Online Hospitality Management Associate Degree Programs

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Hospitality Management

Pursuing a hospitality management associate degree online serves as the first academic step into many exciting, growing, and well-paying job opportunities in the restaurant, beverage, lodging, and tourism industries. Courses in these programs give learners a foundational understanding of the field and prepare them to take on entry-level roles. Advanced roles typically require a bachelor's degree in hospitality management or a related topic, but two-year programs still open doors to a variety of employment opportunities.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that food service managers earned an average annual salary of $54,240 in 2018. Read on to learn about common classes, skills gained, average degree length, career opportunities, and available scholarships.

Is An Online Hospitality Management Associate Program Right for Me?

If you're wondering whether an online associate degree in hospitality management would fit your educational and career goals, the Q&A below offers information on how hospitality programs stand apart from related degree paths.

Q: Does hotel management, develop skills related to communication, event planning, and resort marketing?

A: Online associate degrees in hospitality management teach skills focused on managing customers and coworkers, preparing students with the tools they need to succeed in hotel, restaurant, bar, casino, cruise ship or resort facilities.

Students who would prefer to specialize in one facet of hospitality may consider pursuing an associate degree in hotel and restaurant management specifically.

Q: As an online student, do you have the ability to test some physical and skill performance requirements in-person?

A: While online associate degree programs do exist for hospitality management students, these students may still need to complete work-based learning credits at a real-world hospitality organization. Talk with your advisor about local places where you can complete this training.

Q: What does a two-year program entail?

A: Most online hospitality management associate degree programs require two years of full-time study to complete. Online learning may allow students to earn credits at their own pace.

Night and weekend classes may provide opportunities for students to earn degrees on a part-time basis. Likewise, online learning formats may permit students to load up on coursework and graduate more quickly. Ask an admissions or department advisor about the common paths to completion.

Q: Can you transfer prior credits into a program?

A: Even if you haven't taken any college courses prior to your online associate program in hospitality management, you may still qualify to apply credits towards your degree.

If you've been working in the hospitality industry, your prior work and life experience may also qualify as college credits. Talk with an admissions officer about how to apply prior experience toward your degree.

Students who have previously earned college credits may qualify to transfer credits, as long as they earned their credits at an accredited college or university. AP high school classes may also qualify. Talk with the admissions office to learn more details.

Q: Does eventually earning a bachelor's degree help with career advancement?

A: Online associate degrees in hospitality management teach students the minimum skills required for many occupations in the hospitality industry. Some believe work experience is more valuable than an advanced degree in hospitality, but earning a bachelor's or master's in hospitality management comes with its benefits.

Often, the credits earned from an associate degree program can apply to a bachelor's degree. Speak with your department advisor or admissions counselor to learn more.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Hospitality Management Program?

Hospitality management associate degree online paths focus on giving students the foundational knowledge to tackle entry-level roles in the hospitality industry. The classes don't explore advanced concepts, but they do provide students with basic skills. This section highlights classes to help learners understand what to expect, but every school maintains a unique curriculum. Review course descriptions from prospective schools for a better idea of class requirements.

Common Classes and Coursework

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    Intro to Hospitality Management: Typically taken in the first semester, this course gives students a lay of the hospitality management landscape. The course emphasizes customer service, professionalism, and how the field has grown and evolved in the modern era.
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    Purchasing for Hotels and Restaurants: Designed for students looking to work in a managerial capacity, this class covers the common practices for bulk purchasing, managing inventory, and ascertaining how many supplies a business needs based on traffic, bookings, and special events. Students also gain skills in negotiation and contracts.
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    Hotel and Restaurant Law: This course focuses on common laws and regulations in the world of hospitality, tourism, and travel. Students learn about laws regulating liquor sales, labor, insurance requirements, landlord and tenant relations, safety, and sanitation.
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    Marketing in Hospitality: Students gain a basic understanding of established marketing principles for hotels, restaurants, conference/event spaces, clubs, and resorts in this upper-level course. They also consider a company's place in the market, conducting research on clientele, managing pricing strategies, and social media.
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    Food and Beverage Management: Catering to learners aiming to work in restaurants, bars, or other spaces that serve food, this course explores standard practices and trends. It gives consideration to menu-planning, hiring and managing kitchen staff, creating quality assurance controls, and finding and securing food vendors.

