Tourism Management Degrees: Bachelors, Associate & Online Course Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees in tourism management can lead to careers in management at casinos, restaurants and hotels. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your degree in tourism management.
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Studying Tourism Management: at a Glance

A degree in tourism management will combine business education with the tourism industry. Completion of the degree will prepare you for a career in food service management, convention and event planning, recreation management and gaming and casino management. You will combine business and management training with practical customer service skills. Event planners, and hotel managers generally require an associate's or bachelor's degree, and some restaurants require managers to have a degree. Large hotel, restaurant and entertainment chains often require a bachelor's degree. However, it is customary that some restaurant and casino managers receive on the job training. Managers of small hotels and individually owned restaurants may earn management positions based solely on experience. In addition, the BLS estimates stagnation or decline on some areas of tourism.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in management positions restaurants and small hotels -Individuals interested in management positions in hotels
-Individuals interested in event planning
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Restaurant Manager ($48,110)*
-Casino Manager ($67,000)*
-Lodging managers ($47,000)*
-Event Planner ($46,000)*
-Activities Director ($22,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years 3-5 years
Common Graduation Requirements - Internship -Internship
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma or associate's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).


Associate's Degree in Tourism Management

Your associate's program will provide you with well-rounded introductory coursework in tourism, lodging management, recreation planning, travel planning and event planning. With a focus on customer service, your program should prepare you for entry-level management positions. A degree in hospitality is not mandatory for all hospitality management positions. You will stand out among candidates that do not have degrees. The associate's degree can also serve as a stepping stone should you choose to pursue a bachelor's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the restaurant employment market is saturated. However, new opportunities will be open in retail settings like grocery stores, where customers are looking for prepared meals quickly.
  • Upscale restaurants prefer restaurant managers with a degree.
  • With your degree in hospitality, you may be qualified to work at an assisted living facility, a growing market as senior citizens age.

Cons

  • Because hospitality never stops, you can expect to work long hours including nights and weekends. Some holidays are some of the hospitality industry's busiest days.
  • According to the BLS, employment of lodging managers is also expected to grow at a rate of 8 per cent, slower than average, through 2020.
  • According to BLS data, employment of food service managers is expected to decline through 2020.

Courses and Requirements

Tourism covers event planning, hotel management, restaurant and catering management, travel coordination, and cruise direction. You will take introductory courses across those areas, as well as learn the practical skills necessary across all industries, including computer skills and public speaking skills. You will receive introductory coursework in

  • Meeting planning
  • Hospitality law
  • Sanitation and food safety
  • Customer service management

You may also take courses in culinary arts and beverage operations. Your coursework will likely include business courses such as marketing, sales and accounting. Hands-on training is usually an integral part of the curriculum and you can expect to complete at least one internship within your program.

Online Degree Options

You can find some associate degree programs that are offered partly or entirely online. Online courses are provided so both on-campus and online students will have some flexibility in their studies. These programs are often designed for working professionals and can be convenient for someone trying to obtain work experience in the hospitality industry while going to school. Coursework is similar -- if not exactly the same -- as coursework for on-campus programs. Students are still expected to complete an internship.

Stand Out With This Degree

This is a highly competitive market, and you must work to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

  • Become an expert. Focus on a specific market or niche area. If you want to become a travel agent, focus on planning vacations for student groups, or to be an expert on Italy, or plan trips designed for retirees. If you would like to become a restaurant manager, hone a special skill - like pairing wines - that will make you distinguishable among the competition.
  • Travel. If your school offers the opportunity to travel abroad, take advantage of it. Using the Internet, you may be able to plan a trip without actually visiting a city. You will learn of charming bistros and flamboyant restaurant managers by actually visiting them. Also, visiting venues and hotels will help you learn best practices in your own career.
  • Hotels and restaurants are constantly competing for customers using the latest phone apps and online websites. Learn how technology can be used to attract travelers . Journals like Hospitality Technology and organizations such as the Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals will keep you up to date on the latest technology trends

Degree Alternatives

A degree in dietary management will provide you with the skill set and technical knowledge to create menu plans and serve meals for large groups of people. In addition to food safety and management, the science courses can prepare you for certification as a dietary manager. Certification will create career opportunities in government regulated food service such as schools and nursing homes. This degree should help you expand your career opportunities to those who may need a special diet. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for dieticians is expected to increase by 20 percent through 2020, due in part to the increased need at assisted living facilities.


