Hospitality Management Careers and Degrees | Find Accredited Schools (2023)

What is Hospitality Management?

Hospitality management is an exciting career field that involves overseeing the day-to-day administrative activities of hospitality-related businesses like hotels, resorts, and restaurants. In that regard, this field of work is very much attuned to the travel and tourism industry, and as such, hospitality managers must possess the skills and abilities that allow them to create an environment in which their guests can enjoy the ultimate vacation experience.

Hospitality managers are more than just the “manager on duty.” Instead, they serve in an administrative role that allows them to make quick decisions for the betterment of the customer experience.

Hospitality managers often respond directly to any issues that customers might be having or provide assistance for customers that need help. For example, if a hotel guest isn’t satisfied with the cleanliness of their room, a hospitality manager would likely step in to ensure that the guest gets a clean room and perhaps offer them a discounted stay or a free stay to make up for the error.

Of course, hospitality managers don’t just work with the buying public. They also oversee the management of the organization for which they work. This involves a wide array of duties that range from hiring, evaluating, and, on occasion, firing employees, ensuring that the business adheres to all policies, regulations, and laws, and developing and adhering to weekly, monthly, and annual budgets.

What is a Hospitality Management Degree?

A hospitality management degree prepares students for a wide range of careers in the hospitality services sector. There are many different degree programs in this field with emphases in areas that range from hotel or restaurant management to human resources to event planning. There are different levels of degrees, too, which are outlined below.

Associate Degree in Hospitality Management

The most basic degree in hospitality management is a two-year-long, 60-credit-hour associate’s degree. These programs are designed to give students a very broad introduction to the field and prepare them for entry-level jobs or to move on to a higher degree option down the road.

Associate’s degree programs are usually offered at trade schools and junior colleges, and have the least stringent admissions requirements of any higher education degree. Though admissions requirements vary from one institution to the next, typically, students must have a high school diploma or GED and pass an entrance exam before they are allowed to enroll.

As noted earlier, these programs offer introductory courses in hospitality management, which might include:

  • Business principles – Coursework in this field revolves around learning the basics of running a business, supervising employees, and meeting customers’ expectations.
  • Introduction to marketing – Basic marketing courses help students learn more about how to promote the business for which they work and the services that business provides.
  • Careers in hospitality management – Students learn about the different types of hospitality management jobs so they can make an informed decision about the area of hospitality management in which they wish to work.
  • Technology in hospitality management – Beginner computer courses help familiarize students with using various computer programs to manage hospitality tasks, like hotel reservations software.
  • Workplace mathematics – This course helps students apply basic math skills to workplace-related situations, such as formulating budgets.
  • Interpersonal communications – Interpersonal communications courses help students to develop the speaking and listening skills needed to be successful in the hospitality industry.
  • Workplace safety – This course introduces students to the necessary procedures for maintaining a safe work environment, from safety standards for maintenance tasks to food preparation safety to managing crises like fires.

Hospitality Management Bachelor’s Degrees

Where associate’s degrees in this field are quite general and introductory, bachelor’s degrees are more specialized. This is due in part to the fact that more courses are required in the degree area of study. That means that of the 120 credit hours that are typical of bachelor’s degree requirements, about 60 of them are in the hospitality management realm.

Many students begin their studies with an associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year college or university where they complete the remaining credits. So, though a bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, many students start the program having completed about half of the needed requirements in their associate’s degree program.

Depending on the institution, admissions requirements might vary from simply having a high school diploma, GED, or associate’s degree to having letters of recommendation, and a personal statement that outlines why the student wishes to pursue studies in hospitality management.

