Online Travel and Tourism Degree Programs

Deloitte in its 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook states that travel suppliers today need to think outside the box and focus on traveler experiences instead of just journeys and accommodation. This emphasis is making the field of travel and tourism even more diverse and dynamic than before.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourism produced $1.4 trillion export earnings in 2016. That’s an average of $4 billion a day, making travel and tourism one of the largest industries in the world. Naturally, an industry this huge is likely to be in constant need of qualified personnel to keep it running smoothly.

Travel and tourism degree online can be a great fit for students who have a professional interest in helping others to explore the world. It’s especially advantageous for students with families or those already in the industry who would like to pursue an advanced degree in order to support their career growth. In fact, anyone who may not be able to attend a traditional, on-campus college for various reasons may find online programs in travel and tourism a good fit for achieving their career goals.

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  • Experience world-class education online with more than 175 programs at associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.
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Employees in the industry generally strive to provide customers with exceptional and memorable experiences while helping their employer’s travel business to stay profitable. People in the hospitality field are likely to be able to blend their love for entertaining others with a keen business sense, providing an excellent return for customers and tourism companies alike.

Most travel and tourism positions can combine the employee’s love for travel with their desire to entertain and serve guests. Speaking a second language is often considered to be an asset. Depending on their job role or interests, a travel and tourism professional may carry out the following duties:

  • Put together and book package holidays
  • Conduct guided tours
  • Plan events
  • Manage a travel agency
  • Work in a theme park or on a cruise line
  • Disburse information on traveler health and safety
  • Conduct research for travel guidebooks
  • Act as interpreters

Success in the travel and tourism industry can depend upon the ability of an individual to mix excellent customer service and people skills with solid business practices.

How is an online degree program in travel and tourism different from an on-campus one?

As with most business-related topics, travel and tourism degree programs can be a great fit for online learners – especially those who may prefer a peripatetic lifestyle. The business concepts which are taught online are the very same concepts taught in traditional, on-campus classes. Rather than physically sitting in a classroom, online students interact with their professors and classmates through a variety of web-based platforms, including instant message, video chat, and message boards.

Most course materials are presented in either a written or video format, and are available to students 24/7. This is a major advantage to online learning, as it allows students the flexibility to study during a time – and at a location — that is most convenient for them.

The travel and tourism industry can encompass a huge range of different business types. Graduates of online travel and tourism degree programs may find employment in any number of different areas, particularly in the hospitality industry. From cruise ships to restaurants (not to mention restaurants on cruise ships); tours guides to travel agents, the opportunities are numerous, diverse and worldwide.

Listed below are popular occupations, complete with wage and employment statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks123,660$38,3803%
Tour and Travel Guides48,710$27,6006.8%
Travel Agents66,670$40,660-5.7%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program in travel and tourism?

While a high school diploma might be sufficient for an entry-level job, a certificate in travel and tourism can show potential employers your commitment to the industry and may increase your marketability.

Typical duration: Less than one year

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; some certificate programs may require work experience in the industry before enrollment.

Typical coursework: Certificate programs usually cover the basics needed to work in the travel industry along with some core business topics. Typically, they are designed to introduce you to the different aspects of the travel industry and to train you to use computerized reservation systems. A few topics you might find included in the coursework are:

  • Introduction to hospitality
  • Introduction to tourism
  • Business writing skills
  • Planning itineraries
  • Computerized reservation systems
  • Marketing for destinations
  • Selling special interest travel
  • Fundamentals of casino management

What can I do after earning a certificate?

A certificate in travel and tourism can allow you to apply for entry-level jobs in the field. Some of the opportunities you might come across are:

  • Tour guide or escort
  • Travel guide
  • Travel agent
  • Gaming dealer

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

An associate degree program can prepare you for a job in various areas of the travel and tourism industry. Completing an associate degree program can also help entry-level employees to advance their careers to the next level. You may find expanded opportunities to work in hospitality, event planning or management positions.

