Hospitality and Tourism Degree Guide: 2021 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities

Hospitality and Tourism Degree Guide: 2021 Costs, Requirements & Job Opportunities
Imed Bouchrika by Imed Bouchrika
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the hospitality and tourism industry was among those that were hit hardest. The sector basically grounded to a halt because hotels, restaurants, events, and other related businesses closed, some for good. This is in contrast to the previous year when the travel and tourism industry contributed more than $1.1 trillion to the United States GDP (Hennessey, 2021).

Fortunately, employment in the sector is up. From 8,691 in April 2020, preliminary numbers show 14,377 individuals were employed in the industry as of May 2021 (BLS, 2021). As well, post-secondary institutions awarded 1,473 hospitality and tourism degrees in 2019. These graduates are contributing to the growth of the workforce, which is growing by 2.51% (Data USA, 2021).

You can be a part of this dynamic industry if you possess a hospitality and tourism degree, one of the highest-paying college majors. Below, we discuss what you can expect from hospitality tourism degree programs, admission requirements, necessary skills, and what jobs (and salaries) you can have.

Hospitality and Tourism Degree Table of Contents

  1. What is a Hospitality and Tourism Degree?
  2. Cost of Hospitality and Tourism Degree
  3. Hospitality and Tourism Degree Jobs
  4. Types of Degrees in Hospitality and Tourism
  5. Hospitality and Tourism Degree Requirements
  6. What to Look for in a Hospitality and Tourism Program
  7. Majors Related to Hospitality and Tourism

What is a Hospitality and Tourism Degree?

Hospitality tourism definition can have a wide scope: it can cover roles in event planning, tourism management, lodging management, and food and beverage or restaurant management (Oklahoma State University, 2021).

Depending on your major or track, you can learn about how to run a hotel, venue, or lodging house; how to create and serve dishes or manage a restaurant, or how to plan events and coordinate with vendors. During your course of study, you can have opportunities to apply what you learned in internships at home or abroad. You may encounter favorable occasions that allow you to augment your learning in a foreign institution as well.

What can you do with a hospitality and tourism degree?

With a hospitality tourism degree, you can work in restaurants or with restaurant chains. You can also find employment in hotels, resorts, and other places of accommodation. It is possible for you to have a management position wherein you oversee the operations of a hotel or hotel chain. Moreover, you can use your hospitality and tourism degree in event planning, as management courses prepare you for building relationships not just with clients but with vendors, too.

lodging managers occupation

Cost of Hospitality and Tourism Degree

Knowing hospitality tourism degree tuition early on can help you prepare for undergraduate or postsecondary education. There may be more fees in this major because of uniforms, practicums, seminars, and other activities. You can find out more about these fees by checking the websites or getting in touch with the universities or colleges you are considering.

How much does it cost to get a hospitality and tourism degree?

Public and private institutions have varying average tuition costs. There is a difference in 2-year and 4-year institutions as well. The following table outlines the average tuition fees for in-state and out-of-state institutions as well as public and private postsecondary schools.

Median Annual Wages for Historians in Top Industries

Top IndustriesMedian Annual Wage
Federal Government (excluding postal service)$102,530
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services$66,750
State Government (excluding education and hospitals)$51,540
Local Government (excluding education and hospitals)$32,060
Source: BLS, 2021

Is a degree in hospitality and tourism worth it?

Yes, a degree in hospitality and tourism is worth it. You may think that the industry is in bad shape because of COVID-19-related restrictions, but the industry is beginning to rise again. For example, the San Diego lodging market is expected to see a 15% increase in occupancy. Further, tourism experts predict that the entire sector will bounce back to 2019 levels by the third quarter of 2020 at least or in 2023 at most (Rauch, 2020). Therefore, graduates with this degree can look forward to employment and continued demand.