Once students complete general course requirements like basic sciences and math, they can expect to take hospitality courses like the following:

  • Systems of hospitality management – These courses focus on exploring different types of hospitality systems (i.e., hotel management, restaurant management, etc.), problems those systems typically encounter, and how these systems have changed over time.
  • Hospitality accounting – These advanced accounting courses apply accounting principles to the context of the hospitality industry, such as balancing budgets for hotels and managing employee payrolls.
  • Hotel management – A hotel management course usually explores topics ranging from cash management to personnel management to regulations and policies that govern hotel operations.
  • Restaurant management – Students that wish to specialize in restaurant management learn about the intricacies of managing a staff of chefs, wait staff, and bartenders, as well as food safety procedures, cash management, and managing supplies and inventory.
  • Research & writing in hospitality – Students explore hospitality-related topics like customer satisfaction, marketing, and accounting through independent research. Additionally, students learn how to write effectively on topics related to hospitality management.
  • Technology in hospitality – Courses in hospitality technology typically offer students an inside look at technologies specific to their career path. For example, a hotel management student might get to explore how to use computer programs for booking rooms for customers.
  • Event management – Event management courses help students learn how to organize and plan large events as well as how to manage the staff needed for such events.

Hospitality Management Master’s Degrees

A master’s degree often represents the terminal degree, or highest level of education, one can get in a specific field of study. Master’s degree programs are even more advanced than bachelor’s degree programs, and exclusively focus on the student’s area of study.

While some master’s degree programs in this field are just 30 credit hours – which equates to about a year of full-time studies – others require as many as 60 or more credits. Despite the wide variation in required course hours, most master’s degree programs in hospitality management have similar admissions requirements that include having a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

A typical master’s program in hospitality management might have the following as some of the required areas of study:

  • Marketing management – This course assists students in developing a better understanding of marketing principles and strategies as they pertain to the hospitality industry.
  • Operations management – Coursework in this field gives students the opportunity to study advanced topics in specific hospitality operations, like hotels, resorts, casinos, and restaurants.
  • Revenue management – From how to price goods and services to devising appropriate budgets within each department of a hospitality business, revenue management courses give students the knowledge and skills they need to successfully manage a business’s cash flow.
  • Ethics in hospitality – Students explore ethical issues that they might encounter working in this field and acquire the skills needed to approach situations in an ethical manner.
  • Entrepreneurship – Studies in entrepreneurship are designed for students that wish to start their own hospitality-related business. Topics might include business and marketing, human resources, and ethics.
  • Hospitality leadership – To prepare for executive positions, students learn effective leadership skills that will allow them to manage a team of workers.
  • Internship experience – Many master’s degree programs require students to participate in an internship in which they work in a real-world setting under the supervision of an experienced hospitality worker.

What is an MBA in Hospitality Management?

Though there are many different types of master’s degrees one can pursue in hospitality management, an MBA is perhaps a step above the rest because it’s designed to prepare students to undertake management roles in a hospitality environment.

That is, while a master’s degree in restaurant management certainly prepares students to work in a management position in a restaurant, an MBA is more broad-based and focused on developing leadership skills, business acumen, understanding of accounting and economics, and other knowledge and skills that can be applied to a variety of situations.

As a result, graduates with an MBA can pursue a wider range of jobs in a wider variety of settings from director of operations at a resort to a hotel management position to working as an executive for a travel organization. In that regard, an MBA is an excellent choice for students that seek to work more on the management side of hospitality and who want the credentials that allow them to pursue executive-level positions with higher salaries.

What is an Online Hospitality Management Degree?

One of the advantages of studying hospitality management is that there are so many online degree programs available to students today. That’s true at all levels, too, including associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees.

Additionally, online studies offer the same (if not more) specialization opportunities that are offered in on-campus programs, so online students have the capability of working toward a hospitality management degree that’s focused on their area of interest. This includes studies in food service management, human resources management, hospitality and tourism law, and hospitality marketing, just to name a few.

Of course, the difference between studying online and studying on-campus is that you work much more independently online. This is advantageous for students that have work or family obligations who need a flexible schedule in order to complete their studies.

Fortunately, colleges and universities have greatly expanded their online learning tools so that online students can interact with other students and their professors via email, online chat rooms, and even video conferencing. This makes online learning not just convenient, but also rich with valuable experiences to learn from others.

