I’ve been putting off writing about this degree option for a while now, but I figure it’s probably time to put it out there. I think I was kinda hoping that it would just kind of fade away and I would forget about it completely. Unfortunately, that super pragmatic part of me keeps coming back to it, and so it deserves discussion.
The majority of my adult work history has been in the hospitality and tourism industry. 15 years of it, in fact. I was hired by my first hotel back in 2002, at just 21 years old, working the front desk in Guest Services. After that, I went to work for AirTran Airways for a few years as a Customer Service Specialist in one of their call centers. Before too long, I found myself back in another hotel, doing the same role as before, for a couple of more years. After that, I became a Travel Agent for a little over six years, and I was pretty damn good at it, too.
I only very recently left that job (in February of this year, so just 4 months ago) for my current administrative position… which is in a completely different field. Why did I abandon my beloved travel industry? Actually, it really came down to just two reasons, but both were pretty major factors:
- Money. See, most travel agents work solely on commission, which is something I could never do. It’s too unpredictable, especially living paycheck-to-paycheck. But the agency I worked for was different. They didn’t pay commission, but instead paid an hourly wage, so I knew what my income would be every two weeks and could budget accordingly. Unfortunately, that wage was extremely low given the amount of work and level of knowledge and skill required. I was barely clearing $23,000 annually, ya’ll. But I made it work for all those years even though it was definitely tough. The hardest part, though, was that I knew I was worth more. So when an opportunity presented itself, even though it meant leaving the tourism industry, I jumped on it.
- While I loved the industry itself, I was completely, truly, 110% burnt out on customer service and sales. Every time the door would open or the phone would ring, my chest would get tight and my anxiety and irritability levels would skyrocket. I still very much enjoyed the research and planning part, learning about destinations and assembling dream vacations for clients. I just hated dealing with them. Pasting on the fake plastic smile every day became more and more of hardship.
So I left, and never looked back. Until now.
The University of South Carolina offers a completely online Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management degree completion program, and it’s even administered out of the Beaufort campus. So. Let’s weigh the cons and pros of this one, shall we?
1. I fucking hate customer service and sales. Maybe in 5 years by the time I graduate, I’ll have been away from it for long enough that I’ll get over that some. Plus, in management, yes I’ll have a good deal of front-facing guest/client interactions, but a lot more back-of-house work, too. And I’m really good at both, I just don’t love the first part.
2. In the curriculum are a required 9 hours of food/restaurant classes, as well as some sort of departmental partnership with hospitality and concessions during the annual RBC Heritage golf tournament out on Hilton Head… all of which sounds absolutely fucking miserable to me. I mean, it’s just 3 classes and one week a year for a couple years, so I suppose I could suck it up. But UGH.
1. I wouldn’t be throwing away 15 years of industry experience. This is honestly the top reason I’m considering this degree. In fact, I might even be able to get out of some classes and practicums with my work history being as tourism-rich as it is.
2. While the classes are administered online like all of the programs I’m considering, I do love that the campus is right here in my town. I know I’ve talked several times on this blog about how my preference is to go to schools within a reasonable driving distance, so that when I need to go to the school and fight with Financial Aid or whatever, I can easily do so. Well, I really can’t get any closer than USCB. Plus I know they have a relationship with Technical College of the Lowcountry, so all of my credits are more likely to transfer.
3. Something I have only touched on briefly in this blog is my long-held dream of relocating to the central Florida area. Not just because of Walt Disney World either (though that is a huge part of it), but I genuinely enjoy the area and all that it has to offer. I’ve actually been kind of in love with Florida in general ever since I would spend summers there as a child with my bio-dad’s family. As such, all of the degree paths I’ve looked into so far have been low-key in the context of “Could this take me to Orlando?” Well, this is the one degree that the answer is a resounding YES. With all the other degrees I’ve considered, my lack of work experience in those fields is going to be a major hurdle to overcome. However, with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism, combined with my work experience, I could potentially land a great job in Orlando straight out of school. Not to mention that the salaries are pretty nice in that area for tourism management positions.
4. Once I’m in Orlando, I would be perfectly positioned to pursue my Masters degree should I decide that I want to do so. The University of Central Florida (which I’ve talked about here many times) has the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, which is a huge school for hospitality and tourism. They don’t offer a bachelor’s degree program online, but they DO offer an online Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management. And really, having that could only enable me to get even better employment and salary offers, so I most likely would do it.
5. Though I’ve put vacationing on hold for the most part while I focus on school, I do still love to travel and likely always will. There’s still so much of the world on my bucket list. By staying in the tourism industry, I’ll have access to so many benefits and discounts and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise.
So. That’s two pretty lame Cons versus five really practical Pros. The choice is kind of obvious, right? As much as I would love to pursue a different path, this one just makes the most practical sense and will likely benefit me the most both immediately and in the long term.
It’s just going to require a lot of adulting and patience on my part.