There is a sense of job satisfaction in the hospitality and tourism industry, too. Various factors including salary, working conditions, working climate, and job security affect job satisfaction, according to Díaz-Carrión and fellow researchers from the Universidad de Córdoba and Universidad de Sevilla. Of all the European countries included in the author’s study titled Comparing working conditions and job satisfaction in hospitality workers across Europe, workers in Austria presented one of the highest satisfaction levels:

More than 92% of workers are either very satisfied or satisfied. Ireland and the United Kingdom presented a high level of satisfaction, too, with 85.3% and 83.5%, who are either very satisfied or satisfied, respectively. “Ireland and the United Kingdom (Anglo-Saxon block) show a great homogeneity in all variables except salaries—workers in the tourism sector in the United Kingdom receive higher salaries than in Ireland.”

This shows that you can expect to be satisfied in your role in the hospitality industry. Although this greatly depends on your location.

Hospitality and Tourism Degree Jobs

As mentioned earlier, hospitality tourism degree jobs can range from working in accommodations, food and beverage establishments, and event organizing. It is also possible to have a career as a flight attendant, a casino host, or something similar.

Is hospitality and tourism in high demand?

A study by Forsythe and colleagues (2020) showed that job demand across all sectors declined steeply in the middle of March 2020, with hospitality and leisure among the hardest hit. The authors, in their paper, Labor demand in the time of COVID-19: Evidence from vacancy postings and UI claims, noted that weekly postings fell to 460,000 in the week of April 26 from 815,000 in the week of March 15.

This was “a 44% drop. To put this number in perspective, over the Great Recession, the total number of vacancies in the U.S. declined by 50% in the 1.5 year time interval from recessionary peak to trough. The CES employment series shows a 13% drop in employment over the same time period. In the Great Recession, employment fell by 6.3% from peak to trough.

Nevertheless, there are bright spots in the demand in the hospitality and tourism industry. For example, receptionists, in general, have a 4% growth in job outlook from 2019 to 2029. This rate is as fast as the national average. Receptionists work mostly in healthcare and social assistance but they are present in nearly all industries.

Next up are flight attendants. Job growth for this profession is 17% and is much faster compared to the national average. Meeting, convention, and event planners are expected to increase within the 2019 to 2029 period as well at a rate of 8% (BLS, 2021).

Now, on to food and beverage-related roles. The number of cooks is forecast to increase by around 256,600 from 2019 to 2029. Chefs and head cooks are very much in demand, too—their number is anticipated to increase by 9,500 in the same period (BLS, 2021).

But when it comes to lodging, the outlook is not as positive. The demand for lodging managers is not expected to go up anytime soon, as there is a 1% (or lower) decline in the job outlook. Within the period in question, there will only be a 4,500 increase in lodging managers. Meanwhile, hosts and hostesses for restaurants, lounges, and coffee shops have a bright outlook: the profession is projected to grow by 8% (O*NET Online, 2021).

strong demand for cooks

What jobs can you get with a hospitality and tourism degree?

  1. Receptionist. A receptionist is in charge of greeting visitors and keeping visitor logs. They answer and route calls to the right person or department. Their responsibilities may also include administrative tasks, such as booking meeting rooms, arranging transportation, and sending and receiving mails and packages.
  2. Cooks. Their duties typically include quality assurance of ingredients, preparing ingredients according to recipes, arranging and garnishing food, cleaning work areas and work tools, and cooking, handling, and storing food or ingredients.
  3. Lodging Managers. They are responsible for meeting the expectations of guests. Their role also entails overseeing the operations and finances of the hotel, resort, inn, or other types of lodging they work in. Thus, they inspect guest rooms and public places and set room rates and expense budgets.

What kind of salary can I earn with a hospitality and tourism degree?

If you become a lodging manager, you can expect to earn an average of $56,670 per year (BLS, 2021). But the average wage of the workforce in tourism and travel services management is $92,907. Connecticut and New York have the top three highest-paying locations for roles in tourism and travel.

In case you take the casino route, you can earn an average base salary of $102,494 as a director of casino operations. Fancy working aboard a cruise ship? Becoming a cruise director will let you earn an average of $56,189 per year (PayScale, 2021).

