Is a Career in Hospitality and Tourism in Your Future?

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism accounts for 8% of the world’s jobs and has the highest potential for growth of any industry. International travel alone accounts for more than 840 million tourists annually. The economic, social and environmental impact of tourism is significant and vital to creating sustainable jobs and quality of life.

Hospitality and tourism represents a broad range of career opportunities in industries that include:

hotels and resorts
restaurants and commercial food service
meeting and event planning
tourism destinations and attractions
leisure, recreation and sports management
airlines, cruises and other transportation
environmentally sustainable and cultural tourism development
spa and wellness management

As a vast, dynamic and growing industry, hospitality and tourism provides tremendous opportunity for ambitious students who enjoy working with people. The hospitality and tourism industry operates in a highly competitive environment. It is important that those seeking careers as successful professionals develop a strong business foundation and customer service skills. Graduates of hospitality and tourism management programs are well rounded with a combination of business and life skills that are in high demand with employers.

While hospitality and tourism has traditionally been an industry that emphasized hands-on experience, the competitive nature of the business now requires a combination of experience and higher education to build a successful management career. To meet the needs of the industry, hospitality and tourism programs offered by colleges and universities have grown rapidly in the United States. Today programs are offered by a variety of vocational schools, community colleges and both public and private universities. Options range from short-term skills-oriented certificates to post-graduate degree programs.

With so many choices available, how do you choose the right school and program for you? Hospitality and tourism management programs offered in the U.S. vary. If you seek a bachelor’s degree or higher, a community college or university will provide a well-rounded education with a specific industry focus designed to prepare students for management-level careers. Vocational schools generally offer a more hands-on training to prepare students for specific entry-level positions.

More Americans are enrolled in community colleges (also often called junior colleges or two-year colleges) than in any other institution of higher education in the U.S. Community college hospitality and tourism programs offer a variety of specialized certificate and associates degree options as well as university transfer programs that allow students to complete a bachelor’s degree. Because community colleges generally have lower tuition costs than four-year colleges and universities, many international students choose the community college to university transfer pathway (two-year associate’s degree + two years at a university to complete a bachelor’s degree).

What should you look for in choosing a hospitality and tourism management program that best suits your career goals? Some important questions to ask include:

Does the school’s curriculum meet your career objectives? Hospitality and tourism is a vast industry with many different career paths. If your career goal is to manage a large hotel or to work toward a senior management position with a well-known corporation, a bachelor’s degree is generally required.

Is the school located in a tourism destination with a strong representation of major hotels? What hotels, resorts and tourist attractions does the program draw from? Do leading industry employers recruit the school’s graduates?

What are the faculty’s academic credentials and industry experience? Faculty in hospitality and tourism management programs often have advanced degrees in business, education or disciplines other than hospitality and tourism. A combination of academic achievement and management-level business experience are considered important qualifications for faculty in this industry.

Is the program regionally accredited? Regional accreditation refers to the accrediting bodies that serve one of six geographic regions in the U.S. Each regional accrediting body is responsible for the majority of public and private higher education institutions in the area it serves. Regional accreditation is especially important if you plan to complete a bachelor’s degree or higher. Some institutions also obtain specific professional accreditation.

What support does the institution provide for international students? Does the school provide specific orientation and ongoing advisement for international students? Is there an international students’ organization to support living and working together as an intercultural community?

What opportunities does the institution provide for language study? Hospitality and tourism is a worldwide industry. An appreciation and understanding of other cultures and languages is essential to a successful career. Does the program provide opportunities to study other languages? Does the institution provide ESL (English as a Second Language) courses that enable international students to expand their language skills while studying in the United States?

The hospitality and tourism industry offers abundant opportunity for students seeking careers in a dynamic, international industry. If you possess strong communication skills and a desire to provide excellent service to others this fast-paced industry may be for you.

Editorial provided by Mr. Larry L. Williams, MBA, Director of Hospitality and Tourism Management Programs at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. Scottsdale Community College is one of the Maricopa Community Colleges.

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