Tourism and hospitality is the world’s largest industry as well as the second largest employer. As a result, there are jobs at all levels of the industry. One of the best ways to get started professionally is to obtain a degree in hospitality or hotel management. This guide provides in-depth information as to the degrees available online, how to choose the right program, what students can expect when getting their degree, career paths for graduates, and even an interview with someone who is actually in the hospitality industry. Please note that the terms “hotel management” and “hospitality management” are sometimes used interchangeably in the industry and, therefore, they are both used in this discussion of degree programs.
Online hotel management degrees are exceedingly popular, allowing graduates to work in a variety of roles such as special events, food and beverage management, and operations. While there are numerous options, not all programs are created equally: in addition to providing an engaging curriculum, students should also look for programs providing job placement services, internships, and opportunities to specialize their knowledge. The good news is students don’t have to go it alone: the search tool below takes all of these factors into consideration and provides a personalized list of programs for each student.
Why does someone choose to go into hotel management? There can be an array of different reasons, as seen in the student profiles below.
Jonathan grew up in the family business, helping to run a local motel. He would like to eventually run the motel himself, but feels he needs a bit more training before he is comfortable taking over. He already has a degree in business administration, but is concerned that it might not be enough for exactly what he needs to know. The rest of his family agrees that additional outside hospitality training would benefit Jonathan and bring in fresh ideas for more efficient operation of the family motel. However, Jonathan has neither the time nor financial ability to go back to school to get another degree – therefore, a certificate is perfect for him.
Martha is a senior in high school and looking for colleges to apply to. After going on several family vacations where she received great service at the hotels her family stayed in, Martha has decided that she wants to have a career in the hospitality and hotel industry. Eventually, Martha hopes to work her way up to become a manager at a major hotel chain.
Edward studied hospitality management in college when he earned his bachelor’s degree. After graduation, he immediately got a job working at a hotel as a desk clerk, gaining experience and familiarity with hotel operations. Edward quickly moved up to hotel manager, but now has aspirations for a job in senior management, overseeing multiple hotels and resorts in a given geographical region. However, Edward lacks sufficient education in areas such as gaming and international tourism. He plans on enrolling in an online master’s degree program to gain this additional training so he may advance his career.
Numerous schools offer online hospitality management degrees, primarily at the bachelor’s level, but at the associate and master’s as well. Each web-based program is different, but below is an estimated timeline for someone who desires an undergraduate or graduate degree. Also discussed are certificates in hotel management, which can be earned at any level.
Each school has their own program timeline, but online certificate programs in hotel management can easily take less than one year and usually can be completed in about six months, depending on the pace of the student. Additionally, there are usually no prior degree prerequisites so anyone can obtain a certificate. However, these certificates are best suited for professionals who already have some experience with hotel management.
Hospitality management topics covered include business operations, decision-making and leadership. Most certificate programs consist of only a few classes, but provide a robust overview of the industry and how to more efficiently and profitably run a hospitality business.
While a hotel management degree at the bachelor’s level is the minimum educational qualification needed for many jobs in the hotel industry, it is not always required, especially for hotels or motels that offer fewer services than large-scale full-service businesses. The associate degree provides theoretical knowledge of supervisory and administrative roles in hospitality, but focuses on practical training so that graduates can seek work after finishing college. Additionally, this degree can serve as the first step toward obtaining a bachelor’s degree, depending on the four-year college or university’s transfer policy.
Students who graduate with an associate degree learn the basics of the industry including best practices for restaurant and lodging management, managerial and supervisory skills, and the ability to communicate effectively with both customers and colleagues. By obtaining an associate degree in hospitality management, students gain the basis needed for employment in many entry-level positions.
Typical coursework totals approximately 60 to 65 total credit hours and covers industry-specific subjects such as safety and sanitation, management of food and beverages, hospitality information systems, menu planning and introduction to tourism. Business related courses include accounting and marketing. General education or college core requirements can build math and communication skills through classes like algebra, English composition or psychology. A full-time student can usually complete an associate degree in two years, but those who take accelerated courses might be able to finish within 18 months or less.
To obtain a management position at a full-service hotel chain, a bachelor’s degree is almost always a minimum requirement. Compared to the associate degree in hospitality management, a bachelor’s degree covers a wider range of subjects such as convention sales, private club management, ecotourism, gaming, and corporate finance. The bachelor’s degree also goes more in-depth with a few subjects, such as business and accounting. Core coursework for an online hospitality management bachelor’s degree typically covers the following subjects:
General Education: These include classes beyond the hospitality management curriculum in core subjects such as history, math, English, physical science, ethics, statistics, and humanities.
Business: This is one of the two substantive hospitality management related areas of study. Classes may include accounting, finance, marketing, information technology, management, and ethics. These classes teach the business side of hospitality management. Depending on the school, a minimum GPA of a 2.0 must be maintained for these courses.
