Should I Earn a Hospitality Management Degree?

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A hospitality management degree is an academic degree awarded to students who have finished a college, university, or business school program with a focus on hospitality management. Students in this specialization study the hospitality industry, or more specifically the planning, organizing, leading and controlling of the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry is a service industry and includes sectors like travel and tourism, lodging, restaurants, bars.

Do You Need a Hospitality Management Degree?

A degree is not always required to work in the hospitality management field. There are many entry-level positions that require nothing more than a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, a degree can give students an edge and may be especially helpful in securing more advanced positions.

Hospitality Management Curriculum

Although curriculum can vary depending on the level you are studying at as well as the hospitality management program you attend, there are some subjects you can expect to study while earning your degree. Among them are food safety and sanitation, operations management, marketing, customer service, hospitality accounting, purchasing, and cost control.

Types of Hospitality Management Degrees

There are four basic types of hospitality management degrees that can be earned from a college, university, or business school:

  • Associate Degree in Hospitality Management: An associate degree program in hospitality management typically includes general education courses as well as several classes devoted specifically to hospitality management. These programs usually take two years to complete. After earning an associate degree, you could seek entry-level employment in the hospitality management field or go on to pursue a bachelor degree in hospitality management or a related area.
  • Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management: If you have not already earned an associate degree, a bachelor degree program in hospitality management will take approximately four years to complete. You may take a core set of general education courses in addition to courses focused on hospitality management.
  • Master Degree in Hospitality Management: A master degree in hospitality management rarely includes general education courses. However, you can expect to take core courses focused on your major, and you may have the opportunity to choose your electives so that you can specialize in a particular area of hospitality management. Most master programs take two years to complete, but one-year programs do exist at some business schools.
  • Doctorate Degree in Hospitality Management: A doctorate degree program in hospitality management involves a great deal of research as well as a thesis. These programs usually take three to five years to complete, though program length can vary depending on the school as well as the degrees you have already earned.

Hospitality Management Career Options

There are many different types of careers that can be pursued with a hospitality management degree. You could choose to become a general manager. You may also decide to specialize in a particular area, such as lodging management, food service management, or casino management. Some other options may include opening your own restaurant, working as an event planner, or pursuing a career in travel or tourism.

Once you have some experience in the hospitality industry, it is definitely possible to move up to more advanced positions. You can also move around within the industry. For example, you could work as a lodging manager and then switch over to something like restaurant management or event management with relative ease. 

Job Titles for Hospitality Management Grads

Some popular job titles for people who hold a hospitality management degree include:

  • Lodging Manager: Lodging managers supervise the operations of hotels, motels, and other types of resorts. They may work as general managers, revenue managers, front office managers, or convention area managers.
  • Restaurant Manager: Restaurant managers (sometimes known as food service managers) supervise restaurant operations. They may own the restaurant or work for someone else. Responsibilities may include overseeing food safety, hiring and firing staff, ordering inventory, monitoring labor and inventory costs, marketing and advertising, and restaurant accounting.
  • Casino Manager: Casino managers oversee casino operations. They may work as general managers, gaming supervisors, food service managers, customer relations managers, or convention managers.
  • Cruise Director: Cruise directors oversee operations on a cruise ship. Their responsibilities may include activity planning, scheduling, public announcements, and performing concierge-type services.
  • Concierge: A concierge works at a special desk in the hotel. Their primary objective is to keep customers happy. This may involve making reservations, sharing information about the hotel, securing items a hotel guest needs, and resolving complaints.
  • Travel Agent: Travel agents help people plan vacations. They typically perform research and make reservations on their client's behalf. Travel agents may work as independent contractors. They can also work for existing travel agencies.

Joining a Professional Organization

Joining a professional organization is a good way to get more involved in the hospitality industry. This is something you can do before or after earning your hospitality management degree. One example of a professional organization in the hospitality industry is the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), a national association representing all sectors of the lodging industry. Members include hospitality management students, hoteliers, property managers, university faculty, and others with a stake in the hospitality industry. The AHLA site offers information about careers, education, and much more.

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Schweitzer, Karen. "Should I Earn a Hospitality Management Degree?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Schweitzer, Karen. (2023, April 5). Should I Earn a Hospitality Management Degree? Retrieved from Schweitzer, Karen. "Should I Earn a Hospitality Management Degree?" ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).