Date of Award

1-1-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Workforce Education and Development

First Advisor

Baker, Clora Mae

Abstract

The tourism industry is often viewed as an industry in which one would not want to be employed. This negative stigma is cause for concern when youth are beginning to make career decisions. The purpose of this study was to examine student perceptions of the tourism industry, factors that influence them to pursue a tourism career path, and their participation in a tourism-related education program. Little research exists regarding tourism career development and degree program persistence, and available literature is largely quantitative in nature. A follow-up explanatory sequential mixed methods design was used in this study. Surveys were distributed to students enrolled in tourism-related programs at six American universities; data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Based on findings, four focus groups were held at one university. Results suggested that while students had positive perceptions about the tourism industry, it was not typically their first career choice. Industry experience and specific job characteristics were highly influential on the career decision process. Five themes emerged from the qualitative data analysis; common factors that influence career choice, lack of awareness of tourism-related degree programs, relevance of experience and internships, common areas of program satisfaction, and suggested improvements programs. The implications of this study for educators, industry leaders, and parents are many. Recognizing factors that influence a student to enter a tourism-related career help educators pinpoint where and, to an extent, how to disseminate information about the tourism industry and related educational programs. This information may also be useful for industry leaders as they seek to obtain trained employees, whereas they can determine outlets at which to create awareness of this industry.

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