Guide to Hospitality Management Schools & Degrees

Receive Education & Training in the Largest Industry in the World

The sheer scale requires an immense number of jobs to meet the requirements of restaurants, hotels, resorts, convention centers and other related destinations. In order to provide the necessary services and support for this industry, special training is required, which can be obtained from several different types of formal education. This guide will help students choose the right hospitality management school.

Hotel & Tourism quick facts

  • Approximately one out of every eight US jobs are in the travel and tourism industry.
  • In just the United States, there are 5 billion feet of hotel space and 5 million hotel rooms which all use $4 billion in energy each year.
  • Almost 10% of the world’s GDP is made up of business revenue from the hospitality It is expected that the global hotel industry will generate $550 billion in revenue in 2016.
  • Based on hotel properties, the Wyndham Hotels Group is the largest hotel chain in the world. But based on the number of hotel rooms, InterContinental Hotels Group is the largest hotel chain.

Hospitality Management Schools and Programs

Hospitality managers make sure those patronizing their establishment receive the service they expect and deserve while also efficiently and profitably running the establishment providing those services. In order to become a hospitality manager, whether it’s at a hotel, motel, cruise ship, restaurant or vacation resort, formal education is usually needed.

Typically, a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or a similar major is required, especially for work in a full-service hotel or upscale restaurant. These degrees can be found at many four year colleges and universities. There are also associate degrees and certificates in hotel management that may suffice, depending on the business. Students enrolled in hospitality management programs can expect to take classes on business accounting, marketing, housekeeping, culinary arts, hotel management and restaurant management.

Vocational Schools

While not as common as associate or bachelor’s degree programs, obtaining a certificate or diploma from a vocational school is a viable option for many who desire a career in hospitality management. Vocational schools provide a practical foundation in business management within the hospitality field so that graduates can begin working immediately upon graduation. Graduates can expect to obtain entry level employment as a manager at any number of various hospitality venues such as restaurants, hotels or banquet halls.

Hospitality/Hotel/Culinary Management Schools

Depending on the school, several programs (diploma, certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree) can be offered in hospitality, hotel, tourism or restaurant management. These schools have programs that focus on just a few areas, which means there will usually be a selection of target or specialized classes. Because the school is known for specializing in the hospitality industry, graduating from one of these management schools can help marketability.

Community Colleges

Some community colleges offer an associate degree in hospitality management. There are usually two options: the associate degree, which offers courses in hospitality, as well as general education courses that prepare students to enter the bachelor’s program, or the applied associate degree, which prepares students to move into their chosen profession immediately upon graduation.

Some schools might offer diplomas and certificates as well. The diploma/certificate option can either prepare graduates with no prior hospitality background to immediately enter the industry, or it can complement an individual who already has a hospitality background and improve their career prospects and marketability.

4-year schools

A four-year college or university is the place to go for those who want to work at a full service hotel chain or comparable venue. Compared to a diploma, certificate or associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree will cover a broader area of hospitality subject coverage and offer classes that discuss more niche areas, such as the business of wine, international cuisine and ecotourism. There will also be a more comprehensive level of instruction in areas such as hospitality accounting and an advanced internship.

Hospitality Management School Must-Have List

What should students look for in a hospitality management school? There are several points that can make a difference when it comes to creating the “short list” of possibilities.

Concentration Opportunities

Since hospitality encompasses many potential venues, such as food, lodging, tourism and recreation, any degree in hospitality covers a rather broad range of topics. As a result, prospective students should look for the opportunity to specialize in one of these general areas or a subspecialty, such as gaming or cruise ships. A wide variety of courses and instruction is valuable, whether a student knows exactly where they would like to work or is undecided and wants the most options available.

Accreditation

Accreditation certifies that a given program and/or degree provides for a minimum level of instruction and educational quality standards. The Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration has provided accreditation for a large but limited number of hospitality programs. Many other quality programs are also accredited, but by a regional or national organization.

