What Are the Best Careers in Hospitality and Tourism? The Top Jobs for Master’s Graduates

“[The online MS in Hospitality and Tourism] degree is not limited. You can use it almost anywhere in any business,” says USC Bovard College professor Andrea Daniels.

Whether you enjoy staying at luxurious hotels, traveling to beautiful places, attending interesting events, eating at delicious restaurants or trying out unique activities, like ecotourism, there are plenty of reasons to be passionate about the world of hospitality and tourism.

In fact, some people are so drawn to hospitality and tourism that they pursue a career path in the industry, which boasts a wide range of job opportunities, plenty of room for growth and an overall promising future.

Speaking with four faculty members from the online Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism (MSHT) program at USC Bovard College, we learned about growing employment options, the skills needed to succeed in the industry and what to expect post-pandemic.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Hospitality and Tourism?

With a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism, you can work in restaurants, hotels, spas, theme parks, bars and more. From there, roles exist in food and beverage, event planning, management, social media, marketing, finances, housekeeping, tour operation and other areas.

The industry is so pervasive that there are always new opportunities, said John Bowen, MSHT professor and KYC Hospitality advisor.

Bowen highlighted hotel development itself as an expanding sector, emphasizing the possibilities available in atypical locations, such as senior living homes and universities, where professionals are recruited to make the spaces comfortable and welcoming for residents.

“One of the things I really like about this industry is if you don’t like what you’re doing now, there’s going to be a position that will be more what you like, depending on what your interests are. Whether it be the financial and numbers side, or the dealing with people side, or the food side, or the destinations side,” he told USC Online.

For those who are more into the research side of the business, data analytics might be the ideal path, according to MSHT professor Suzanne Szanyi.

“We do a lot of work in understanding where bookings come from, where we should be marketing, who we should target on social media, how exactly people are finding out about our properties,” said Szanyi. “Figuring out that kind of info and digging into customer analytics is a big thing right now. How do we find out more about the people who stay at the properties, who go on the cruise ships, who eat at the restaurants? What do we do with that information to give them a better experience and encourage them to come back?”

Another burgeoning sector within hospitality is the casino and gaming resort industry, where MSHT professor and Graduate Hotels Managing Director Michael Mathis has spent 20 years of his career.

“These multi-use resorts have so many opportunities, different positions, and the ability to grow within from housekeeping or the front desk,” Mathis said. “You’ve got facilities teams, which are all different levels of engineers. We have a graphics marketing team as well as a database marketing team. There’s senior management and really seasoned security people who know how to look out for counterfeiters, fraud prevention and so on.”

Event planning is also a key driver of revenue and growth — conferences, meetings, festivals, sporting events, fashion shows and exhibitions attract tourists to destinations around the world.

“You can use [the MSHT] almost anywhere in any business. Every business has an element of tourism and hospitality.” – Andrea Daniels

Whether you’re interested in tackling larger, corporate events or planning personal celebrations like weddings, event tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to recruit talent versed in management and leadership, both of which are highlighted in the MSHT program.

Unique and Unexpected Career Opportunities

Of course, there are many jobs that come to mind when people think of hospitality and tourism: property manager, travel agent, marketing associate. But there are plenty of roles that might not be as obvious.

One commonly overlooked sector in the hospitality industry is hospitals.

“In hotels, we always say, ‘heads and beds,’ and it’s the same process with hospitals. We want to make sure we have room for demand, and we want people to be cared for, to be comfortable. A lot of what we do in hospital guest services can be overlooked,” Szanyi said.

Another in-demand career path that has gained traction in the past few years is sustainable tourism development, which focuses on creating a balance between the environment, local communities and the economy.

Positions include becoming a sustainable business advisor — guiding travel organizations on eco-friendly practices and ethical compensation — and environmental consultants — helping governments and businesses improve issues surrounding water pollution, air quality and wildlife protection.

And thanks to the pandemic, more and more travelers are prioritizing outdoor activities and longer, more immersive vacations, leading to a heightened awareness and respect for nature and indigenous communities.

“Adventurous holidays and outdoorsy relaxation retreats are trending. Ecotourism, nature tourism and even volunteer tourism, like beach cleanups, are starting to grow … Other outdoor activities, such as hiking and horseback riding are booming,” MSHT professor Diana C. Beltran told USC Bovard College in April.

To meet this growing demand for sustainable tourism practices, the MSHT curriculum places a heavy focus on sustainability, addressing everything from socially responsible event planning to sustainable development projects.Overall, a master’s in hospitality and tourism prepares you to work in a myriad of fields. You can take those event planning, management, marketing and guest services skills and apply them to businesses and organizations worldwide.

“Open up your eyes to see the possibilities available in the space. This degree is not limited. You can use it almost anywhere in any business. Every business has an element of tourism and hospitality,” said Andrea Daniels, MSHT professor and distribution strategy director for IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Across industries, leaders are focusing not only on recruiting impressive talent, but also on retaining them, according to Daniels. Pillars of that retention model include internal development, succession planning and growth opportunities.

“We’re always looking for individuals with advanced degrees who can help chart that course. So much of hospitality and tourism is about customer service, so having someone with that background can really set the culture of service for the company,” Daniels said.

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What Skills Do You Need in the Hospitality and Tourism Field?

The most important trait to have in the hospitality and tourism industry, our experts emphasized, is passion. If you’re driven to provide an excellent customer experience, you’ll thrive in the field, whether you’re creating culinary masterpieces, crunching numbers or laying the groundwork for new a hotel.

“Once you find the aspect of [hospitality and tourism] that drives you and makes you happy, you’ll succeed,” Bowen said.

Motivation and hard work, however, are also crucial to advancing your career, Mathis added.

“I would say for all students getting their master’s degrees to find opportunities to really learn the business from the ground up, and marry that with all the great training and theoretical work that we’re doing in the classroom. Go out there and truly experience it,” he emphasized.

With skill, knowledge and drive, the MSHT program prepares students to become leaders in their chosen professions, imparting confidence and innovative practice that will serve them throughout the rest of their careers.

A Post-Pandemic Future

It’s no secret that the world of hospitality and tourism was severely shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, as travel became restricted, restaurants and hotels closed, airlines shut down and in-person events were canceled.

While the idea of a vacation or a night out at a favorite restaurant used to seem like a distant fantasy, the industry has made great strides to return to its pre-lockdown success.

“The one thing with this industry is we always bounce back. Go back to 9/11, and we all thought that there’s no coming back from this. The industry was directly threatened, and it was a threat to people’s safety to travel. But we bounced back, like we always bounce back. It might not come back like it was before, but we have the ability to evolve. We almost acquire new ways of doing things, new ways to service guests. The best time to get in is when it’s down and we start innovating,” Daniels said.

Of course, change has already occurred — thanks to technological advances, a larger emphasis has been placed on creating custom guest experiences, noted Szanyi. That includes virtual booking assistance, communication apps and online concierge services tailored to their preferences.

And while the rise in technology can seem like a threat to the job force, it also creates new career paths in and of itself.

“Many jobs in this field will be done by robots, so there’s going to have to be somebody who understands how to program these robots, how to work the interface and teach human employees to work with robotic workers. These different areas of technology are bringing opportunities for people,” Bowen said.

Learn more about the online MS in Hospitality and Tourism program at USC Bovard College today.