Online Master's Programs in Hospitality Management

Updated on: 12/13/2018

The field of hospitality management offers a dynamic and booming industry that is ripe with opportunities for graduates with a master's degree. Earning an advanced degree in hospitality management opens the doors to leadership positions such as human resource management, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects to grow by 9% by 2026.

Online hospitality management master's programs appeal to working professionals from a variety of backgrounds. While many master's students hold a bachelor's degree in a hospitality-related major, programs do not require an academic or professional background in the industry. To find out more about how much a degree will cost, how long it will take, and what to expect from a program, continue reading this comprehensive guide.

What to Know About Online Master’s in Hospitality Management Coursework

Online master's in hospitality management programs take an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Programs incorporate marketing, finance, and economics. Students build leadership expertise through courses that teach them to solve problems, analyze trends, and make ethical decisions. Online and on-campus programs vary in terms of format, but curricula rarely differ. Fully online programs, which run asynchronously or synchronously, allow students to take classes and participate in discussions remotely. Students need to complete 32 to 36 credits to earn a master's degree in hospitality management; potentially more if students complete a concentration.

Some online programs run at an accelerated pace, which lets students graduate quicker. On average, a typical master's degree takes two years to complete. Some programs allow students to graduate in as few as 15 months. To find a program that meets your schedule and needs, keep reading to see how degrees differ from college to college.

What’s the Difference Between a Master’s in Hospitality Management and an MBA in Hospitality Management?

A master's in hospitality management and an MBA in hospitality management bear similarities, but the curriculum differs. Students taking a master’s in hospitality management online program receive an interdisciplinary education, studying hospitality management in depth while also learning marketing skills.

Business remains the key focus of an MBA degree with a specialization in hospitality management. An MBA with a hospitality management concentration requires around three additional courses relating to the field of hospitality, indicating a less comprehensive study of hospitality than offered by a master’s in hospitality management online.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master’s in Hospitality Management Program?

The specific courses students take in a master’s in hospitality management online program depend on the school. In general, students taking a master's in hospitality management program strengthen the fundamental skills learned in undergraduate studies. Students take advanced courses to analyze organizational theory, and they deepen their knowledge in marketing, accounting, economics, and business. Below, are a few sample courses required by most programs.

Managerial Economics

In a managerial economics course, students study the domestic and international market and economic conditions that impact business. Students apply analytical theory and existing data to predict market trends and make sound managerial decisions.

Marketing Management

A marketing management course teaches students how to create and implement marketing plans. Professors introduce specific marketing tools and programs that help students to better understand how marketing works in the business world. Students often develop marketing proposals for real businesses and use analytical theories to make business savvy decisions.

Strategic Management and Planning

A strategic management course teaches students how to examine the strengths and weakness within an organization. Students learn how to make an organization more resilient to market trends. They also examine to implement strategies to grow a business and navigate crisis management situations.

Advanced Financial Management and Policy

Students need a solid understanding of financial policy to hold any management position. Practical skills taught in this course include interpretation of balance sheets, financial theory, evaluating the costs and benefits of financial investments, and how to manage critical financial issues that may arise.

Hospitality Business Law and Risk Management

Students enrolled in a hospitality business law and risk management class examine case studies to understand the legal implications of doing business. The course teaches students how to use risk management tools to mitigate liability.

What Specializations are Available in a Master’s in Hospitality Management Program?

Many master's in hospitality management programs give students the opportunity to tailor their studies to their particular career interests through specializations. Each college offers different specializations, sometimes called concentrations. To earn a specialization, students need to complete 6-12 additional credits. Three common specializations offered to students enrolled in master's in hospitality management online programs are listed below.

Gastronomy and Restaurant Management

A specialization in gastronomy and restaurant management prepares students with the practical knowledge they need to work as restaurant managers or event managers. Students attend introductory gastronomy courses to learn about the history of different cuisines and nutrition, as well as how to purchase sustainable and cost-efficient food.

Tourism Management

Students who want to work in management for hotels, cruise ships, or travel agencies often specialize in tourism management. Classes examine modern day challenges in tourism, and students often create project proposals to solve those issues.

Human Resources Management

Human resource managers serve a vital role to employees in the hospitality industry. Students in these courses learn about conflict management and employment laws, as well as attend organizational theory and cultural diversity courses.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

At the end of the program, students often complete a 3-6 credit final capstone project, thesis, or exam, wherein hospitality management theory is put into practical application. The requirements for capstone projects or a thesis paper vary from college to college. Generally, the capstone project in a master's in hospitality management program online requires students to create an organization strategy for an existing business, demonstrating the finance, business, marketing, and management theories and skills through a written research paper.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master’s in Hospitality Management Program?

To choose the best master’s in hospitality management online program, students must weigh several factors. A high quality program incorporates reputable faculty, happy students, and a solid reputation. College graduation retention rates and salary after graduation data are listed on the Department of Education College Scorecard. A college's website also provides information about the courses required, the cost, and the length of a master’s in hospitality management online program.

When possible, make sure to pick a program accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration or Association. Accreditation offers assurance that a program's curriculum and professors meet certain quality standards. Regional accreditation of a university as a whole also speaks to a higher standard of education than nationally accredited or unaccredited universities. When in doubt, schedule an orientation or ask to speak with a college representative.

