Online Hospitality Management Degree Programs

The hospitality industry offers career options in dynamic places — in the U.S. and around the world. And pursuing an online degree in hospitality management might help you prepare for those career paths. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that in 2019 the travel and tourism industry supported 9.5 million jobs in the U.S.

If you’re interested in being part of a service industry that may work with people from around the world, then you’re in luck. Indeed, the National Travel and Tourism Office notes that the number of international visitors to the United States grew from about 40 million to almost 80 million between 2003 and 2019.

The hospitality field might be a great career option if you have great problem-solving, customer service, and communication skills. And these are all skills you could learn through core courses of a degree program.

Full-service hotels, conference centers, travel agencies, and other hospitality employers often prefer to hire those with more than a high school education. This is because those who have earned a hospitality management degree are more likely to have learned useful business management and administrative skills. But if you’re already working in the industry, then earning a degree may help you enhance your career. For example, it could prepare you to pursue a management position with a higher level of responsibility.

In this role, you might manage the operations of businesses throughout the industry. This could be at hotels, resorts, clubs, convention centers, or restaurants, for example. In order to work at any of these place, you are likely to need to have a variety of skills. For example, not only should you have great administrative and customer service skills, but you may also need to know a lot of business concepts. This so that you could help run your company’s daily operations well.

Hospitality managers could take care of tasks such as:

  • Make on-site business decisions for the company
  • Manage a hotel’s administrative and accounting tasks, like budgets and promotional plans
  • Coordinate safety and hygiene procedures
  • Organize the work of different departments
  • Supervise the training of new staff
  • Work with local authorities, travel companies, and tour operator
  • Schedule food and beverage deliveries. And make sure they’re checked for quality and quantity.

What is the difference between tourism and hospitality management?

Many people may think tourism and hospitality management are the same, but they are not. Although they might be closely related, there are typically a few differences between them.

Hospitality management refers to all aspects of hospitality. It might include working in places like restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, convention centers, or even country clubs. All of these places could benefit from hospitality management pros. In this role you may work to provide customers with a high level of service. This is so that they have a pleasant experience with your business.

Tourism management concentrates on developing tourism. It does this through a variety of marketing and services. With a tourism career, your focus may be to attract new customers. But you may also work to improve the travel experience for current customers. This way, they might enjoy more comfort and satisfaction. With a role in tourism, you could work as a travel agent or tour guide. Or you might also represent a major travel company.

Is a degree in hospitality management worth It?

A hospitality management degree could be worth it if you are interested in a career in this service industry. This is because it might open the doors to different career paths. And it could also introduce you to people from all walks of life. For example, you could work in lodging or food service management where you might work with guests and outside vendors as well as other staff members. Or you might also work in a related field like event planning.

Education through a degree program could help you gain skills that may support your success. You might learn skills related to operations, cost control, or revenue, for example. You may also learn how to manage people, provide customer service, or manage other services. And you might even learn leadership skills. So a degree could help prepare you to seek jobs that you may not be able to get with just a high school diploma or work experience.

The hospitality industry includes many types of businesses. These range from hotel and lodging to food service and entertainment venues. To show the variety of job options, the chart below lists some of the careers in this broad field.

All wage and job data shown below for lodging managers; food service managers; meeting, convention, and event planners; and general and operations managers comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Title
2019 Employment
2019 Median Annual Wage
Projected Job Growth, 2019-29
Lodging Manager57,200$54,430-12%
Food Service Manager352,600$55,3201%
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners138,600$50,6008%
General and Operations Managers2,400,280$100,7804%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Hospitality Roles at a Glance

Lodging managers. Customer service is of utmost importance to these professionals. So, they typically aim to make sure hotel guests are satisfied with their stays. As such, they may need to make quick decisions and solve problems. They are likely to work closely with other staff members to help hotels run smoothly. And of course, they need to keep an eye on profitability. They do this by managing budgets and expenses.

  • Other skills: Paying close attention to what others say; motivating and directing people as they work

Food service managers. These pros typically manage the daily operations of places. In particular, those that prepare and serve food and drinks. For example, they may work in restaurants, hotels, and cafeterias. This type of manager may need to keep a close eye on health and safety by monitoring compliance with rules. Food service managers may also need to evaluate the quality of products.

  • Other skills: Actively looking for ways to help people; motivating and directing people as they work

Meeting, convention, and event planners. Those in this role usually plan and execute special events. For example, they may handle professional gatherings. To do this they often work at hotels or conference centers. As such, they may need to coordinate a lot of activities and services. For example, an event might need catering, security, and displays.

  • Other skills: Being able to manage one’s own time as well as others; negotiating with others to fix problems

General and operations managers. These types of workers tend to plan and manage the operations of public and private companies. And they may handle daily functions across departments. But they might also develop policies, assign resources, and manage supervisors.

