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Parks, Recreation, & Tourism PhD

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The PhD is an academic degree that is awarded for high attainment of the study of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. Courses of study that lead to the PhD assist students in developing competence in research and they involve in-depth inquiry into topics within, and related to, Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. 

The PhD program consists of a major in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, an area of concentration, and a research core that includes dissertation research. A PhD in PRT requires a minimum of 67 semester hours of study beyond the masters degree. The exact number of hours and the specific courses to be taken are based on the needs of individual students, taking into account such factors as interests, future aspirations, academic history, and degree of exposure to the study of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. The PhD program requires approximately three full years of study beyond the master's degree.

Options for dissertation include the traditional format and a three article format (TAD). Search for previous dissertations at the Marriott Library's Theses and Dissertations collection.

Graduates of our PhD program have gone on to work as research scientists and policy analysists for federal land agencies, as faculty members in universities and colleges, and as consultants and decision-makers in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. 

The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism is proud to announce

Celebrating Greatness

Congratulations Meagan!

Meagan Ricks is the recipient of the American Camp Association (ACA) Marge Scanlin Outstanding Student Research Award from the American Camp Association. She is flanked by Dr. Laurie Browne, ACA's Senior Director of Research and Education (and a U of Utah PRT Alumni), and Mr. Tom Rosenberg, the CEO of ACA. The Marge Scanlin Outstanding Research Award is awarded based on the quality of the research and the contribution the project has made to the camp movement.

Meagan Ricks is a PhD student in the department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Her research focuses on how camps can create more inclusive, equitable, diverse, and racially just programs especially for marginalized youth such as racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, diversely abled, and youth from low-income contexts. Her most recent project seeks to create a compilation of promising diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices for youth-serving summer camps. The project also seeks to prioritize promising DEI practices based on first, second, and third priorities to help direct camp's DEI efforts. Meagan is passionate about creating environments where marginalized youth can thrive and will continue to investigate how camps become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. 

Meagan Ricks accepting award

Graduate Assistantships

Each year, we offer traditional departmental research and teaching assistantships to incoming PhD students, as well as a changing assortment of special assistantships linked to specific focus areas and research projects.

First-year teaching assistants (TAs) and research assistants (RAs) generally begin mentored teaching in an integrated block of core undergraduate courses and are assigned to independent course instruction as they progress through the doctoral program. Examples of past and current research assistantship funding partners include the American Camp Association (ACA), the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation, and the Global Change and Sustainability Center (GCSC). Additional opportunities are anticipated each year, and many positions offer a blend of teaching and research.  

Each assistantship requires 20 hours of work a week for 9 months and includes a monthly stipend, tuition/fee waiver, and subsidized health insurance. Please visit The Graduate School for details on fellowships and benefits

Western Regional Graduate Program

Residents of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming are eligible to enroll in our program and pay resident tuition rates through WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education). Learn more about how to receive resident tuition through WICHE or contact graduate admissions at (801) 581-7283.


  1. Students must have an earned a master's degree. Students with degrees not in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism are encouraged to apply. Those students without prior degrees in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism will enroll in content awareness classes.
  2. Three letters of recommendation (reference requests are made from The Graduate School's application portal, see below).
  3. Resume indicating background and experience.
  4. For international applicants, performance on TOEFL meeting the requirement of The Graduate School.
  5. Entrance examination (written composition of approximately 10 pages).

    Please prepare an original composition, not to exceed ten pages, on a specific topic related to parks, recreation, and tourism studies that is of special interest to you. The composition must be uniquely composed for this exam. Term papers, employment-related reports, previously written research proposals etc. are not appropriate. Within your composition, point out how that topic relates to your research and scholarly interests in the study of parks, recreation, and tourism. In other words, what research would you like to conduct on the topic? Feel free to develop your composition on any topic you wish within this broad framework, but be certain to focus on a single topic, be certain to explore your research interests related to that topic, and include citations for any references that you use. 

    Graduate faculty in Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism  will examine your paper for clarity and grammatical construction, organization and focus of ideas, effectiveness of transitions between major themes and ideas, validity and soundness of reasoning, and quality of evidence you provide in support of your positions. As such, you are writing an argument, not a descriptive work. Results of the evaluation of your paper will be used by graduate faculty in making a recommendation to the Graduate School concerning your admission or non-admission to graduate studies in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.

    Please attach the Doctoral Program Examination Form as a cover sheet for your paper.

  6. Graduate school application, fee, and official transcripts.
  7. Scores of 155 Verbal and 145 Quantitative on the GRE. Comparable scores on alternate graduate exams may be acceptable (e.g., GMAT).
  8. All materials can be submitted electronically on The Graduate School's Application Portal.
  9. Potential PhD students must have an earned Master's degree. Students with degrees not in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism are encouraged to apply.
  10. We currently only consider doctoral applications once a year, in the late winter (January 15) for fall enrollment.
  11. Review the current Graduate Assistantships for Doctoral Students.

Application Materials Due Date

All doctoral applications must be received by January 15th.

International applicants are encouraged to allow additional time for the applications process. Please note: The international student applicant pool is highly competitive, and most successful applicants have arranged for faculty sponsorship prior to completing their applications with the Department.


You've got questions and we've got answers.

When is the application deadline?

We review doctoral applications once a year. The deadline for all doctoral applicants is January 15. 

Are there any teaching and research assistantships for graduate students?

Yes. These typically involve 20 hours of work each week for nine months and include a monthly stipend, tuition remission, and health benefits. Specific job requirements depend on the source of funding and supervisor. We try to match incoming students with funding opportunities. No separate application is needed. View upcoming graduate assistantships.

Can I be admitted if my previous degrees are not in Parks, Recreation, or Tourism?

Yes. If admitted, you will be required to complete some content awareness classes before you can take core graduate classes. The specific classes depend on your background and previous course work, and may include up to 12 hours of undergraduate courses in the Department.

Do I need to take the GRE to be admitted to your graduate program?

Yes. The GRE (or an equivalent test) is a required part of the application for the graduate programs.

I’ve missed the application deadline, but would like to take a class to see what your program is about. Is this possible?

If you are a current University of Utah student, or can become a current student, then we can help you select courses that might help you in the graduate program. These might either include content awareness classes (see above) or lower division graduate classes that do not have prerequisites. If you are not a current student at the University of Utah, you may be able to take classes by being admitted as a student seeking a second bachelor’s degree.

Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

While there are no explicit requirements, previous university instructors are often better able to answer the specific questions regarding your ability to succeed in a graduate program. If academic references are unavailable, letters from current or previous supervisors are generally superior to those of your peers or colleagues.

Where do I send my application materials?

All materials can be submitted via The Graduate School's Application Portal.

As a master’s student, when do I have to decide between the Thesis and Professional tracks?

After you are admitted and before you enroll in classes you should discuss this option with your graduate advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies. It is somewhat challenging to switch between these tracks once you have taken a semester’s worth of classes.

Do I need a faculty sponsor to be admitted?

The availability of faculty advisors does influence admissions. We match applicants to faculty interests, talents, and available time during the admissions process. However, given the large number of international applicants, it is often beneficial for international students to have a faculty sponsor prior to application to the program.

Resources for Graduate Students

Resources for enrolled PhD students can be found here. The PRT Graduate Bulletin, PhD Handbook, the Three Article Dissertation Guidelines, and other forms and resources under the Graduate Student Resources menu below.