Career Opportunities With a Master’s in Hospitality Management Degree

With a master's degree in hospitality management, graduates can land management positions in fast-paced environments such as casinos, resorts, hotels, and restaurants. Graduates work at the front desk or behind-the-scenes, doing everything from event planning to human resources management. Graduates with an advanced degree have a leg up in hospitality management, a field where most employees have a bachelor's degree.

Five possible careers open to graduates who hold a master's degree in hospitality management can be found listed below, along with salary information. Some of these positions may require additional coursework, certification, or work experience.

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner

Candidates need at least a bachelor's degree to become a meeting, convention, and event planner. Event planners coordinate every detail of a meeting, convention, or event, delegating tasks to a staff of people. They solicit bids, secure event space, and plan the logistics of events, including catering, presentations, and entertainment. Event planners arrange everything from small meetings to large galas for national conventions.

Median Salary: $48,290 per year

Currently Employed: 116,700 as of 2016

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 11%

Hotel Manager

Hotel managers oversee the day-to-day operations of hotels. They often serve as the point of contact for guests at hotels and ensure hotel guests enjoy their accommodations. When problems arise, hotel managers resolve the issues. Irregular work hours are common since hotels remain in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Median Salary: $51,800 per year

Currently Employed: 47,800 as of 2016

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 4%

Human Resources Manager

The duties of human resource managers vary depending on the size of an organization. Human resource managers serve as a liaison between employees and management. They handle employee issues, benefits, and hiring. Human resource managers also handle sexual harassment cases, working with management and the legal team to ensure smooth internal operations. Employers require a bachelor's degree to become a human resource manager, but sometimes prefer a master's degree.

Median Salary: $110,120 per year

Currently Employed: 136,100 as of 2016

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 9%

Food Service Manager

Food service managers supervise every operation in a restaurant or dining room. Responsibilities include ensuring customers enjoy their meals and efficient operation of the establishment. Staff issues or concerns, ordering supplies, uniforms, and hiring new staff members also fall on the food service manager’s shoulders. On the finance end, food service managers handle payroll and manage budgets. Applicants typically have a bachelor's degree, but a high school diploma and work experience suffices in some cases.

Median Salary: $52,030 per year

Currently Employed: 308,700 as of 2016

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 9%

Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers

Property, real estate, and community association managers maintain every aspect of a property. Managers collect association or maintenance dues and oversee maintenance, janitorial, and administrative staffs. They ensure residents abide by the rules and regulations. Typically, on a monthly basis, managers meet with the board of directors to provide updates on projects and budgets. As the field becomes increasingly more competitive, candidates often have a master's degree and sometimes a real estate license.

Median Salary: $58,670 per year

Currently Employed: 317,300

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: 10%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What’s the Expected Job Growth for Hospitality Management Careers?

Whether you want to become a human resources manager or event planner, nearly every career in the hospital management industry is growing. Some careers careers have a higher projected job growth rate than others, according to the BLS, but they are all positive.

Overall, the hotel industry nationwide is projected to grow, with occupancy rates and the average daily hotel rates increasing every year, according to the STR and Tourism Economic forecasts.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Hospitality Management

A successful career in hospitality management includes a bit of luck, hard work, and networking. Professional organizations often provide access to job postings and career services to members. Many of the organizations listed below offer discounted student memberships, as well.

  • Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals

    Founded in 1952, HFTP represents thousands of financial and technology industry professionals from around the globe. The organization helps working professionals advance in their careers through certifications, webinars, conferences, and career development opportunities.

  • Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International

    Education remains the focus of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, which serves as a vocal champion for workers in all sectors of the industry. HSMAI provides numerous certifications and webinars available for free to members. Students receive discounted membership.

  • Society for Food Service Management

    SHFM serves executives working in a variety of food service management positions. SHFM offers conferences, parties, and networking events around the country for industry professionals to meet and learn new skills. Members get discounts to conferences and access to the career center.

  • Professional Convention Management Association

    With more than 7,000 members, PCMA prides itself on being a leader in providing “senior level education” opportunities. Members receive a subscription to Convene magazine and access to online educational courses.

  • American Hotel and Lodging Association

    The American Hotel and Lodging Association, or AHLA, provides advocacy, education, and networking opportunities to employees in every section of the field. Discounted student memberships offer free subscriptions to Lodging Magazine, research access, discounts on certifications, and access to scholarships and grants.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Hospitality Management Degree

To pay for a master's in hospitality management degree, students should exhaust all of the "free money" available to them. Scholarship and grant money, which does not need to be repaid, helps students pay some of their tuition and fees. For more funding opportunities, students should invest in federal funding sources. Continue reading to find out more about funding options available to graduate students.

Federal Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application, available each October, determines how much money the federal government awards each student. Graduate students do not qualify for subsidized loans, but they do qualify for unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loans of up to $20,500 a year, Direct PLUS Loans, and Perkins Loans of up to $8,000 a year.

American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship, funded through Americas Lodging Investment Summit, has provided awards to graduate students since 2008. Chosen graduate students receive $5,000. Applicants must be graduate students studying in a hospitality-related program with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Full-time and part-time students may apply. Applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, transcripts, a resume, and student aid information.

Carol Chorbajian Scholarship Fund

The Carol Chorbajian Scholarship Fund, provided by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, offers $2,500 annually to undergraduate or graduate students pursuing a degree in hospitality or tourism-related fields. The scholarship committee gives preference to California students.