A career in hospitality management could lead almost anywhere… literally. Those who climb the ranks in travel and tourism can find themselves working and living in exotic destinations abroad, sailing the open seas on a cruise ship, or touring the most mysterious and beautiful places on Earth. A degree in hospitality management could lead to a career managing a hotel or resort, overseeing day-to-day activities, procedures, and guests. Or, it could lead to a job as a cruise ship director, sorting through all of the complex issues and requirements that come with leaving port and sailing the open sea for weeks at a time. With a career in hospitality management, the possibilities are only limited by what the world has to offer. And, with so many amazing career options available in hospitality management, it’s no wonder that many students are choosing to pursue degrees in this field.

Hospitality management encompasses a wide range of industries and careers, including travel, tourism, restaurant management, and lodging. The following options are available for students who want to turn their passion for travel into a career in hospitality management:

  • Certificate Programs – There are a variety of certificate programs available for hospitality management majors. A certificate program, while not for credit, may add value to a resume or serve as continuing education for those already working in the field. Specialized certificates can help upper-level professionals learn new skills or make a lateral move within their organization. Cornell University School of Hotel Administration offers a certificate in hospitality management that can be completed entirely online. During the 36 hours of required coursework, students study concepts in team dynamics, effective management, hospitality marketing, and revenue management.
  • Associate Degree – In general, students who earn an associate’s degree gain a basic understanding of all facets of the hospitality industry including lodging, food and beverage, travel, and tourism. An associate’s degree in hospitality management could be completed in as little as two years of full-time study and programs are available online as well as on campus. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many lodging managers, in particular, are required to have a bachelor’s degree in order to be considered for employment. However, an associate’s degree may suffice for students pursuing a non-management hotel position or any position within the restaurant or tourism industries. Students interested in earning their degree online can do so at the University of Phoenix. Through the school’s online learning interface, students can earn an associate of arts with a concentration in hospitality, travel, and tourism.
  • Bachelor’s Degree – Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree typically gain a fundamental understanding of core business principles, best practices in hospitality management, and strategies for effective leadership. In many cases, students in these programs can choose to take elective courses that align with their interests. Some possible options include hotel management, event management, international tourism, labor relations, or hospitality entrepreneurship. Individuals who pursue this degree can choose from a variety of accredited online schools or on-campus options, and may be able to earn their degree in as little as four years of full-time study. Concordia University of Saint Paul, Minnesota, for example, offers a fully online bachelor of arts degree in hospitality management. Students in this program learn to become effective managers and supervisors while studying fundamental principles of travel and tourism as a whole.
  • Master’s Degree – Individuals who earn a master’s degree may be able to gain employment in senior management, convention services, real estate development projects, or strategic development and planning. Most master’s degree programs can be completed in as little as two years of full-time study. For students seeking the added flexibility that comes with online education, Drexel University Online offers an excellent master’s degree program for top professionals in hospitality and tourism. Students in Drexel’s master’s program can choose to specialize in gaming and casino management or global tourism as they gain the knowledge required to become key decision-makers within the hospitality and tourism industry.
  • Doctorate Degree – Students who want to study advanced concepts within the field of hospitality and tourism can choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in hotel, restaurant, or institutional management. These programs typically cover concepts in facilities management and strategy, institutional management, branding, human resources, sales, and marketing. Although outcomes may vary, those who graduate with a doctorate might move on to become hospitality researchers or professors at a university level.

A degree in hospitality management can help graduates get their foot in the door in nearly any one of the careers mentioned so far. However, on-the-job experience is just as important, if not more important, than formal education. Hospitality managers need excellent customer service, communication, and organizational skills, as well as the ability to lead effectively and solve problems as they arise. Listening skills are also crucial for professionals in hospitality management, as they encounter a wide range of requests from various customers, vendors, and employees on a daily basis.

Those who graduate with a degree in hospitality management could find themselves working in nearly any role within the travel and hospitality industry. Possibilities include hotel and resort manager, spa and relaxation coordinator, restaurant or catering manager, cruise director, casino and gaming manager, or event planner. Salaries in this field can vary widely depending on location, education and experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that lodging managers earned a median annual wage of $46,810 nationally in 2012, while food service managers earned a median wage of $47,960. Meeting, convention, and event planners also took home a healthy paycheck in 2012, earning a median wage of $45,810 nationally.

This article was originally published on OnlineDegrees.com