Studying Hospitality in the US: What You Need to Know

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By Deshan Mendis
Last updated on May 14, 2024

If you’re interested in professional roles in hospitality or tourism management, a hospitality degree from a US university is a good first step.

Two international students in uniform suits stand in a commercial kitchen and compare notes during their hospitality internship

Global travel is rapidly picking up, with the UN World Tourism Organization projecting international tourism to return to or even surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024 — which means increased demand for hospitality careers. With a degree or major in hospitality, you can build the skillset global employers are looking for — and find work in some of the most desirable locations around the world.

Read on to learn more about what you will study to earn a hospitality degree, job prospects for hospitality majors, hospitality degree programs available at Shorelight universities, and more.

What Will I Study as a Hospitality Major?

Hospitality degrees cover a broad range of business activities within the industry, such as travel, tourism, lodging, dining, and entertainment, and often combine both business and hospitality-related courses. These can include subjects such as finance; accounting; leadership; food service; hospitality law; beer, wine, and spirits management; and tourism marketing. 

As the hospitality industry involves mainly hands-on activities, hospitality degrees help you gain practical experience. Depending on the university, you can also intern or work part-time in the industry, train under an industry professional, or even access international placement opportunities. 

Which Careers Will I Qualify for with a Hospitality Degree?

Hospitality degrees open up unique careers in tourism, lodging, dining, and much more, including roles such as: 

  • Casino manager

  • Catering manager

  • Event organizer

  • Front office manager

  • Hotel manager

  • Travel agent

  • Restaurant manager

  • Tour guide

Many of these careers involve working directly with customers and/or the general public, making the hospitality industry well-suited for outgoing students who enjoy socializing and customer service. Students who excel with teamwork and project management can also thrive in hospitality professions, and may pursue advanced roles such as hotel manager or event organizer.

Hospitality programs also focus on developing a global perspective, and may give you the opportunity to gain experience working with experts from different countries. This can also include study-abroad opportunities to learn about the hospitality industry in other countries and how to interact with tourists from around the world. This is ideal for students who enjoy global collaboration, traveling, and learning about various cultures.

Many of the skills you gain are also transferable to jobs outside the hospitality industry, such as event management, accounting, finance, marketing, and general management. In combination with your new skillset, a hospitality degree can help you stand out to employers as your fields of expertise are varied.

With a hospitality degree, you may qualify for careers such as:

  • Conference center manager

  • Exhibition designer

  • Marketing manager

  • Human resource manager

  • General manager

Do Hospitality Jobs Pay Well?

As the hospitality industry is so diverse, career prospects depend on the specific role, organization, and current conditions in both the local and international travel markets. 

The following four careers show a benchmark of what hospitality degree holders can expect to earn as average starting salaries in the US, China, and India:

Hotel administration major


Lodging manager

Starting Salary in the US


Starting Salary in China


Starting Salary in India


Hospitality management major


Restaurant manager

Starting Salary in the US


Starting Salary in China


Starting Salary in India


Business major with a concentration in public relations


Public relations manager

Starting Salary in the US


Starting Salary in China


Starting Salary in India


Hospitality and tourism management major


Event organizer

Starting Salary in the US


Starting Salary in China


Starting Salary in India


The above salaries use data from PayScale and SalaryExpert.

Discover Top-Ranked Hospitality Degrees at Shorelight Universities

Shorelight’s top-ranked universities offer programs specially designed for international students. These programs equip you with the skills, knowledge, and experiences you need to thrive as a professional in the hospitality industry.

Florida International University

Study at the Florida International University (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, the second-largest hospitality school in the US.

The Chaplin School campus is located in Biscayne Bay, a prominent Miami tourist destination, allowing students to explore opportunities at hospitality establishments nearby. Students can also gain valuable first-hand work experience by participating in FIU’s partnership with The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival. This festival gives students set up and operations work experience, all while connecting with top global organizations including Bacardi USA, Carnival Cruise Lines, Marriott International, and many more.

FIU’s hospitality and tourism management bachelor’s degree can cover the following areas:

  • Beverage management

  • Entertainment management

  • Event management

  • Hospitality management (general)

  • Hotel/lodging management

  • Restaurant/culinary management

  • Spirits management

  • Travel and tourism management

By studying multiple hospitality and tourism business focuses, you will be equipped with a variety of unique skills and experiences to broaden your portfolio and stand out to employers in many hospitality organizations. Additionally, your well-rounded undergraduate degree can help you determine if you want to pursue further education with a master’s — and which specific travel or hospitality field you want to specialize in.

The Chaplin School offers both on-campus and online options for its courses, along with a wide range of hospitality specializations. These include:

  • Beverage

  • Culinary

  • Event

  • Hotel/lodging

  • Travel and tourism management

  • Hospitality real estate development

  • Revenue management

FIU also offers a 12-month master’s program in hospitality management, along with a combined bachelor’s and master’s program to help you earn both degrees in less than five years. 

To help students gain experience, the Chaplin School’s career development office connects you with hospitality employers offering placement or internship opportunities. The career development office also assists with resume prep, exploring job postings, researching employers, enhancing your interview skills, and providing personalized career advice. 

Additionally, students can also gain valuable international experience through FIU’s study abroad programs. Students have the opportunity to explore the hospitality and tourism industry in countries like Australia, the Czech Republic, England, Italy, New Zealand, and more, while gaining direct experience in international hospitality environments.