Four Categories of Competencies of Culinary Professionals

Management/LeadershipTechnicalStrategicOperational
Human skills Food preparation Strategic planning Verbal communication and writing
Managerial skillsFood safetyLabor cost controlComputer skills
Ability to motivateRecipe and menu developmentCost managementKnowledge of cultures
Time managementKnowledge of flavorBudgetingEthics / responsibility
ProfessionalismArtistic creativityInnovateEmotional intelligence
Handle staff complaintsSustainability / waste
management
Adaptation to difficultyKnowledge of food
Organization skillsChange
Communication
Emotional control / stability
Staff appraisal
Source: Marinakou and Giousmpasoglou, 2020

Types of Degrees in Hospitality and Tourism

You can attain four types of hospitality tourism degree types: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. You can get a certificate in the field, too. In that regard, you can choose which skills you want to take up during the course.

What kinds of hospitality and tourism degrees are there?

1. Associate Degree in Hospitality and Tourism

Average time to complete: 2 years

If you are inclined to take an associate degree in hospitality management, you can complete it in two years. Typically, you need to complete 60 units to graduate. In some cases, you may need more.

During the course of study, you will be introduced to management principles. You will also encounter discussions in small business management as well as accounting and marketing. Your public speaking and computer knowledge will also be enhanced, as you are expected to speak to people and work with computers often.

Entry-level jobs: tour guide, hotel receptionist, travel booking agent

2. Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism

Average time to complete: 4 years

When taking a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism, you will encounter more principles of management. You will delve deeper into those as you will in accounting and finance. Throughout the program, you will also learn about the inner workings of tourism and the whole hospitality and tourism industry. Some programs may also introduce you to the culture of wine, which will be helpful if ever you want to become a sommelier.

Moreover, you will gain a global perspective of the industry. As well, you will gain insights into decision-making. A degree program in hospitality and tourism will also help you gain and enhance the skills needed to succeed in the service industry.

Entry-level jobs: meeting, convention, and event planners, entertainment manager, cook

3. Master’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism

Average time to complete: 2 years

A master’s degree in hospitality and tourism broadens the horizon of a student. It lets you build your strengths in the area you are interested in. Throughout your study, you can expect to sharpen your management skills and incorporate your professional experiences into the classroom. This higher degree can also assist you in being more competitive in a thriving industry.

High-level positions: director of resort facilities, cruise director, gaming and casino manager

4. Doctoral Degree in Hospitality and Tourism

Average time to complete: 3 years

Ph.D. programs in hospitality and tourism open up plenty of opportunities for research about society, the economy, and the marketplace. It will explore the impacts of the hospitality and tourism industry on the environment, the people, and the national, regional, and global economy. As a doctorate student, you will encounter theories and models of management and similar. You will also be expected to contribute scholarly research to complete your Ph.D.

High-level positions: director of resort facilities, cruise director, gaming and casino manager

5. Certificate in Hospitality and Tourism

Average time to complete: 2 weeks

Certificate programs in hospitality and tourism train you for entry-level positions in the foodservice industry, the casino and gaming industries, as well as in the hotel and accommodations sector. Depending on the school, students may also undergo a practicum where students will receive on-site training.

Entry-level jobs: casino dealer, food service manager, recreation worker

Hospitality and Tourism Degree Requirements

To get into the school of your choice, you must first meet hospitality tourism degree prerequisites. We outlined some of the requirements that you can expect from any educational institution so you can get your documents and yourself ready.

Admission Requirements

Proof of Graduation

Colleges and universities require students to show proof that they have graduated from high school. Typically, this would be a diploma. The same applies to those who have previously taken an associate degree in hospitality and tourism or a similar degree.

Transcript

Postsecondary institutions generally require students to have a GPA of at least 2.0. However, there may be colleges or universities that have a higher GPA requirement, such as the West Virginia University (2021).

Coursework

As there will be management and accounting courses in a hospitality and tourism degree, students may be expected to have good grades in maths subjects. Another course requirement may be respectable scores in English and at least one other foreign language.

SAT or ACT score

The College Board no longer offers SATs. However, if you have recently taken the test, you can still present your scores to the school’s admission office. Foreign students, though, are still advised to sit for SATs to show their mastery of certain subjects (College Board, 2021).

