Travel Industry Degrees: Program Overviews

Through courses that cover basic business principles and the specifics of tourism, students can train at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels for careers in the travel industry. Learn more about the program requirements, coursework, and popular career options after graduation.

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Essential Information

Travel industry degree programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Programs of study in travel and tourism may be specifically in those fields or provide a major in business with an emphasis on travel or hospitality. Associate's degrees teach graduates the basic skills in communication and tourism and provide them with opportunities for further education.

Bachelor's and master's degree programs in this field offer advanced coursework and training in management. These programs require internships that allow students to gain field experience. Master's degree students are required to complete a thesis and comprehensive exam.

Prospective undergraduate students must have a high school diploma. To be admitted to the master's level, applicants need to complete a bachelor's degree and submit GRE/GMAT scores. Online courses and programs in this field are also available.


Associate's Degree Programs in Travel and Tourism

In associate's degree programs with a travel and tourism emphasis, students obtain the communication skills essential to a customer service-oriented profession. In order to earn an associate's degree, students take general education classes in comprehensive academic categories, such as communications, natural science, mathematics and humanities, along with core courses in travel and tourism. Some courses found in associate's degree programs in this field include:

  • Introductory coursework in travel and tourism documentation, business and communication
  • Travel and tourism sales and marketing strategies
  • Social and cultural aspects of international travel and tourism
  • Computer and Internet applications related to travel and tourism
  • Management, business and accounting for the travel professional

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Travel Industry Management

The majority of bachelor's degree programs in travel tend to be either a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus in travel industry management or a Bachelor of Science with a major in hospitality management, or tourism and transportation management. The emphasis of these bachelor's programs is business, global and cultural studies, finance and human resources. Some other areas of concentration include the principles and fundamentals of communication, hotel and hospital management, customer service, world cultures and effective problem-solving skills.

Travel management programs culminate with a supervised internship or a comprehensive capstone project. The primary goal of a bachelor's degree program is to help students develop a foundation in leadership, marketing and information technology for successful careers in the field of travel and tourism. Classes common to these programs often include:

  • Introductory courses in research and statistics
  • Hotel and travel industry business fundamentals
  • Mathematics and accounting for travel professionals
  • Laws, policies and procedures in the travel industry
  • Travel industry finance and management

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Master's Degree Programs in Travel and Tourism

Graduates in travel and tourism master's degree programs extensively study strategic management and marketing, transportation management and global policies. In addition to these topics, students typically take elective courses in a specific area, such as hotel management, restaurant and institutional management, event and meeting management and travel industry education.

Students are expected to complete and defend a well-researched and scholarly written thesis. A comprehensive final exam might also be required. Coursework in these programs typically include:

  • Managing risk in a travel environment
  • Intro to ecotourism
  • Destination management, planning and policy analysis
  • Event planning, organization and management
  • Travel, tourism and hospitality marketing

Popular Careers

Customer service is usually the main thrust of travel, tourism and hospitality jobs. Associate's degree-level graduates in this field are eligible for careers such as:

  • Travel agent
  • Flight attendant
  • Cruise line tour operator

Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in travel industry management can find opportunities in entertainment, recreation, food service and hotel management. Some positions might include:

  • Lodging manager
  • Food service manager
  • Tour guide
  • Gaming services
  • Travel sales and marketing

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that travel agent employment will see a decline of 12% for the years 2014-2024. The BLS listed the median yearly income for travel agents in May 2015 as $35,660 (www.bls.gov). While travel agent can be considered one possible career for master's degree graduates, some other options include lodging management. The BLS estimates a job growth of 8% for lodging managers in the years 2014-2024. They earned a median annual salary of $49,720 in May 2015.

Travel industry degree programs allow students to gain experience in the field of travel, tourism and hospitality through coursework, internships, thesis and exams. Graduates usually land a job as a flight attendant, travel agent, and lodging manager, as well as most careers in hospitality and travel industries.

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