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5 leading tourism and hospitality schools in North America

“Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to – express it all.” – New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer

The world’s population is travelling at rates never seen before. The rise of the middle classes in Asia and Latin America has given way to a new generation of travelers with a taste for adventure, and the spending power to embark on long-haul vacations.

Take China, for example. In 2015, more than 120 million Chinese tourists traveled abroad, up 12 percent from 2014 and almost three times the 41 million people who traveled abroad in 2007.

While most of these traveled to nearby Asian countries such as South Korea and Thailand, sizeable numbers travelled further afield. Both the United States and France received more than half a million Chinese visitors last year alone.


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The dramatic rise in the number of Chinese traveling abroad reflects a wider global trend; the World Tourism Organization reports that in 2015 there were 1.186 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide, up five percent from figures in 2014.

Already one of the leading employment sectors in the world, the demand for skilled hospitality graduates has never been greater. In fact, many industry experts have identified the shortage of skilled labor as one of the greatest challenges the industry is facing.

Hospitality schools around the world are rising to the challenge of meeting this demand, providing education at diploma, graduate and postgraduate level. While many would-be students gravitate towards traditional hospitality education destinations such as Switzerland and France, North America remains the world leader in hospitality education in terms of sheer choice.

There are thousands of tourism and hospitality institutes in the U.S. and Canada, all providing leading-edge education that doesn’t stop at addressing the skills and issues of the day, but prepares students for the challenges of the coming years.

U.S. hospitality schools cover every aspect of the hospitality, tourism and recreation industries, including tourism, hospitality management, culinary, destination development, tourism analytics and even sports management.

These diverse paths can lead to exciting and rewarding careers. Graduates could end up fixing cocktails at a swanky Singapore hotel, managing an island resort in the South Pacific, or preparing haute cuisine on a deluxe Alaskan cruise ship. The possibilities really are endless.


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Graduates from North American hospitality schools find themselves perfectly placed to launch their careers. The U.S. was the second most visited destination in the world with 77.5 million visitors last year, and is home to major global hotel chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton. And with the best schools providing excellent internships and work placements, many students will find themselves working with top employers in the U.S. and Canada before they even graduate.

These careers can also be surprisingly lucrative. The average salary for a hotel manager in the United States is over US$50,000, while front office managers earn an average of US$40,000. These figures can rise significantly depending on employer and location, often to six figures.

Thousands of international students looking to work at the pinnacle of the hospitality industry travel to North America every year to gain an education steeped in the finest hospitality traditions, and that consistently succeeds in educating students on the latest technologies, developments and challenges.

These schools don’t just focus on the essential technical skills, but produce graduates equipped with the much-valued ‘soft skills’ that are so important in the hospitality industry – optimism, curiosity, integrity, and an excellent work ethic.

Read on to find out more about five of the leading hospitality schools in North America for international students:

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM, RECREATION AND SPORT MANAGEMENT

Tracing its origins to 1853, the University of Florida (UF) is a highly respected public university, located on an impressive 2,000-acre Gainseville campus. This prime location in one of the most sought-after U.S. travel destinations, and an ideal learning ground for students looking to make a mark in the global hospitality industry. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked UF as the 14th best public university in the U.S., and 47th overall.


Image courtesy of the University of Florida

Chief among the tourism department’s offerings is the Master of Science in Tourism and Recreation Management, where students can focus on tourism, natural resource recreation, tourism analytics, or destination development and crisis management. This degree, like all of the department’s programs, places a strong emphasis on future proofing its graduates with a focus on analyzing future trends, modelling, statistics and policy planning. This master’s degree allows students with a vocational background to gain the qualification they need to move their careers to the next level.

The department is also renowned for its Sport Management postgraduate degree, which develops students’ abilities and administrative proficiency with an eye towards sport management through a broad and rigorous curriculum. This degree is also available online.

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY – SCHOOL OF HOSPITALITY BUSINESS

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) is home to more than 50,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked MSU as the 75th best university in the U.S. and 14th for ‘undergraduate teaching’.

MSU’s hospitality school can be traced back to 1927, earning it the reputation as the original business hospitality school in the U.S. With a keen focus on the business aspects of the hospitality industry, the school has gone on to produce thousands of leaders in the hospitality and service professions while transforming the hospitality education landscape.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS – COLLEGE OF MERCHANDIZING, HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM

Established in 1890, the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton has come to be recognized as one of the best-value universities in the U.S. It is also ranked among the Top 100 universities in the U.S. by the U.S. News & World Report.

UNT’s College of Merchandizing, Hospitality and Tourism has a range of hospitality-related offerings at both undergraduate and graduate level. These include Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Hospitality Management, and a Master’s in International Sustainable Tourism.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY – DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER SCIENCES

Located in Brookings, the origins of South Dakota State University can be traced back to 1881. This public university is home to more than 12,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, giving the campus an intimate and friendly atmosphere.


image courtesy of South Dakota State University

South Dakota is another excellent value-for-money proposition for international students, with very competitive tuition fees and an affordable cost of living. The Department of Consumer Sciences’s Hospitality Management degree offers the practical and theoretical knowledge required to work at management level in a range of sectors, including hotels, events, casinos, restaurants and theme parks.

Students hone their skills with two internships, accumulating more than 300 hours of real-life work experience in different areas of the industry

RYERSON UNIVERSITY – TED ROGERS SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

With its enviable location in downtown Toronto, Ryerson University places hospitality students at the heart of the action in one of Canada’s most livable cities.  Founded in 1948, Ryerson is home to almost 40,000 students.

The Ted Rogers School of Management, Canada’s oldest school of its kind, offers Ryerson’s four-year hospitality management degrees. The broad and rigorous curriculum ensures students have the tools they need to succeed in the hospitality sector of their choice, while work placements ensure they are job-ready from the moment they graduate.

Feature image via Shutterstock

* Some of the institutions participating in this story are commercial partners of Study International

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