Earning an Online Hospitality
Management Bachelor's Degree

Graduates of a hospitality management degree online enter a competitive industry that generated more than $1.6 trillion in bookings in 2017. Entry-level management careers are available in all sectors of the hospitality industry, from resort management to food service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% job growth for food service managers, a position which earns a median salary of $52,030. An online degree in hospitality management provides a solid foundation in business and management, preparing graduates to succeed in numerous careers in the field. To learn which jobs a hospitality management degree online can prepare you for, explore our guide below.

Overview of Hospitality Management Degrees

An online bachelor's degree in hospitality management appeals to ambitious individuals who have a passion for tourism, travel, and hospitality. These people want to create a dream vacation for guests while also handling the back-end operations at hotels and resorts.

Students in an online hospitality management degree learn nearly every role in the field, from running a front desk to handling food production. The curriculum includes introductory courses in hospitality management, travel and tourism, and employee and labor relations. These classes give graduates the practical skills to work in entry-level management positions, while the general education component emphasizes business writing, communication, and quantitative reasoning. Students can generally complete all classes completely online, which can appeal to working professionals shifting careers or students with families; however, many programs require students to complete on-site internships or work experience.

In some careers, such as hotel management, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a slower than average job growth of 4% by 2026. By contrast, other careers like food service management should see a 9% job growth during the same timeframe. Regardless of one's career path, however, graduates of an online bachelor's degree in hospitality management enter the job market with a distinct advantage. Likewise, students who complete a concentration in a specialized sector of hospitality can separate themselves from the rest of the competition.

Application Process

The application process for a hospitality management degree online takes a significant amount of time and patience. Applicants should expect to spend several hours completing online college applications, and it may take a few months to gather the supplemental paperwork. Typically students fill out applications online, which includes their personal, career, and educational background information.

The application process may differ depending on the type of applicant. For example, all admissions offices require transcripts. First year undergraduates need to submit their high school transcripts or GED certificates, while transfer students must submit transcripts of all previous college education. Transcripts are then mailed directly to the school or uploaded with their application. Additionally, most colleges require applicants to have a minimum GPA of 2.5 or 3.0 to apply. Candidates with lower GPAs may be considered, but colleges usually give preference to applicants with stronger academic backgrounds.

To submit an application, candidates often pay an application fee of $25-$50. Other common supplemental materials for hospitality management applications include a resume or CV, a personal statement, and 2-3 letters of recommendation. Students should get recommendation letters from professional or academic references, including supervisors or professors. Remember to ask recommenders to write letters no less than 2-3 months in advance.

What Will I Learn?

Curricula may differ for each online bachelor's degree in hospitality management; no two degrees are alike. For instance, some schools have a specific online hospitality management degree, while other colleges offer a business management degree with a concentration in hospitality.

Regardless of the school, students complete 120 to 130 credits to graduate with their bachelor's degree. Students who add a minor or concentration may need to take additional credits in their specialization.

The typical curriculum for a bachelor's in hospitality management includes 12 general education classes, nine business courses, eight courses in hospitality, and five electives. Moreover, a bachelor's degree ensures students receive a well-rounded education in math, writing, social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. In business courses, students explore statistics, finance, accounting, and marketing, while hospitality courses cover topics like human resource management and food service management. Many online programs also require students to complete 400-1,000 hours of work experience.

Below is a sampling of classes typically required of students earning a hospitality management degree online. Actual course offerings and course titles vary depending on the school, but these provide a general idea of the required coursework.

Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism

Students in this course explore the basics of industry terminology, organization, and trends. This overview of the hospitality industry prepares learners for more specialized sectors, such as food and beverage management. Students also review the history and cultural implications of tourism.

Hospitality and Tourism Law

Students enrolled in a hospitality and tourism law course learn a hospitality manager's legal liability and the rights of guests. This course covers case studies, regulations, and statutes that pertain to the hospitality industry. Students explore different kinds of contracts, including employee contracts, vendor contracts, and collective bargaining agreements with employee unions.

Introduction to Financial Accounting

A financial accounting course provides an introduction to managing receivables and payables in the hospitality industry. Students learn the basics in accounting concepts, including how to balance a budget, submit payroll, and use accounting software. Students gain a firm understanding of how to make fiscally responsible decisions.

Hospitality Marketing Strategy

This course introduces the fundamentals in marketing and branding using tools like social media. Students learn to increase revenue through different marketing strategies and campaigns, while also employing advertising strategies to target new clients. This class may appeal to students who want to work in marketing within hospitality.

Food Service Management

A course in food service management offers valuable knowledge to prospective food service managers. Students learn the ins and outs of handling food service production within a hotel or resort. They also explore every component of a successful foodservice operation, including food safety, menu planning, event planning, and staff management.

Human Resources Management

Every hospitality manager must manage a healthy and safe workplace. A course in human resources management teaches students to hire, maintain, and manage crisis situations within the workplace. The class also introduces sexual harassment policies and regulations.

What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management?

With an online bachelor's degree in hospitality management, graduates are qualified for entry-level management positions in the different sectors of the hospitality and tourism industry. Managers in hospitality wear many different hats: they work in restaurants, behind the front desk, in marketing departments, and in human resource offices. Read on to learn more about the skills a hospitality management online degree provides, along with the salaries available to graduates.