I wanted to study at FIU because I found out that they have one of the best hospitality schools in the country. Within a year, I have gotten so many opportunities. I’ve become chair of the Student Hospitality Leadership Council. Through that I’ve gotten opportunities to be a culinary lead for the South Beach Wine and Food festival. By being involved with these organizations on campus, my confidence level has increased dramatically.” — Elizabeth, Hospitality major, Brazil

University of South Carolina

The College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management (HRSM) at the University of South Carolina (USC) is ranked #12 in the US and #25 globally by ShanghaiRanking. The college offers multiple program options for students interested in pursuing a degree in hospitality, and focuses on creating first-hand hospitality experiences and innovative research.

For undergraduate degrees, the College of HRSM offers a bachelor’s in hospitality management and tourism management. In both courses, undergraduate students can expect to study a wide range of subjects, including:

  • Food and beverage production

  • Festival planning and management

  • Hospitality finance

  • Hospitality/tourism analytics

  • International hotel management

  • Personnel organization and supervision

  • Principles of management

  • Resort development and management

  • Sustainable tourism planning

  • Tourism information technology

  • Wine and spirits in food service establishments

In addition to these hospitality-centric subjects, the College of HRSM’s hospitality programs also involve business classes such as accounting, economics, business law, communications, and computer applications. This helps you build a strong background of skills and knowledge in hospitality while still diversifying your qualifications to improve your employability across different industries.

You can also build valuable experience in the hospitality industry through internship and placement opportunities at the College of HRSM. These include opportunities to work with world-famous companies such as Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, and Disney.

Additionally, you can take advantage of the McCutchen House — USC’s very own student-run restaurant. Work together with your peers to serve the campus community and learn how to manage a full-service restaurant. Utilize the state-of-the-art commercial kitchen and classrooms at the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Culinary Laboratory on campus and enhance your knowledge of advanced hospitality concepts.

Explore hospitality theory and practices at dedicated research centers including the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development, International Tourism and Research Institute, and more.

USC also offers a master’s degree in international hospitality and tourism management, with a unique structure allowing you to choose between on-campus or online courses. These courses feature interactive classrooms where you can engage with fellow students and your professors as you complete the program at your own pace. Additionally, the accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program at USC gives you the option of starting graduate classes as part of your undergraduate coursework to help you graduate with both degrees in less time.

In 2022, USC updated the master’s degree in international hospitality and tourism management graduation criteria, reducing the required credits to 30. The credit reduction means that this prestigious graduate degree can now be completed in just one year.

The faculty and staff are all so knowledgeable and care so much about their students. Almost everyone who is teaching you is someone who has already worked in the industry, so having the opportunity to learn from great industry leaders was definitely the most valuable part of my college experience.”  — Jenny, Hospitality Management alum

Auburn University

As one of the top 100 national universities in the US (U.S. News & World Report), Auburn University provides a robust undergraduate hospitality program through its College of Human Sciences. The program equips students with key foundational skills and knowledge to work toward becoming professionals in the hospitality industry.

Choose from three unique specializations for your degree:

  • Culinary science — This specialization is for students who want to work in both the commercial and non-commercial food production and service industry. Learn the fundamentals of culinary arts including baking, patisserie, confectionary, and global gastronomy.

  • Event management — If you are interested in organizing, planning, and managing events, this is the specialization for you. Learn how to successfully set up different types of events through courses such as special event management, beverage appreciation, catering, and event management.

  • Hotel and restaurant management — For students aiming for careers in hotels with global standards of service excellence, this program offers courses such as hospitality property development and management, science of quality service in hospitality management, global hospitality management, and more.

The Auburn hospitality program also requires an internship to graduate. This allows you to enhance your classroom studies with practical hands-on experience. Additionally, connect with hospitality professionals through these internships and the annual career fair organized through the Hospitality Management Program (HOSP). 

The HOSP Career Fair allows you to meet with and learn from industry experts and top employers through the Auburn industry partnership network. Partners such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association and American Resort Development Association, among others, are dedicated to enhancing hospitality education and creating opportunities for students.

I learned that Auburn University had a great hospitality management program. I was certain it was the right choice. Now, I’m learning nutrition, food production, and how to manage a business. The community here at Auburn is a second home, welcoming and warm. We’re all from different parts of the world, Argentina, India, the US, but we eat all together as one family, sharing and experiencing one another’s culture. And it’s that spirit of sharing that I know I will carry with me.” Florencia, Hospitality Management student, Uruguay 

University of Central Florida 

The Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida (UCF) is consistently ranked among the best hospitality colleges in the US. ShanghaiRanking currently  ranks UCF #5 globally for hospitality and tourism management.

UCF’s undergraduate hospitality programs are spread across fields such as:

  • Hospitality management

  • Event management

  • Entertainment management

  • Lodging and restaurant management

  • Lifestyle community management

  • Theme park and attraction management

Additionally, you can learn tourism and hospitality from a global faculty representing 18 different countries with years of professional experience and teaching expertise.

Contributing to hospitality and tourism research is a strong focus at UCF, and the Rosen College conducts ongoing studies in areas such as medical tourism, guest satisfaction, self-service technology usage, and more. 

As an undergraduate UCF hospitality student, you can work with top hospitality organizations and gain valuable experience with three paid internships as part of the program. If you want to further your education or take the next step in your career with a graduate degree, UCF also offers three master’s programs for hospitality. These programs allow you to specialize in the field of hospitality and tourism management, event leadership, or travel technology and analytics.

I have been able to connect with many different people in the hospitality industry, connections I couldn’t have made anywhere else. It has opened my eyes to different careers that you can’t find anywhere else. Someone you meet on campus may be able to put you in contact with the career of your dreams.” Eddie, UCF Hospitality alum

With people around the world being more eager to travel and taking international vacations, choosing to earn a degree in hospitality can equip you with valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences that help you stand out to employers and land lucrative job opportunities.

Shorelight advisors can help you find the right hospitality program to build your global career >