Typical duration: Approximately two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Courses vary from school to school, and some may allow you to focus a part of your coursework on specific destinations. Coursework can include industry-specific business management practices like group travels and discounts, tourism industry-specific terms and customized tour development. Other topics may include:

  • Tourism management
  • Technology in hospitality management
  • Fundamentals of casino management
  • Business law for hospitality and tourism
  • Conventions and events planning

Possible electives: Eco-travel and tourism, natural wonders, cruises, lodging management

What can I do after earning an associate degree?

An associate degree in travel and tourism allows you to apply for entry-level leadership positions in the industry. You may be able pursue employment as a:

  • Reservation agent
  • Catering sales manager
  • Banquet manager
  • Marketing representatives

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

The more comprehensive four-year travel and tourism degree programs should provide students with the basic business knowledge and customer service skills necessary to succeed in this thriving field.

Typical duration: Approximately four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Students can expect to take courses in business management, tourism, facilities management, hospitality, marketing, accounting, and more. Core courses may include:

  • Facilities management and design
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Research methods for tourism
  • Financial strategies for tourism development

Bachelor’s programs may require students to complete a dissertation and/or pass a set of examinations.

Possible electives: Tourism management, hospitality management, strategic tourism management, destination marketing

What can I do after earning a bachelor’s degree?

Baccalaureates of online travel and tourism degree programs may have an advantage in findingemployment in higher management levels over individuals with associate degrees. A few possible employment opportunities include:

  • Lodging manager
  • Gaming manager
  • Meeting, convention or event planner
  • Manager of a travel agency

Earning a graduate degree can open up higher levels of employment. For example, a master’s degree in travel and tourism may help individuals with entrepreneurial mind-sets to start their own travel agency. Graduate degree programs may also pave the way for independent research and higher level tourism policy-related jobs.

Formal industry-specific accreditation may be beneficial or required depending on your job profile in the travel and tourism industry.

  • The Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test administered by The Travel Institute is a way for high school graduates to demonstrate their competency.
  • The Travel Institute also offers more advanced certifications such as Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and Certified Travel Counselor (CTC). Both of these require continuing education each year to maintain the certification.
  • The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC) depending on the applicant’s experience and knowledge.

Licensing laws can vary by state with some states requiring agencies to have a business license to sell travel products and services.

Employment Statistics

Travel Agents

Industries with highest concentration of employment
  • Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services
  • Scenic and Sightseeing Transportation, Land
  • Nondepository Credit Intermediation
  • Nonscheduled Air Transportation
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises
States with highest employment level
  • Florida
  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
  • Santa Rosa, CA

Tour and Travel Guides

Industries with highest concentration of employment
  • Scenic and Sightseeing Transportation, Land
  • Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions
  • Scenic and Sightseeing Transportation, Water
  • Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services
  • Scenic and Sightseeing Transportation, Other
States with highest employment level
  • California
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Virginia
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
  • Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Organizations and Resources for Travel and Tourism Professionals

To learn more about online degrees in travel and tourism, or get information on a specific program, contact any of the schools listed below.

Methodologies and Sources


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Travel Agents, on the Internet at, accessed May 2018
  • Caesar Ritz Colleges, Dual Degree: Bachelor of International Business in Hotel and Tourism Management, Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Business Management (Washington State University),, accessed May 2018
  • City College of San Francisco, Travel and Tourism,, accessed May 16, 2018
  • Colorado State University Online, Tourism Management,, accessed May 16, 2018
  • Deloitte, 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook,, accessed May 2018
  • Kaplan, Northumbria University, Bachelor of Arts (Honors) International Hospitality and Tourism Management (Top-up),, accessed May 2018
  • Miami Dade College, Hospitality Administration/Travel and Tourism, Associate in Arts,, accessed May 2018
  • The Travel Institute, Travel Agent Training and Certification,, Accessed May 2018.
  • UNWTO Tourism Highlights, 2017 Edition,, accessed May 2018
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Methodologies and Sources