Core Skills

All online hospitality management degrees provide graduates the fundamental business and communication skills they need to succeed in different roles in the industry. Marketing, accounting, and business classes also provide a strong foundation to excel in the operational side of the hospitality industry.

Managers delegate many duties to their staff, and they must have a firm grasp of the various factors that make a hotel, casino, or resort run efficiently. For example, a hospitality and tourism law course provides a background into laws that regulate the industry, as well as legislation that protects both employees and customers. Similarly, a college writing and communication course develops excellent communication skills, while an online hospitality management degree introduces students to the internal and external operations of hospitality.

Graduates who can demonstrate a broad and diverse education have an edge when they enter the job market. Depending on a student's interest, an online hospitality management degree can open the doors to a variety of different career paths.

Potential Careers and Salaries

The hospitality field offers diverse and lucrative careers; however, where a graduate ultimately finds work in hospitality depends on their passion, their prior work experience, and their focus of study in college. Many jobs in the hospitality industry work directly with customers, while other jobs keep employees behind-the-scenes, such as event planning or supervising housekeeping. Students should take proactive measures to consider their future career goals. To plan ahead, students can take concentrations or minors in areas such as travel and tourism or food and beverage management.

Hospitality programs also offer students the opportunity to earn work experience in the sector of their choice. The list below outlines numerous job opportunities available to graduates, as well as the potential salary for each position. These are just a few of the many possibilities open to graduates.

Career Profiles

Event Coordinator

Annual Median Salary: $48,290

Event planners coordinate every aspect of an event, convention, or meeting. They secure transportation, solicit bids from contractors, and coordinate food service. The scope of their work varies, but event coordinators may plan anything from a small personal event to large-scale conventions. The BLS projects the field of event planning to grow 11% by 2026, faster than the average for all other careers.

Restaurant Manager

Annual Median Salary: $44,393

Restaurant managers oversee the day-to-day operations of restaurants within hotels, casinos, or resorts. They work in fast-paced environments where they occasionally must handle employee and customer disputes. They also order supplies, ensure safe food preparation, hire new staff members, and coordinate staff schedules.

Hotel Sales Manager

Annual Median Salary: $121,060

Hotel sales managers supervise a team of sales representatives. They set up sales goals and monitor profits and customer habits. They also resolve customer complaints and train sales team members. Often hotel sales managers work with marketing or advertising managers to find new customers and boost profitability.

Food Service Director

Annual Median Salary: $52,030

Food service directors supervise the food and beverage service for events, or within other areas of the hospitality industry that prepare food. Food service directors ensure food is prepared up to standards and handle any complaints from customers or vendors. They also manage personnel, conduct hiring, and manage budgets.

Director, Housekeeping

Annual Median Salary: $55,055

The director of housekeeping oversees small and large teams, depending on the size of the hotel or resort. They ensure that housekeepers maintain quality standards and may also handle guest complaints. Additionally, housekeeping directors manage schedules, hire new workers, and order supplies.

Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Hospitality Management?

After earning a hospitality management degree online, graduates can land entry-level careers as a food service manager or a lodging manager. To advance in the hospitality field and receive higher paying leadership positions, graduates may need to pursue an advanced degree.

Many people in mid-level positions possess graduate degrees in hospitality or a related field, such as tourism. For these graduates, the path to a well-paying leadership role typically comes directly after graduation. These graduates may not have the equivalent work experience, but they possess a stronger educational background; however, graduates with a bachelor's degree may still advance in hospitality without a master's degree. Employees in hospitality often climb the ranks over the years by paying their dues, taking on more responsibility, and earning promotions.

Accreditation for Hospitality Management Bachelor's Programs

Many online hospitality management degrees have accreditation from the Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, or ACPHA. Hospitality programs within business schools often have accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, or AACSB International. Attending an accredited program gives students an assurance that the program, its curriculum, and professors meet quality standards set by an outside accrediting body.

Not every hospitality management program holds accreditation, however. School accreditation remains far more important than program accreditation. Attending an accredited college matters when graduates attempt to find work, or if they pursue an advanced degree. For example, credits earned at a nationally accredited institution may not be accepted by a regionally accredited school.

Colleges may carry either regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation -- from one of seven regional bodies -- carries more prestige than national accreditation. Vocational and technical schools typically hold national accreditation, whereas nonprofit colleges and universities are usually regionally accredited.

Hospitality Management Professional Organizations

Networking remains one of the most useful tools to help students transition from college life to the workplace. Students can find networking opportunities and numerous helpful resources by joining professional hospitality and tourism organizations. Membership to a professional organization lets student meet fellow professionals in the industry, as well as access scholarships and job boards. Being a part of a professional organization also helps students keep up-to-date on industry news and trends.

American Hotel & Lodging Association
Founded more than 100 years ago, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) represents large hotels and small motels across the nation. Members receive access to free webinars, a members-only research center, certification discounts, and access to the AHLA Career Center.

American Resort Development Association
Based in District of Columbia., the American Resort Development Association serves as an association for timeshare companies with over 600 corporate members and more than 5,000 associates. Members receive subscriptions to industry publications, access to advisers, and networking opportunities at national, international, and regional conferences.

National Tourism Association
The National Tourism Association brings travel industry professionals from across the globe together. Members receive discounts, access to education programs, and opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals. Membership also provides access to the NTAonline member database, where users can connect with business partners.