In all, most hotel management bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete and amount to 120 to 126 credit hours. Schools often have a minimum overall GPA requirement in order for students to graduate. After graduation, students can explore opportunities in a wide variety of settings, ranging from theme parks to travel agencies to hotels to restaurants to private luxury clubs and resorts.
A master’s degree in hospitality management is available to professionals who desire to advance their current careers and to move into more senior leadership roles in a particular area. Usually taking two years and about 45 credit hours to complete, the master’s degree curriculum enhances existing knowledge of management theories and offers opportunities for specialization. For example, students build on prior academic training and experience by taking courses in areas such as human resources, strategic management, and leadership principles.
As the hospitality industry includes a broad range of environments and employers, many hotel management degree programs offer options for specialization. These concentrations are ideal for students who are already confident in choosing a particular area of emphasis. Specialization is especially common at the graduate level, where students zero in on detailed components of various areas of the hospitality industry, ranging from gaming to event planning.
Though each school is different in terms of offerings, common concentrations for online hotel management degrees at the bachelor’s level include:
Food and beverage operations: This specialization focuses on restaurants and food service and includes careers in the kitchen, dining room or beverage service area.
Special events: This concentration emphasizes managing conventions, meetings, and other special events at various institutions in addition to hotels, such as convention centers and private clubs. Coursework pays special attention to growth and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Lodging: As the name implies, this concentration focuses on the lodging aspect of the hospitality industry, specifically hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. Graduates get to choose between the corporate or franchise side of lodging operations.
International tourism: This concentration is probably the broadest and most encompassing of all areas of specialization. This is due to the fact that students learn about hospitality in both the domestic and international spheres. Additionally, coursework addresses less common hospitality areas such as transportation, attractions, ecotourism and heritage tourism.
One area of specialization, typically found at the graduate level of studies, is gaming and casino management. Here, students learn the basics as well as advanced skills necessary to work in the gaming industry. This curriculum includes related information systems and technologies, casino financial analysis, security and risk management, current industry issues and casino marketing.
Another optional specialization at the master’s level is global tourism. Similar to the undergraduate degree with an emphasis in international tourism, this program focuses on the tourism-related hospitality industry. However, since this is a master’s level concentration, coursework is more theoretical and centered on issues and strategies to improve business performance. Classes include the economics of tourism, sustainability and tourism, destination management and tourism branding.
Depending on the school, these concentrations constitute about one-quarter to one-third of the total credits required for a master’s degree in hotel management.
Not all hotel management degree programs are equal. Prospective students considering enrollment in a hospitality degree program should evaluate several factors in order to choose the right program. Below is a list of important criteria to consider before deciding on an online program.
One of the most important factors to look into when choosing an online degree is whether the institution or program granting it is accredited. Most schools can be accredited at the national or regional level, and can have the specific program accredited as well. Accreditation ensures that a certain degree or program meets minimum quality standards. If a degree comes from a program or school that is not accredited, it will carry less weight and may not even be recognized.
The Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration accredits many hospitality degree programs, but not all of them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 60 hospitality management programs are accredited. Many schools with programs that are not accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality hold accreditation at the institutional level.
No matter how high the student’s GPA or how great the reputation of the hospitality program from which they graduated, they still need to put forth the effort and find employment. This job search can be a lot easier and much more successful with help from the school’s career services office. In deciding which hotel management program to attend, students should examine the resources available when it comes to post-graduate employment. Does the school have on-campus interviews? Are there alumni working at prominent hotel chains, restaurants or related employers for networking opportunities? Does the school offer interview coaching and feedback on resumes and cover letters? Does it have relationships with local or international hotels and businesses? These are just some of the questions prospective hotel management students should consider.
Areas of specialization should be an important factor when selecting a school. If students want to focus on hotels, restaurants, conference centers or casino resorts, they should look for programs that offer such concentrations–sometimes a simple, straightforward degree in hospitality management doesn’t prepare students for the intense, targeted education they need to go into a specific area.
As with most other professions, much of what it takes to be successful is learned with hands-on experience, not just what is taught in classes. The opportunity to gain valuable experience through internships should be a major consideration for students deciding on a hospitality program. Not only do internships provide a significant learning opportunity, they can also help the student with networking and the post-graduate search for employment.