Opportunity for Real World Experience

Students who obtain the best classroom education in the world can still benefit from getting real world experience. Many hospitality educational institutions have internship requirements in order to complete the degree. All else being equal, a degree with more hands-on experience will be more beneficial to a graduate due to the wonderful learning opportunity. In addition, the internship creates better possibilities for networking, which can increase the student’s chance of postgraduate employment.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Not all hospitality program students will want to study abroad, but since hospitality is an international industry, the opportunity to study in another country can be invaluable. This is especially true if a student would like to focus on a restaurant or culinary concentration.

Joint Degree Options

Some hospitality management degree programs allow students to get both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. Normally, getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree in hospitality management separately would take six years. For students who know they want to obtain a graduate degree in the hospitality field, a joint program should be strongly considered.

Career Services Office

The whole point of getting a degree in hospitality management is to get a job working in hospitality. An educational institution’s career services office plays a pivotal role in helping its students obtain postgraduate employment. From setting up interviews, building networking events and facilitating alumni connections, the effectiveness of a school’s career services office should be strongly considered when choosing which school to attend.

Hospitality Management Degrees and Certificates

For those interested in hospitality management, there are five primary paths: diploma/certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate degree. Each path has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, the quintessential degree for a career in hospitality management is typically the bachelor’s degree, as it’s the most widely required degree, especially for employment at more well-established hospitality companies.

Hospitality Management Certificates and Diplomas

A hospitality management certificate or diploma is usually found at vocational schools, community colleges and hospitality/hotel/culinary schools. Either takes about one year to complete. A typical curriculum will cover a wide range of topics including an introduction to hospitality, hotel management, restaurant management, marketing and customer service. There is also an externship or internship requirement where students will need to gain a certain number of hours working in a hospitality management position.

Two typical classes students may expect to take include:

Hospitality Industry Introduction

Students will be exposed to the basics of the hospitality industry, including onsite visits to restaurants and hotels. Industry trends and management characteristics will also be taught.

Managing Special Events

This class will cover special events and how hospitality managers can oversee them. Students will go over general principles and common industry practices so they will be able to host an on-campus special event themselves.

Hospitality Management Associate Degrees

An associate degree in hospitality management can be either an Associate of Arts or Associate of Applied Science. Both will be equally marketable for graduates entering the hospitality industry. The typical associate degree program takes two years to complete and is comprised of approximately 60 credits. The curriculum will cover various aspects of hospitality management, such as financial accounting, business law, marketing and food safety. There will also be general education course requirements such as English composition and a foreign language.

There is often a hands-on experience component, usually in the form of an internship. This may be required during the summer between first and second year or in the final semester of the associate degree program. Courses students encounter might include:

Introduction to Marketing

Students will learn basic marketing definitions and theories and apply those ideas to increasing revenue within the industry. The fundamentals of marketing research will also be examined and how findings can be applied to an actual business marketing plan.

Business Accounting

This course provides both financial and managerial accounting concepts and principles, including financial statements, employee payroll, cash flow control and how the financial information can be used to make business decisions.

Hospitality Management Bachelor’s Degrees

A bachelor’s degree is the keystone degree for those pursuing a career in hospitality management. Usually a Bachelor of Science rather than a Bachelor of Arts, the degree is similar to an associate degree in topics covered, but there is a much a wider variety of hospitality specialty classes available. There will be a hands-on experience requirement, usually an internship, and the degree can be highly specialized to focus on one particular area, such as gaming, restaurants or conventions. A student can expect to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, having finished about 120 credits.

The following are a few courses that may be offered in a bachelor’s program:

Large Scale Food Production

This class teaches students techniques for preparing large quantities of food. Instruction will also cover quality control, food safety and minimizing cost and food waste.

Hospitality Industry Law

Relevant and applications laws, rules and regulations that concern the hospitality industry will be examined in this class. How to apply these concepts will also be reviewed, such as preventing workplace injuries, avoiding liability and maintaining guest safety.

Wine Enjoyment

Students will learn the fundamental terms of the wine industry and how to recognize the many different types of wine. How to prepare a wine list and wine marketing will also be taught.

Hospitality Management Information Technology

Students will be exposed to technologies that are critical to the basic functions of a hospitality venue. How hospitality managers can use social media, e-commerce, database software and network security will be explained.