Skills You Will Gain

Hospitality management associate online programs instill skills and competencies that serve learners in any related industry they enter. Some of these include:

    Teamwork: Everyone must work together to deliver a successful final project when working in hospitality. These degrees help students understand the value of working with others to complete tasks.
    Leadership: Like any type of team, good leaders must give directions, offer support, and manage processes. Students learn concepts of leadership and how to effectively lead in managerial roles.
    Problem-solving: Whether a patron receives the wrong dish or their room isn't ready upon arrival, small problems always arise in the hospitality world. Students learn to handle these issues swiftly and with grace.
    Communication: Hospitality professionals work with colleagues and customers of diverse backgrounds, interests, and needs. Learners explore topics related to effective communication and negotiation.
    Professionalism: Especially in fine dining establishments and five-star hotels, maintaining the highest level of professionalism plays a key role. Students learn rules of etiquette, manners, and appropriate communication methods to work effectively in their roles.

Average Degree Length

Most hospitality management associate degree online pathways take approximately two years for full-time students to complete, with exceptions. Part-time learners typically need three years to meet all requirements, while learners interested in graduating as quickly as possible may find accelerated programs or take summer courses. Aside from gaining credentials more quickly, this plan can help save semester-based fees for students who graduate early.

Most of these programs mandate that degree seekers complete approximately 60 credits, though students who took AP courses in high school bypass some general education requirements.

Earning an associate degree in hospitality management online appeals to learners who already manage full-time jobs and personal responsibilities, as distance learning makes it easier to fit academy study into their already busy schedules.

Career Opportunities with an Associate Degree in Hospitality Management

As we've discussed throughout this guide, a hospitality management associate degree online provides many professional avenues for graduates. Whether you feel drawn to work in a Michelin-star restaurant in Seattle or a quaint inn in the forests of Vermont, this degree can set you on the path to success. The following list highlights five of the top roles in this industry, but it does not represent an exhaustive list. Conduct additional research to find more options.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Graduates of hospitality management associate degree online programs can select from several industries and sectors depending on their unique interests and professional goals. Some may decide to pursue careers in the food and beverage industry, while others may feel that working in hotels and resorts better serves their needs. Evaluate whether you enjoy working with the same people every day or if you like meeting new people to help inform your decision.

Consider the top careers highlighted below and conduct additional research to find your perfect job.

Food Service Manager

These individuals work in restaurants and bars to ensure the smooth preparation and delivery of food. They oversee staff, order supplies, and manage budgets.

Median Annual Salary: $54,240

Lodging Manager

Lodging managers oversee hotels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts. They manage staff, inspect rooms and public spaces, set and maintain standards, monitor budgets, and set rates and promotions.

Median Annual Salary: $53,390

Kitchen Manager

Professionals in these roles oversee back-of-house activities in restaurants. Responsibilities include ordering food, hiring and training cooks, ensuring all equipment works properly, and keeping an inventory.

Median Annual Salary: $48,460

Travel Agent

Travel agents help their customers plan domestic and international trips. They assess needs; research accommodation, transportation, and events; and look for deals to help lessen costs.

Median Annual Salary: $38,700

Event Planner

Event planners often work for hotels or conference centers to manage events such as weddings, corporate meetings, or conventions. They work with clients to carry out their vision while managing staff and vendors.

Median Annual Salary: $49,370

Five Hospitality Management Scholarships to Apply For

Obtaining a hospitality management associate degree online can be expensive, but plenty of scholarships and grants exist to help cut these costs. In addition to those highlighted below, check with prospective schools, professional associations, hospitality companies, and state and federal governments for other awards.