  • Other skills: Listening closely to what others have to say; identifying problems and finding solutions

Choose a Degree that Could Meet Your Career Goals

Online degree programs in hospitality management range from the associate level to the Ph.D. Undergrad certificate programs may also be available online. The education level you wish to pursue is likely to depend on your career goals.

Whether you are just starting your career or you are aiming to progress in it, you might find online programs to be very convenient. This is because coursework may be done when it works with your schedule. For example, you might be able to study around your current job schedule. Or you could study in between family activities.

Many entry-level hospitality jobs are also likely to include some level of in-house training. But a formal college degree may help job seekers start out with ready knowledge and skills. Also, upper-level roles may require a master’s degree, as those jobs may require a higher level of knowledge. This could be especially true if you really want to focus on a specific part of the industry.

Keep reading to learn about online hospitality management programs and how they might align with your goals. By looking at each degree type, you may see what might be involved. For example, you may read about prerequisites and coursework. This is so you may get a taste of what you might expect to find in the education programs. And you’ll also find descriptions of the jobs you might seek after finishing your program.

Internships

Many education programs have an internship requirement. This would be in order to give students practical experience. When you are exploring schools, you may want to ask about this practical portion. Schools may have connections to larger hotel chains or hospitality centers to help students gain hands-on knowledge. However, even if you are in an online program, this part of it is unlikely to be online.

What could you expect to learn?

While many jobs in the hospitality industry do not require a degree, they typically do require that employees have a good understanding of business concepts. You may also need to have great customer service skills. But if you complete an online certificate program, then you could improve your knowledge in both areas.

Typical program length: Less than a year; about 15-40 credit hours, depending on the program

Standard requirements: High school diploma

Common topics of study: Hospitality trends; industry standards. You might also study subjects such as:

  • Analytics
  • Financial statements
  • Service operations management
  • Intro to revenue management
  • Risk management
  • Business communication

Possible electives: These may depend in the program’s focus. But you might also have the option to do an internship.

What could you pursue after earning an online certificate in hospitality management?

A certificate could qualify you for entry-level jobs. According to the BLS, for example, job seekers with certificates might qualify for positions at hotels that provide fewer services. But entry-level roles may also be found at restaurants or travel companies. With your certificate you may seek positions such as:

  • Front desk agent
  • Food service manager
  • Concierge
  • Meeting planner
  • Recreational or activities coordinator

What could you expect to learn?

An associate program usually covers the basics of sales and marketing. And hospitality management courses are also likely to address accounting and management skills. Plus, they may help students learn critical thinking skills.

In order to pursue your associate degree online, you might look to community colleges and culinary institutes. Of course, you might also find online programs at career colleges.

Typical program length: Usually two years; about 60 credit hours

Standard requirements: High school diploma or a certificate in the field

Common topics of study: In a program at this level you could expect to learn about subjects such as:

  • Analysis of the hospitality industry
  • Food and beverage management
  • Front office procedures
  • Customer service
  • Hospitality supervision

Possible electives: You may also have the option to study other topics. Of course, these would depend on a program’s focus. For example, some might allow you to take psychology or sociology courses. Others, however, might offer studies in oral communications or math. And in still others you might learn about ethics.

What could you pursue after earning an online associate degree in hospitality management?

O*NET reports that 18% of food services managers have completed some college. And the BLS states that employers may prefer candidates for manager positions to have at least some postsecondary education. So if you’d like to jumpstart your career after earning as associate degree, then you may find work in roles such as:

  • Front office manager
  • Food and beverage manager
  • Guest relations manager
  • Event coordinator
  • Banquet manager
  • Hotel services supervisor

On the other hand, you might choose to go on to a bachelor’s degree. This is so that you could focus more on a specific area of interest. In fact, O*NET shows that more than 70% of lodging managers have a bachelor’s degree.

So if you think you might want to pursue a bachelor’s degree, then check with your school about credit transfers. In fact, you might be able to apply credit hours from your associate degree toward a bachelor’s.

What could you expect to learn?

At this level, you may expect to take a deeper dive into topics. For example, you might study more about human resources and marketing strategies. And you may also take a closer look at data analysis and operations. But the development of leadership skills is also likely to be part of a bachelor’s program. Above all, you could expect to learn about what may create a great guest experience.

Many bachelor’s programs in hospitality management are under the school’s department of hospitality and tourism. However, you might be able to major in hospitality management through a school’s business department. In that case, the hospitality program could be offered as a concentration for a business admininstration study plan. Depending on the school, you might earn either a bachelor of arts (B.A. ) or a bachelor of science (B.S.).

Typical program length: Usually four years of full-time study; about 120 credit hours

Standard requirements: High school diploma or GED

Common topics of study: Your study plan is likely to cover subjects such as:

  • Foundations of hotel management
  • Meetings and event management
  • Food safety and sanitation
  • Restaurant management
  • Casino management
  • Tourism management

Possible electives: Club management, destination marketing, exhibition design and production. Students may also need to do an internship.