Online programs should give students the proper courses to build up specialized expertise and a general education to stand them in good stead in the workplace. These are a few examples of how common courses in hospitality degree programs can lead to useful skills and knowledge for real-world situations.
|Course Title||Course Description||Marketable Skills and Knowledge Gained|
|Hospitality Management Information Systems||Covers the computer and information systems technology commonly used in the hospitality industry.||Students gain familiarity with the computer technology used in all aspects of the hospitality industry, from reservations to financial forecasting.|
|Hospitality Leadership||Students learn how to become better leaders through the study of emotional intelligence and organizational leadership techniques.||Students obtain the skills necessary to manage employees and be an effective workplace leader.|
|Sanitation and Safety||Provides an understanding to maintaining safety and sanitation in a food production area.||Students learn the basics of foodborne illness as well as safety protocols used in the food service industry.|
|Fundamentals of Accounting||The basic accounting concepts and theories will be taught, as well as how to prepare and analyze accounting statements.||Students can calculate the profitability of a given hospitality business and understand financial and accounting metrics used to assess business.|
|Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality||The tourism and hospitality industry as a whole will be examined, including an overview of how the industry works and where it is headed in the future.||Students gain a background of the hospitality industry and obtain a context for future knowledge and experience gained.|
|Customer Service for Professionals||Principles of managing a customer-centered workplace and hospitality customer service techniques are covered.||Students understand how to manage fellow employees and enable them to provide excellent service. Students can analyze and improve customer service in a hospitality business.|
For most careers in the hospitality industry, certification or licensing is not required as a condition of employment. However, specific hospitality careers, such as those in casino gaming, may require certain licenses, depending on the state. Licensing also depends upon the position, for example, supervisors or those working in other roles, such as dealers.
In the hotel industry, several certifications may be obtained. These are not required for most management positions, but they are encouraged. The first is the Certified Hotel Asset Manager, a certification from the Hospitality Asset Managers Association. This certification indicates that the individual has advanced knowledge in hotel operations and ownership and that this knowledge was gathered over a substantial number of years.
A second certification is the Certified Hotel Administrator, offered by the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). This certification signifies that the individual has obtained a high level of experience and education as a hospitality executive.
For secondary school students who hope for a career in the hospitality industry, AHLEI has designed another notable certification. The AHLEI program lasts two years and teaches hospitality and tourism management principles to high school students. Upon completion of the program, students can become Certified Hospitality and Tourism Management Professionals. This is a promising program for high school students who want a head start in learning about the hospitality industry. It also provides networking opportunities that may become useful when the student seeks gainful employment after graduation.
Finally, for those interested in a restaurant or food service related career, there is the Foodservice Management Professional designation. This is awarded to food service managers who complete coursework, pass an exam and meet other experience-based requirements. This designation is offered by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.
Not all hotel or hospitality management graduates end up as hotel or restaurant managers. What are some surprising career paths for graduates of these programs? The following is a list of three careers that may not initially come to mind for hotel management grads.
Event planner Events are held at many different types of locations – hotels, resorts, country clubs, convention centers and conference centers, just to name a few. Planners handle all aspects of events at these locations and work with all types of clients, from corporations and political groups to single individuals. These pros organize everything that is needed for the event and communicate with both the client and the vendors to get everything set up and running smoothly.
Marketing/Advertising coordinator Hotel managers, bellhops, front desk clerks and housekeeping personnel all have the job, one way or another, of making sure guests are happy and satisfied. However, how does one entice the guests to stay at the hotel to begin with? This is where the marketing/advertising coordinator steps in to promote the hotel and attract patrons to stay at the hotel and take advantage of what it has to offer.
Human resources director/executive Running a hotel, resort, club or convention center is personnel intensive, so there needs to be adequate support of the employees as well as the executive management that oversees the everyday running of the institution. Likewise, a human resources executive manages the organization’s staff, ensuring employee needs are met and law and regulations are followed. An understanding of hospitality business and management can easily translate to the world of human resource.
What better way to learn about the hospitality field than to actually speak with someone who graduated with a hospitality degree and is currently working as a hotel manager. The following is an interview with Kathleen Whitty, who is currently the General Manager at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bangor, Maine.
I was inspired to get involved in hospitality by a professor at Husson University. The way he spoke about his classes conveyed a passion that was contagious; it made me eager to learn from him. Hotel management lets me do work that I enjoy, including taking care of others and helping people create memories.
I was homeschooled, which fed my love of learning and trained me to problem solve. Then I attended Husson University where I received a BA in Business Administration with an emphasis in Hospitality Management. My education helped open doors to advance my career and gave me a strong skill base to use at work. From business terms and theories, to computer skills and public speaking experience, I often use the things I learned in college.
In hotel management, every day is different. Many days are a mix of office work and time interacting with our guests. Some days are filled with team meetings. Other days are spent working through the unexpected things that pop up in a busy hotel and event center. The wide variety keeps the work interesting.
Whatever you do, do your very best at it every day. In the hospitality field, you are the product–the guests may think they come back for the comfortable beds or well decorated lobby, but they really come back because of the good experience you helped create. If you do your very best every day, your guests, coworkers and management will notice, and you will have fun doing it!