Hospitality Management Master’s Degrees

The master’s degree in hospitality management usually consists of about 30 to 35 credits and can be completed in one to two years, depending on the course load. The master’s degree allows for additional specialization and enhancement of management skills. The bulk of the master’s curriculum will focus on a thesis or capstone project, as well as strategic issues in various hospitality areas.

Some master’s level classes are described below:

Hospitality Management Human Resources

This class reviews important and recurring personnel issues commonly found in the hospitality setting and how they affect profitability and efficient business operations.

Strategic Issues in Hospitality Management

Students will apply their comprehensive hospitality knowledge and experience to the creation and execution of hospitality management strategies, including improving profitability, guest satisfaction and personnel decisions.

Hospitality Management Doctorate

Those who want to reach the pinnacle of their field can do so with the PhD. Some schools offer the PhD as a stand-alone program in hospitality; others offer the business degree with an emphasis on hospitality administration. Students are generally required to have a master’s degree in hospitality management or a related field in order to be accepted into the PhD program. For students with a PhD in another field and a concentration in hospitality management, the credit requirements are halved.

A PhD in hospitality management consisted of about 60 credits. The curriculum of a PhD program is a bit more theoretical than at the lower levels and includes some of the following types of classes:

Hospitality Business Strategy

Practical and theoretical business strategies as used in the hospitality industry are reviewed. Instruction includes coverage of multiple hospitality venues, both domestic and international.

Quantitative Methods

A statistical course where students will learn how to review, interpret and apply statistical data to solve and identify financial decisions and problems.

Hospitality Management Checklist

The degree alone does not lead to success — the right skills, knowledge, tools and certifications do. Here’s what aspiring students need to know before they enter the program.

Skills In order to become a successful hospitality manager, the following skills are essential:

Entrepreneurial Attitude

It’s true that most hospitality managers will not be the owner of the hospitality establishment. However, the mindset and vision to improve profits, lower costs and enhance customer satisfaction are important for any hospitality manager as it not only shows they are good at the job, but improves the chances of professional advancement.

Customer Service Skills

Hospitality is a service and customer-oriented industry, where business success ultimately revolves around customer happiness. Great customer service skills help improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Organizational Skills

Hospitality managers have a lot on their plate at one time: customer concerns, employee issues, lowering costs and improving efficiency, among others — all the while making sure their hospitality venue maintains and increases profitability.

Leadership Ability

Hospitality managers must manage, which means they take on a leading role in their workplace. They must be able to ensure customer and employee satisfaction, as well as resolving any workplace or business friction.

Knowledge

In order to effectively run a hospitality venue, such as a hotel or restaurant, a manager must have a requisite amount of knowledge. Much of this is gained from formal education, including how to measure profitability, measuring customer satisfaction, quality control marketing and hospitality legal issues, for instance. However, much of the information is learned from the actual experience of meeting with guests, working with employees, learning kitchen and hospitality logistics and maintaining sanitation standards.

Hands-On Experience

As discussed above, much of the knowledge needed to work in hospitality management will be obtained from hands-on experience. Therefore, an individual working towards their management degree must get as much hands-on experience as possible. The individual’s respective degree program will have a practical experience requirement, but whenever possible, students should seek out additional opportunities to gain experience.

Certifications

There are few, if any, required certifications for hospitality managers. However, this doesn’t mean a hospitality manager shouldn’t try to get certified in a specialized area. There are several certifications that will improve an individual’s level of knowledge and enhance their professional resume. Such certifications include:

  • Certified Hotel Administrator
  • Foodservice Management Professional
  • Certified Hostel Asset Manager
  • Certified Hospitality and Tourism Management Professional

Hospitality Management Specializations

Hospitality managers handle a great deal of issues, depending upon where they work. Those who work in hotels might deal with a variety of rooms and reward programs, while those who work in resorts might focus on food and recreation in addition to lodging. Those who work in the restaurant industry could be floor management or move into behind-the-scenes management of large chains, while those who work in casinos might be pulled in a million different directions during a given shift.