What could you pursue after earning an online bachelor’s degree in hospitality management?

The BLS reports that upscale hotels and restaurants tend to prefer candidates who have some college education. And many hotel chains that offer a full range of services also look to hire those with a bachelor’s degree. In fact, according to O*NET, 72% of lodging managers reported having a bachelor’s degree. So while a high school diploma and work experience could qualify you for some jobs, it may help to have a degree. You might apply for roles such as these with your bachelor’s:

  • Hotel or restaurant general manager
  • Resort manager
  • Front office director
  • Food and beverage director
  • Convention services manager
  • Meeting, convention, or event planner

What could you expect to learn?

A master’s degree is for students who would like to learn even more about the hospitality industry. So this level of studies is likely to provide a much higher view of the business. Or, it could drill down on a very specific part of it. For example, you might take a closer look at how the field impacts regions. And you might even consider its impact at a national or global level. On the other hand, you might hone your data analysis skills.

In order to pursue this grad degree, you may find programs that are offered through a school’s college of business. Or, advanced degree programs might be part of a school’s combined hospitality and tourism management program.

Types of Master’s Programs

Master’s programs may be offered as thesis or non-thesis options. To explain, a thesis requirement would involve writing a lengthy paper on a topic related to your program. In general, programs that do not require a thesis tend to focus on operation skills. On the other hand, those that include a thesis requirement usually focus on research skills. Writing a thesis could also be done to prepare for a Ph.D. program.

Typical program length: Usually two years of full-time study; about 30-40 credit hours

Standard requirements: A bachelor’s in hospitality management or related field

Common topics of study:

  • Strategic business marketing
  • Financial management
  • IT in hospitality
  • Managerial economics
  • Statistics and quantitative analysis
  • Law and risk management

Possible electives: These usually vary based on the program’s focus. And they might also depend on whether concentrations are available. For example, a real estate development focus might include courses in asset management, enterprise technology, or investment analysis.

Some master’s programs may require you to do a capstone project.

What could you pursue after earning an online master’s degree in hospitality management?

Choosing an advanced degree program online may help you hone your research and analytical skills. Earning a master’s might also improve job prospects. For example, it might support your goal of seeking a role in upper-level management. A master’s may also be needed if you are looking for jobs in education.

Are you interested in working in academia or research? Are you looking to be a consultant for the hospitality or tourism industry? If you are aiming for those career paths, then having a doctoral degree might be a good fit.

Typical program length: Doctorates usually take three to four years to complete.

Standard requirements: These programs usually include writing a dissertation. This is a research project. And it involves doing original studies. Afterwards, you are expected to write up your findings. And after than, you may need to defend it before a panel. This usually involves presenting and explaining your ideas to faculty members. This is typically the last step in a Ph.D. program.

Common topics of study: It usually depends on the school and your area of focus.

Types of Hospitality Management

Studies about this field usually cover the industry as a whole. Still, you may be able to focus on one or more areas during the course of your program. For example, you could study ones such as:

  • Hotel and lodging management: This focus takes a closer look at preparing people for positions in hotels or resorts. To do this, it often involves coursework in accounting, operations, and teamwork.
  • Restaurant management: This one covers business aspects like food service operations. It is also likely to discuss hygiene standards. And it may even cover shift scheduling, marketing, and customer service.
  • Tourism management: This refers to the business parts of travel and tourism. It usually looks at marketing and event management. But it is also likely to discuss finance and human resources.
  • Casino management: These studies examine the hospitality aspects of casinos. For example, they may look at how to help guests enjoy their time at casinos.
  • Meetings and events management: This type is for those who hope to handle small or large meetings and events. To do this, coursework tends to cover marketing, finance, and the administration of events.
  • Brand management and guest services: This focus looks at ways to ensure guests enjoy an experience that follows brand guidelines. It is also likely to discuss what might be involved in managing a brand.
  • Real estate and asset management: This field takes a closer look at how real estate development could relate to a hospitality business. To do this, studies usually include financing techniques and investment analysis.
  • Business standards: This one is likely to focus on how to help a company meet and uphold industry standards of quality. In addition, it may look at how to grow a business in a way that is aligned with those best practices.

Accreditation

As a prospective student, you might consider enrolling in an accredited school or program. Attending such a school could be important. This is because it means that the school’s programs have been carefully reviewed by an outside agency. The agency seeks to determine whether a school meet certain standards of quality. Their review process looks at factors like faculty expertise and curriculum. It also reviews student services.

