jackson State University is a public institution located in Jackson, Mississippi. Founded in 1877 Jackson State was originally known as Natchez Seminary. From there the university grew and changed to adapt to the changing times and became a teacher’s college then Jackson State in 1952. Today Carnegie ranks Jackson State as an R:1 institution for having the “highest research activity.” The university currently offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Their academic programs reflect their history with a number of their degree offerings in the field of education. Their online Master of Science aims to equip individuals for a position as manager in the field of sports.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • An Undergraduate Degree from an Accredited Institution
  • Completed the GRE

This online degree requires 36 credit hours to complete. The online concentration focuses on sports management with a strong emphasis on ethics and finance. You can expect to take classes like these:

  • Sport Psychology & Sociology
  • Sport Administration & Organization
  • Sport Finance
  • Ethics of Sport
  • Research Methods

All students will complete a culminating exam.

  • GRE Required
  • This program is fully online

17. Drexel University

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Drexel University is one of the top 100 universities in the US. This private research university is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a global research university, Drexel shines when it comes to innovation and is in fact ranked 23rd in the nation for their information according to U.S. News. Drexel ranks highly as a value school, college for veterans and for its undergraduate teaching programming. There are currently 24,190 students enrolled at Drexel and 4,669 of them are online students. Their online degree offerings continue to expand and include several impressive programs may that rank among the top 10 in the nation. Their online MS in Sport Coaching Leadership is a fantastic option for any individual looking to focus on either rowing or Lacross- two unique concentration options offered at Drexel.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • An Undergraduate Degree from an Accredited Institution
  • 3.0 or higher GPA

Drexel Online uses 10-week quarters so that students can complete this program at an accelerated pace. To complete the program you must earn 45 quarter credits. Some of the courses include:

  • Ethics in Coaching
  • Coaching Theory and Principles
  • Biomechanics in Rowing
  • Lacrosse Safety and Risk Management
  • Managing Coaches & Teams

Another added perk to this program is that you have the freedom to design your own curriculum using a wide range of courses from either concentration.

  • GRE Required
  • This program is fully online

18. Georgia Southern University

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Georgia Southern University (GS) was established in 1906 and has its flagship campus is in Statesboro, Georgia. This comprehensive university boasts one of the largest enrollments in the state currently enrolling over 26,000 students. GS offers a wide range of academic programs and its most robust programs are in the fields of business, education, and health. This includes their online programming. Prospective students who are working professionals living in Georgia will find the best value with in-state tuition. GS currently offers over 30 online degrees and professional certifications. If you are looking to “become a better coach” then look no further than the online Master of Science in Kinesiology and Coaching Education Concentration. This online degree is a great option for working coaches who are looking to take their career to the next level.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited Institution
  • 2.75 or higher GPA
  • Professional Experience

This online degree is 36 credit hours long and may be completed in as little as 14 months. Of the 12 courses admitted students will study:

  • Sport Coaching Pedagogy
  • Psychology of Sport & Exercise Performance
  • Prevention, Recognition, & Care of Athletic Injuries
  • Sociocultural Foundations of Sport Coaching
  • Team Dynamics

If you are looking for an accelerated online master’s degree that will help you catapult your career certainly check out GS.

  • GRE Required
  • This program is fully online

19. University of Northern Colorado

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The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is a public 4-year university ranked nationally by the US News and World Report and is located in Greeley, Colorado. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees- both professional and research degrees. Their online master’s in education programs are ranked 35th in the nation and their online bachelor’s programs are ranked 66th. There are currently nearly 13,000 students enrolled and 91% of which are full-time students. The student-to-faculty is 17:1. UNC is a nationally ranked institution. Their online Master’s Degree in Applied Sport Coaching is a great option for anyone looking to take their game to the next level.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited Institution
  • 3.0 or higher GPA
  • Professional Experience

This innovative degree focuses on cutting edge advancements in kinesiology and is a great fit for working coaches. You will study:

  • Sport Pedagogy (Teaching)
  • Sport Psychology
  • International Coaching Perspectives
  • Injury Prevention
  • Training and Conditioning Principles

This program is accredited by the NCACE. The program is 36 credits in length and culminates with a final exam.

  • No GRE Required
  • This program is fully online

20. Ball State University

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Ball State University is a nationally ranked university located in Muncie, Indiana. US News ranks Ball State as the 192nd best school in the nation, 95th best public school, 29th best school for online bachelor’s programs, and 35th for best online master’s in education programs among several others. When it comes to innovation, Ball State shines where online education is concerned and currently has 10 online degrees ranks among the top 20 in the nation. Their online degree in Coaching is no different. So if you are hoping to pursue an advanced degree in kinesiology then why not try the Master of Arts Degree in Athletic Coaching at Ball State.

The ideal candidate for this program will have:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited Institution
  • 2.75 or higher GPA
  • Professional Experience As a Coach

Ball State utilizes a cohort style of learning and works well busy professionals as the entirety of this program is offered online. Take a glance at a few of their online courses:

  • Sport Pedagogy (Teaching)
  • Sport Psychology
  • International Coaching Perspectives
  • Injury Prevention
  • Training and Conditioning Principles

This 36 credit hour program may be completed in just 5 semesters.