A high ACT score in maths may also work in your favor, especially if you want to focus on hospitality management.

Other Requirements

Those who have served in the military in any capacity can choose to transfer credits. To apply, they need to present certification or other proof of their service.

Skill Requirements

Among the hospitality tourism degree skills, soft skills are more valued compared to technical skills. After all, it is a service industry and professionals face customers or clients often. On top of that, some roles require dealing with vendors, such as in arranging supply or transport contracts.

Additionally, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and positive attitudes are valuable in a hospitality employee (Chang & Buser, 2020).

employers value problem-solvers

Communication Skills

Communication skills are highly valued in any industry but more so in the hospitality and service industries. This is because many of the roles have the professional facing customers most, if not all, of the time. Additionally, great communication skills are attractive to recruiters. It sets apart a candidate from others (Usmani, 2020).

Moreover, 80% of employers say that soft skills, such as communication skills are increasingly important to their success (EHL Insights, 2021).

Problem-Solving Skills

Individuals in the hospitality sector need to have strong problem-solving skills. Guests would often turn to front desk clerks or receptionists to solve their issues, which would be a wide variety of concerns. At times, their problems may seem like there are no viable solutions. Thus, you need to be creative in resolving complications to appease guests. Indeed, 83% of employers prefer finding this particular skill on the resume of an entry-level candidate (Tomaszewski, 2021)

Positive Attitude

It is not skills per se but a positive attitude that can help you go a long way in the hospitality sector. You need to be open to everything that you hear, deal well with different kinds of people, and listen carefully to what people tell you. With a good attitude, you can adapt and respond to changes and excel as you do it (Kenvale College, 2021).

What to Look for in a Hospitality and Tourism Program

Not all hospitality and tourism programs are designed the same way. Some colleges and universities may emphasize management while others may focus on the development of essential service skills like cooking and event organizing. To help you choose the right school for you, we list down below some of the things you may need to consider.

Available Specializations

Depending on who you ask, the hospitality industry would have four to five segments. These are hotels, events, travel and tourism, food services, luxury services, and others (encompasses logistics, finance, media, HR, education, and training) (Novak, 2017; SOEG Jobs, 2021). Thus, it is important to know in which sector of hospitality you plan on going. If you are still unsure, then it would be best to enter a college or university that covers multiple segments.

Accreditation

There are two common accreditation bodies for hospitality and tourism programs. These are the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA) and Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Prospective students can find out whether the program they wish to enter is accredited by looking for a seal from the accrediting body. Often, the school itself would advertise this accreditation. If unsure, you can check the websites of ACPHA and ACBSP.

Student-Teacher Ratio

The world’s average student-teacher ratio was 12.6:1 in 1980. This changed to 17.1:1 in 2018 (To & Yu, 2020). The increase in the ratio shows that there are more students but also fewer teachers to keep the ratio low. A low student-to-faculty ratio is necessary for close interactions within the classroom. In this way, professors can closely instruct students, and students themselves do not have to compete for the attention of their instructor.

Financial Aid Options

Higher education institutions themselves offer financial aid options to students through scholarships. These could be awarded to students who excel academically or those who meet certain criteria. Otherwise, you could look towards federal grants to help you pay for college or for graduate school.

Majors Related to Hospitality and Tourism

Looking Forward to a Tourism Boom

Tourism and hospitality businesses took a huge hit from COVID-19 restrictions. Many businesses even had to shutter their doors for good. But the job outlook for hospitality and tourism graduates is looking up. This is because experts believe tourism and hospitality will go back to their 2019 levels by the third quarter of 2022 at the latest.

To that end, governments are creating and implementing policies that support tourism businesses and employees. These include subsidies and tax reliefs. Of course, it is accompanied by debates on the relaxation of COVID-19 related restrictions. After all, rejuvenating economies may possibly give way to another wave of the pandemic (Sigala, 2020).

The world still has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the impact of COVID-19, particularly in the service industries. Nevertheless, it should not dissuade you from attaining a hospitality tourism degree, as there are professions that have a truly positive outlook. You can even augment your degree by taking subjects available in a business degree program to give you an edge in employment.

 

References:

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