Academic Merit Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award exists for students pursuing tourism-related degrees at a community college or four-year institution. Applicants must possess a minimum 3.4 GPA and provide a short essay describing how they hope to use the degree professionally.

Amount: $5,000

Apply for Scholarship

Hungry to Lead Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Candidates who aspire to serve as leaders within the hospitality and/or food service industries can apply to this award. You should provide official transcripts and answers to several essay questions.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Illinois Restaurant Association Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time and part-time learners under the age of 30 who reside in Illinois can apply for this award if they take at least nine credits per term and plan to work in restaurant management, food service, or a related industry.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Anthony Narigi Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Residents of Monterey, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Contra Costa, or Santa Clara counties qualify for this award if pursuing a hospitality management degree and if they have worked at least 250 hours in a hospitality role.

Amount: Up to $5,000

Apply for Scholarship

Tourism Cares Academic Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Residents of the U.S. and Canada can receive this award if they study tourism, travel, or hospitality at the associate level. They can enroll on a full- or part-time basis, as long as they possess a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Amount: $2,500

Apply for Scholarship

Educational Advancement in Hospitality Management

The hospitality management associate degree online serves as a great entry into the field, but learners with aspirations of taking on C-level positions may need to pursue additional education to reach those goals. Fortunately, several bachelor's and advanced degrees exist to help you continue building relevant knowledge and actionable skills.

Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?

Some learners find that a hospitality management associate degree online helps them fulfill their professional aspirations, while others decide that a four-year degree better serves their needs. Those in the latter category can help ensure their credits will transfer properly by attending an accredited school, asking about transfer agreements, and working with their academic advisors to take the appropriate classes.

What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

If you decide to pursue a bachelor's degree after completing your associate, make sure to carefully consider your career interests before choosing a degree. This section highlights a few options.

Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management Building on skills gained at the associate level, this program helps students continue developing their knowledge in travel, tourism, hotel management, and restaurant/beverage management.
Bachelor's Degree in Hotel Administration A great fit for degree seekers who know they want to work in hotels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts, this degree takes a deep dive into nuanced topics around finance, marketing, operations, and real estate.
Bachelor of Travel and Tourism This innovative program assists students interested in helping others make the most of their vacations. Topics cover tourism legislation, economics, ticketing, communications and PR, and attracting visitors.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Degree seekers who want to meet like-minded individuals and learn more about the industry they plan to enter can check out the resources and professional organizations highlighted below to start their journeys as hospitality management professionals.

  • American Hotel & Lodging Association: AHLA serves members by providing advocacy efforts, an annual conference, regional events, research and industry resources, a career development center, and opportunities to join several councils and committees.
  • Association of Destination Management Executives: This professional association offers members access to certification and accreditation, an annual conference, webinars, scholarships, and industry resources.
  • Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International: HSMAI brings together hospitality marketing and sales professionals from the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to take advantage of global events, continuing education, and partnerships.
  • National Association for Catering & Events: NACE offers certifications, industry topics, job postings, local chapters, a resource library, online courses, online events, two annual conferences, and opportunities for continuing education.
  • World Travel & Tourism Council: Members of WTTC gain access to several industry publications and research studies, regional forums and global summits, reports on economic impact and evolving industry changes, and an annual awards ceremony.
  • National Restaurant Association: This association leads the industry in providing trend research, continuing education, webinars, sustainability initiatives, legal advocacy, restaurant roundtables, networking groups, podcasts, and webinars.
  • Club Management Association of America: Designed for professionals who manage private clubs, this membership group offers national conferences, regional chapters, student initiatives, partnerships, job postings, certifications, and continuing education initiatives.
  • Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education: Designed for professionals who educate the next generation on hospitality management, this group offers an annual conference, products and services, in-house publications, and an honor society.
  • Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management: SHFM celebrates 40 years of supporting the hospitality and foodservice industries in 2019. The group champions rising stars, hosts local and national events, and provides several worthwhile resources.
  • Professional Convention Management Association: Members of PCMA can take advantage of access to Convene Magazine, courses and certifications, scholarships, webinars, an annual conference, and a continuing education library.