To increase the odds of moving up in a given position, many students choose to specialize during their degree pursuit. This means choosing a particular concentration with the intention of moving into a particular area. Some of the most popular include:

Hotel Management

Hotel managers will look to this concentration to help prepare them for work with customer service, safety and maintenance, personnel, and all the peripherals of the hotel business, such as on-site restaurants and special programs for guests.

Restaurant Management

Those working behind-the-scenes in restaurants will want to focus on the unique qualities required for restaurants, including accounting, facility layout, human resources, sanitation and the like.

Cruise Ship Work

Working on a cruise ship requires a certain management style, one that can handle everything from unruly passengers to the safety concerns that come along with running what is essentially a floating city. The concentration focuses on the unique challenges of cruise ship work, as well as how to conduct the business in international waters.

International Management

Those who intend to take their work overseas might specialize in this area, which often requires fluent knowledge of at least one foreign language, and includes courses in various cultures, foods and lodging practices.

Resort Work

This concentration might cover everything from typical management courses to specific accounting software to rules and regulations that come into play in a particular country – students might even encounter courses on safety rules for the pools and recreation options available at the resort.

Interview with a Hospitality Manager

Stephanie DeMasi graduated from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University in 2000 with a major in finance. Over the years she has been mentored by Cathy Corison, was part of the opening team at the Bounty Hunter, curated wines for Lot18, and consulted with wineries from Paso Robles to Napa and Sonoma. She holds an Advanced Certificate of Wine with WSET (Masters of Wine) and will complete her diploma in 2017. She launched FlyWine in June 2014.

Tell us about your day-to-day work.

I am a Napa Vintner. I manage full time Juslyn Vineyards, Emerson Brown Wines, and run a management and sales consulting business. Last year I founded FlyWine which I independently finance, creating TSA friendly, Single Serving traveler bottles of Super Premium wine from Napa and Sonoma.

What made you decide to go into hospitality management?

I had an inspiring woman entrepreneur as a first boss in high school. I knew I wanted to work for myself, engage with people, and create memorable experiences.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from hospitality classes?

I learned how to work within a team, recognize my strengths and others within that group environment, to feel confident in creating new ideas and not just working within status quo, and to be a Yes person – Can Do, not a complainer if there is a problem.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I work 95% independently, schedule is my own and the results are proof of success. Seeing people’s expressions and gratefulness for the wine and/or experience getting to know one another. Getting a text at 1AM from someone in another time zone who HAD to share a photo of their night w/ my wine :)

advice from a hospitality management professional

Don’t quit, work hard, smile, and don’t settle for the same old thing.

Dare to be different.

Stephanie DeMasi

Hospitality Management Resources

American Hotel & Lodging Association

AHLA serves as the leading advocate for professional in the hospitality industry. Much of AHLA’s responsibilities include government lobbying on behalf of hospitality businesses and providing information and hospitality related resources.

American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute

The AHLEI exists to provide educational and professional training opportunities for the entire hospitality community, from high school students to business owners.

California Hotel & Lodging Association

A professional organization focused on protecting and promoting the interests of hotel and lodging businesses, especially in California.

The Hospitality Education Foundation of Georgia

Although intended to assist those in Georgia, the HEFG is useful to anyone in the hospitality industry as it provides educational assistance to hospitality and restaurant professionals and students.

Hospitalitynet

Provides comprehensive global industry trends, news, media, events and other hospitality resources for students and professionals of the hospitality industry.

Hotel Business

An internet newsletter with a plethora of hotel industry information, including conferences and trade shoes, an online market place and hospitality related articles and videos.

Hotel Resources

An online compendium of hotel and hospitality industry news and resources.

International Society of Hotel Association Executives

Designed for hotel professional, this organization provides networking opportunities and professional development events. They also provide various scholarships to its members so that they may further their professional education.

Lodging

A web magazine with all news and commentary relating to hotels, industry events and movers and shakers in the lodging industry.

NEWH: The Hospitality Industry Network

A leading organization for networking opportunities for those in the hospitality industry. NEWH is an organization where individuals can advance their hospitality education, obtain leadership experience and develop business connections.