What are the Careers in Hospitality Management?

When pursuing a career in hospitality management, it’s necessary to think about the particular field of work that interests you the most. In hospitality management, there is a vast array of career possibilities, each with their own unique role within the day-to-day operations of a hospitality business.

Some of the most common careers in hospitality management include:

Asset Manager

An asset manager is responsible for overseeing the cash flow aspect of a hospitality development. For example, an asset manager for a hotel chain might develop a process for selecting franchisees that are most likely to be successful in operating a hotel under the company’s name.

Event Planner

An event planner’s primary duty is to organize events for clients. For example, an event planner at a resort might meet with an engaged couple to plan their reception and related activities at the resort down to the last detail.

Director of Operations

A director of operations in the hospitality industry is responsible for oversight of the general operation of the business. This includes managing everything from housekeeping to janitorial services to public relations, and all points in between by working closely with hotel managers.

Director of Food Services

As the title suggests, the director of food services is in charge of all food-related activities at a hotel, resort, or other kind of hospitality business. From making orders with vendors to ensuring the quality of the food prepared by chefs to ensuring food safety, these hospitality managers have many different responsibilities.

Guest Services Director

Hotels and resorts have many guest services, from customer service to concierge services to bellhops and valets. Guest services directors oversee each of these aspects of guest services to ensure that customers have the best experience during their stay.

Hotel Manager

A hotel manager typically works in a hands-on role, directly supervising employees and overseeing daily operations of the hotel.

Human Resource Officer

A human resources officer is typically responsible for a variety of activities, from recruiting and training new employees to developing policies that facilitate an improved and more efficient work environment. HR officers often provide instruction on new policies and procedures to employees as well.

Restaurant Operations Manager

Whether in a stand-alone restaurant or one in a hotel or resort, a restaurant operations manager is often tasked with ordering supplies from vendors, hiring and supervising employees, monitoring the safety of employees and customers, and accounting and payroll activities, just to name a few.

Resort Director

Like a director of operations, a resort director is typically responsible for the general oversight of all resort activities. This includes managing employees, overseeing human resources, ensuring that food services and housekeeping are providing appropriate services, and general quality control throughout the resort.

Sports Facility Manager

Managing a sports facility involves planning activities for customers, coordinating employee tasks, and providing general supervision of the facility. They often work in the front office directly with customers to assist them and in the back office working on tasks like budgeting, training employees, and completing inventory of supplies.

What Does It Take To Get a Degree in Hospitality Management?

Pursuing a career in hospitality management requires more than just a friendly smile and a desire to work for the benefit of others. Instead, there are many hard and soft skills, personality traits, and personal qualities that one must acquire during a degree in hospitality management. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Management skills – Hospitality management degree programs focus much of their attention on helping students develop the requisite skills to manage other workers, budgets, schedules, and other important aspects of a business.
  • Customer service skills – Hospitality management is all about creating an environment in which guests can let go of their worries and have a good time. Without excellent customer service skills, making a career for oneself in hospitality management will be difficult.
  • Financial analysis skills – Many hospitality management positions require that workers create and manage budgets, bill customers, pay vendors, and other financial tasks. Being able to analyze financial data is a critical hard skill to learn for a career in this field.
  • Problem-solving skills – Whether it’s a waitress or a bellhop, a hotel manager or a human resources officer, every career path in hospitality management requires workers to have excellent problem-solving skills.
  • Knowledge of human resources – Even positions that aren’t directly involved in human resources often require workers to have the skills to facilitate improved working relationships between their co-workers as well as an understanding of workers’ rights and company policies.
  • Cultural awareness – Students should learn how to appreciate, accept, and communicate with people of many different cultural and religious backgrounds that are represented amongst tourists and travelers that require hospitality services.
  • Communication skills – Virtually every career path in hospitality management necessitates having excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to work as part of a team – Students in a hospitality management degree program undergo leadership and team-building trainings that will help them work well with others to achieve common goals.
  • Leadership skills – Management is often about leading others and helping subordinates achieve personal and professional goals. By developing strong leadership skills, hospitality management students prepare themselves to do just that in their careers.