Bachelor's Degree in Tourism Management

With a bachelor's degree in tourism and hospitality management, you will become eligible for high level management jobs at large hospitality chains. You can work in corporate positions in marketing, human resources and customer relations. A bachelor's degree is also required by some employers of event planners and convention coordinators. A combination of coursework, internship and seminars will give you exposure to food management and culinary arts, recreation and entertainment coordination, lodging and hotel management. According to the BLS, although employment for hotel management is expected to stagnate through 2020, those with bachelor's degrees hold the best chance of getting those jobs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Candidates with degrees in hospitality are prime candidates for employment at luxury hotels.
  • Based on BLS data, meeting planners will see employment growth at approximately 44 percent through 2020.
  • Job opportunities for meetings and events are expected to grow as global companies seek to build camaraderie among their employees.

Cons

  • Based on BLS data, changes in the overall business model will result in less management positions.
  • Hotels with the highest level of guest services are highly competitive among candidates with hospitality degrees.
  • Hospitality covers a wide variety of fields, which may cause you to take courses that aren't in the direction you want to go.

Courses and Requirements

Many schools will offer an on-site hospitality campus which may include a hotel or restaurant. Other schools will provide opportunities for students to work at teaching hotels. At least one internship is mandatory. Your hospitality program may also provide you with the opportunity to meet with industry professionals, either one-on-one or in groups. You may also have the opportunity to travel abroad to understand how international tourism compares to tourism in the U.S. You will take courses in:

  • Sales and marketing
  • Human resource management
  • Crisis management
  • Hospitality law
  • Accounting
  • Food and beverage management

You may have an opportunity to choose a concentration in a specific area of tourism or hospitality. If you have an opportunity to choose a concentration, you will be required to take additional courses in that area.

Online

You can find accredited online programs in tourism and hospitality management. Some programs are designed for students who already have an associate's degree and may have prerequisites such as a minimum number of credits to enter the program. Your coursework will be similar to on-campus programs. You may or may not have to complete an internship with the online program.

Stand Out With This Degree

Build on experience and follow the advice of a mentor to stay aware of emerging trends, including sustainability.

  • Find a mentor. In such a highly competitive field, look for someone to give you advice and guidance as you navigate your career. As part of its curriculum, some programs will provide students the opportunity to meet with industry professionals. Look for extracurricular organizations that offer students the opportunity to meet with industry professionals.
  • Go green. An emerging trend is sustainability - hotels use motion detected lights to save electricity, restaurants use local food growers. Learn how you can incorporate sustainable operations into your industry.
  • Get experience. You will be competing with candidates that may have years of experience. Many managers start at the bottom and work their way up. Don't expect your schooling to take the place of experience.

Other Degrees

If you are attracted to the business side of hospitality, you may also want to consider a degree in marketing. Many of your courses will be the same, including human resources, economics, accounting, and of course, marketing. You will also learn selling and marketing techniques that you can use to attract customers. You will be able to find marketing programs both online and on campus. Furthermore, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for marketing managers is expected to increase 14 percent through 2020 faster than the rate of hospitality management.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • AASBA in Event Planning
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Business
      • A.S. General Studies - Business
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
  • Rochester, NY

    Rochester Institute of Technology

  • Online Programs Available
    7. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AS in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • AASBA in Event Planning
  • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management

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Colorado Technical University

  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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American InterContinental University

  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Business
  • A.S. General Studies - Business

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • AS in Business Administration

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Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Management
  • Associate of Science - Business Studies

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