How do you convince students higher grades mean higher salaries?

Smiling Asian male college student sitting on a wall looking at a digital tablet

A few years ago I was asked by my introductory class students about salaries in the hospitality industry. It was a fair question. I responded by saying that they can vary according to the size of the company and the extent of its operations. Obviously a small mom and pop operation may not pay the same as a large multinational corporation. But I told them that what influences salaries the most is the level of education. It has a significant impact on earnings over a lifetime.

For example, U.S. Census Bureau figures for lifetime earnings for various graduates are:

  • High School Diploma $1,563,120
  • Associate’s Degree $1,853,280
  • Bachelor’s Degree $2,576,340
  • Master’s Degree $3,102,840

I helped them see that the difference between a bachelor’s degree holder and a high school graduate is $1,013,220. And that the difference between a master’s degree holder and a high school graduate is $1,539,720.

According to undergraduates’ feedback, upon graduation, they expect to earn around $32,000 to $37,000 per year. I tried to help them realize that if they excel in their coursework, and earn excellent grades, they have a better chance of earning higher salaries. I like the example of an employer who told me that he knows he wins when he hires “A” students. I posed the question: “Think of your next 40 or 50 years and the income differentials between the degrees of education you earn, pun unintended!”

When I let them know how invested I am in the class and in helping them succeed they are more apt to care themselves. I have spent considerable time researching and experimenting with different lessons, classroom activities, and even digital technology. I watch what engages them and results in higher comprehension and retention. One tool that has really helped improve student achievement is MyHospitalityLab. The online tool has cool trivia questions that can help improve scores on exams since the trivia questions are directly related to the actual tests. I tell my students that I incorporate these tools to help them learn.

Another thing I tell my students is that employers want and expect appropriate work experience. I encourage them to get work experience as soon as possible. A few years ago, in order to facilitate student employment, I invited local hospitality employers to interview our freshman students. A program of part-time jobs was arranged to offer students exposure to company operations in several departments over four years. The result was excellent, with several major corporations employing a number of students. One company even offered students a chance to become part of a management team after graduation.

One thing to note, I see a mixture of students in my classrooms. Some are straight out of high school, while others have worked for a number of years. I always tell those students who have worked that their experience can help them do very well because they can relate better to the course contents.  

What methods do you use to help students understand the importance of doing well in their courses and how it will impact their future earnings?


About the Author
John Walker

John Walker

John R. Walker, D.B.A., FMP, CHA, is the McKibbon Professor at the college of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership at the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee and a Fulbright Senior Specialist. He is an accomplished author with several leading industry titles include his most recent release, Introduction to Hospitality Management, 5th Edition. John’s years of industry experience include management training at Savoy Hotel London, followed by the stints as assistant food and beverage manager, assistant room division manager, catering manager, food and beverage manager, resident manager, and general manager with Grand Metropolitan Hotels, Selsdon Park Hotel, Rank Hotels, Inter-continental Hotels, the Coral Reef Resort, Barbados, West Indies. He has taught at two- and four-year schools in Canada and the United States. In addition to being hospitality management consultant and author, he has been published in the Cornell Hotel Restaurant Administration Quarterly, the Hospitality Educators Journal and the New York Times. He is a 10-time recipient of the President Award for exemplary professional performance through teaching and authorship of tourism hospitality publications.

John is an editorial advisory board member for Progress in Tourism and Hospitality Research. He is the past president of the Pacific Chapter of the Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (CHRIE). He is a certified hotel administrator (CHA) and a certified Foodservice Management Professional (FMP). He and his wife Josielyn have twins, Christopher and Selina. The Walkers live in Sarasota, Florida.