What are the Benefits of a Degree in Hospitality Management?

A career in hospitality management can certainly be hard work and stressful at times. However, the benefits certainly outweigh the detriments when examining this career field.

Among the many benefits of a degree in hospitality management are:

  • Many available career paths – Hospitality management has the distinction of offering many different career paths. This allows students to specialize their training to their specific strengths and areas of interest.
  • Many different work environments – Not everyone wants to work in an office every single day. With a degree in hospitality management, workers can choose from jobs indoors and out, in rural or urban areas, and points in between.
  • Easy relocation – Many people in hospitality management enjoy the opportunity to transfer to a similar position at a different location should they desire to move.
  • Good income potential – Some careers in hospitality management offer annual wages in excess of $100,000 per year.
  • Opportunity to travel – Some hospitality management careers include travel around the state, country, and the world.
  • Experience diverse cultures – Working in this field puts you front-and-center to meeting new people from all corners of the globe.
  • Plentiful advancement opportunities – Even with a lower-level degree like an associate’s degree, workers in hospitality management often enjoy the chance to advance their careers and move up the income ladder.
  • Low educational requirements – Many workers in this industry begin their careers with an associate’s degree. Some positions only require a high school education.
  • Exciting work – Working in this industry is often quite exciting, with no two days at work alike.

How Much Can You Make With a Hospitality Management Degree?

The income potential for workers with a hospitality management degree depends greatly on one’s specific area of expertise, one’s educational level, and the amount of experience one has in the field.

Naturally, the greater the education and experience, the higher the income potential usually is. Furthermore, some subfields within hospitality management offer higher incomes than others. Among some of the top-paying careers in hospitality management are:

What is the Job Outlook for Hospitality Management Careers?

In general, the job outlook for hospitality management careers is not particularly good over the course of the next decade with predicted growth below, at, or slightly above average. However, because there are so many distinct careers within this field, there is a good deal of variation between the job outlook from one career to the next.

For example, the BLS estimated in 2021 that lodging management careers would grow at 6 percent through 2030. On the other hand, the BLS predicted in 2021 that careers in human resources would grow at a 9 percent rate through 2030, the same estimate the BLS gave for food service careers. Better still, the BLS pegs growth of jobs in event planning to grow at 18 percent through 2030.

As with any career path, more opportunities for jobs and opportunities that pay better typically come with advanced education. That is, a prospective employee with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management is likely to find more jobs with better pay than one with just an associate’s degree.

Similarly, a worker with a master’s degree is often going to find more job opportunities than one with a bachelor’s degree.

What Careers are Similar to Hospitality Management?

As noted earlier, there are many different types of hospitality management careers. There are also many different related occupations that offer similar work experiences as hospitality management. These include, but are not limited to:

Administrative Services Manager

Workers in this field coordinate support services for businesses and organizations, including overseeing clerical and administrative workers, handling recordkeeping and inventory, and overseeing maintenance tasks. These duties are done with the long-term goal in mind of making the business or organization run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Travel Agent

A travel agent works with his or her clients to book airline, hotel, vehicle, and entertainment reservations. In the process of doing so, travel agents learn about their clients’ interests, research possible destinations and travel opportunities, plan itineraries, and offer advice on locations to travel and the best times of year to travel to certain locations.

Training and Development Manager

The task of a training and development manager is to develop methods by which the employees of a business or organization can acquire new skills and knowledge that assist them in carrying out their job duties with competence and efficiency. To do so, they review training materials, gauge employee skills, and identify areas of needed growth.

Sales Manager

Sales managers are typically responsible for ensuring that goods and services are delivered to customers in an efficient manner. They do so by creating and assigning sales territories for salespeople, setting sales goals for companies and organizations, and developing training programs to improve the success of sales representatives.

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