What to Know About Hospitality and Tourism Management Degree Programs

The art and science of hosting strangers is an essential skill for people working in many kinds of businesses, including airlines, casinos, cruise ships, festivals, hotels and restaurants.

Running a company in any segment of the hospitality industry requires not only financial and marketing prowess, but also an understanding of how to create an inviting environment for guests. Cultivating that marketable skill set is the goal of associate, bachelor’s and graduate programs in hospitality management.

What a Hospitality Management Degree Is and What Classes It Requires

The goal of any course of study in hospitality management is to train people to create and maintain spaces where others will immediately feel at home.

“Understanding how to take care of the customer is a foundational aspect of the hospitality discipline,” Angela Ramsey, senior director of communication at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, explained in an email.

Hospitality management degrees are, foremost, degrees in business, says Michael Sabitoni, chair of the food and beverage management department and the international travel and tourism studies department at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. They include classes in accounting, finance, human resources, law and technology, he says.

However, unlike a general business degree, a hospitality degree typically includes specialized coursework focusing on the hospitality industry, such as classes on food service business operations, event management principles, and hotel and resort leadership, Sabitoni says. An overview class about tourism is also typically included in hospitality management programs, and industry internships are often mandatory, he adds.

Many hospitality degree programs require students to participate in experiential learning by helping to operate a student-run hotel or restaurant. They may also contain classes on:

— Eco-tourism or sustainable travel

— Global tourism and special considerations involved with international trips

— Customer service protocols

— Assessing the quality of guest experiences

— Specific types of hospitality establishments, such as country clubs, golf courses, resorts, stadiums, timeshares or theme parks

— Nuances involved in planning certain kinds of events, such as conventions or weddings

— Concerns that face certain demographics of customers, including women and people of color

— Various types of tourism, including business trips and visits to cultural destinations or historical sites

[Read: Compare an MBA With Other Management Graduate Degrees.]

Top Undergraduate Schools With Hospitality Management Majors

Many U.S. colleges and universities allow undergraduates to major in hospitality management, including multiple nationally renowned academic institutions. Cornell University of New York, an Ivy League college, has a school devoted to hospitality.

Exceptional hospitality programs are often based in major metropolitan areas that attract significant tourism. For example, New York University and Boston University in Massachusetts offer a hospitality management degree.

How to Know if a Hospitality Management Degree Is Right for You

An interest in the food and beverage sector, a love for travel or an interest in entertaining people may lead someone to consider pursuing a degree in hospitality management. But prospective students should be aware that the hospitality sector has leadership roles for people with all kinds of interests and personalities.

Though some managerial positions in the hospitality industry are customer-facing jobs that require significant people skills, there are also back-of-the-house managerial jobs that concentrate on logistics, Sabitoni says.

Significant cultural awareness and strong communication abilities are essential in hospitality. Foreign language skills are also valuable but not mandatory, Sabitoni says.

What You Can Do With a Hospitality Management Degree

Hospitality programs are designed to train future leaders in the sector.

“It can include anything within the hospitality vertical, from hotel investment companies to real estate firms to our big brands which are the Marriotts, the Hiltons, the Four Seasons, to data analytics companies to Googles to Amazons,” says Kate Walsh, dean of the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration at Cornell. “Anything that touches hospitality as a part of their business product is something where our students get involved.”

Real estate investment firms often invest in hotel buildings, so people with degrees in hospitality management sometimes find jobs in the real estate sector, Walsh says. Alumni of hospitality management programs sometimes become management consultants who concentrate on assisting companies in the hospitality industry, she adds.

Executive and director roles in the industry typically require at least a bachelor’s degree. Many high-level leadership positions at U.S. hospitality firms pay annual salaries above $70,000, according to an article published by Monster.com, a job website.

In 2020, graduates of Cornell’s Nolan School had an average base salary of slightly over $69,000 and an average bonus of nearly $15,000, according to the school’s employment report.

Considerations for Potential Hospitality Students

Aspiring hospitality managers should be aware of trends that may affect them when they enter the industry, experts say.

This sector has severe labor shortages at hotels and restaurants, many of which laid off workers due to pandemic-related safety measures and now have struggled to replace those workers even after raising wages.

Because of these staffing concerns, many hospitality companies have introduced initiatives to recruit and retain talented staff, improve working conditions, increase job satisfaction and reduce employee turnover, Walsh says.

When comparing hospitality programs, prospective students should investigate whether those programs include experiential learning opportunities, experts say, noting that hands-on projects are one of the best ways to gain hospitality skills. It’s also optimal if hospitality schools offer courses on design, which can inform aesthetic choices about how a hospitality venue looks, according to experts.

“I think the industry needs innovative thinkers,” Walsh says. “They need people who think big culturally, who are comfortable with different modes of work, so it’s a great time to join the industry. The industry is trying to be extremely intentional in providing compelling career paths.”

Searching for a grad school? Get our complete rankingsof Best Graduate Schools.

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What to Know About Hospitality and Tourism Management Degree Programs originally appeared on usnews.com

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