Major bodies for hospitality programs include:

  • Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA)
  • American Culinary Federation Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC)

The global landscape for hospitality professionals continues to evolve. So in order to stay current in the field, you may want to pursue a professional certification. These could show that you have earned a higher level of expertise in an aspect of the field. And they could show that you know the latest “best practices.”

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) validates expertise for over 20 positions. For example, they offer programs for those in front office roles, sales, human resources, and security. A sampling of those include ones such as:

  • CHS, Certified Hospitality Supervisor: This one covers subjects like conflict resolution, motivation, and team building. It also addresses staffing, scheduling, and leadership.
  • CLSD, Certified Lodging Security Director: This one is for those who work in security management. It namely focuses on hotels or other places with guests.
  • CHDT, Certified Hospitality Department Trainer: This one focuses on analyzing needs, delivering training, and evaluating training results. It covers job skills as well as safety procedures.
  • CHIA, Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics: This option looks at metrics, formulas, and methods for analyzing data. So these skills could be helpful to general managers and corporate staff.

Another certifying body is the Association of Destination Management Executives International (ADMEI). This global group includes members from more than 30 countries. It offers:

  • DMCI, Destination Management Certified Professional: This one is for those who have proven they have deep knowledge of the  industry’s best practices.

The Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA) has affiliates around the world. For example, they are in Japan, Europe, China, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East and Africa. It offers:

  • CHAM, Certified Hotel Asset Manager: Applicants for this one must have at least seven years of experience as a lead in hotel asset management.

Employment Statistics

The industry numbers below – for both jobs – are nationwide ones. The salaries, however, are specific to the state or metro area. Those are average wages for the locations. All data for lodging managers and food services managers is from 2019. And it comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lodging Managers

Industries with the highest levels of employment
  • Traveler Accommodation: 33,250 employed
  • RV Parks, Recreational Camps: 1,150 employed
  • Management of Companies, Enterprises: 660 employed
  • Office Administrative Services: 430 employed
  • Rooming and Boarding Houses: 270 employed
States with the highest employment levels
  • California: 4,290 employed, $74,910
  • Florida: 3,990 employed, $62,220
  • Texas: 3,560 employed, $54,750
  • Ohio: 1,380 employed, $49,880
  • Tennessee: 1,330 employed, $52,420
  • Georgia: 1,200 employed, $66,850
  • Pennsylvania: 1,150 employed, $56,410
  • Illinois: 1,120 employed, $54,690
  • Oregon: 1,120 employed, $52,820
  • Colorado: 1,030 employed, $94,580
  • Washington: 860 employed, $64,580
  • Virginia: 830 employed, $66,900
  • Arkansas: 700 employed, $38,990
  • South Carolina: 690 employed, $59,480
  • Mississippi: 610 employed, $49,970
Metro areas with the highest employment levels
  • Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim, CA: 1,140 employed, $67,320
  • Dallas – Fort Worth – Arlington, TX: 1,110 employed, $56,380
  • New York – Jersey City – White Plains, NY-NJ Metro Division: 810 employed, $93,080
  • Chicago – Naperville, Elgin, IL-IN-WI: 800 employed, $58,910
  • Miami – Fort Lauderdale – West Palm Beach: 780 employed, $79,250
  • Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Roswell, GA: 700 employed, $74,140
  • Washington – Arlington – Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 680 employed, $82,710
  • San Francisco – Oakland – Hayward, CA: 670 employed, $104,250
  • Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater, FL: 610 employed, $53,740
  • Houston – The Woodlands – Sugar Land, TX: 570 employed, $69,430

Food Service Managers

Industries with the highest levels of employment
  • Restaurants, Other Eating Places: 171,040 employed
  • Special Food Services: 14,020 employed
  • Traveler Accommodation: 8,650 employed
  • Management of Companies, Enterprises: 8,560 employed
  • Elementary, Secondary Schools: 4,630 employed
States with the highest employment levels
  • California: 40,440 employed, $60,840
  • Florida: 20,150 employed, $57,900
  • Illinois: 18,250 employed, $49,690
  • Texas: 15,690 employed, $59,520
  • Tennessee: 10,520 employed, $48,000
  • New York: 10,470 employed, $75,760
  • Georgia: 9,660 employed, $58,700
  • Ohio: 8,150 employed, $54,940
  • Massachusetts: 7,050 employed, $69,200
  • Pennsylvania: 6,610 employed, $66,790
  • North Carolina: 5,730, $61,450
  • Michigan: 5,030 employed, $63,770
  • Arizona: 4,500 employed, $58,280
  • Wisconsin: 3,900 employed, $49,960
  • Minnesota: 3,870 employed, $59,700
Metro areas with the highest employment levels
  • Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim, CA: 14,520 employed, $57,810
  • Chicago – Naperville, Elgin, IL-IN-WI: 13,310 employed, $50,390
  • New York – Newark – Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: 9,920 employed, $80,940
  • San Francisco – Oakland – Hayward, CA: 6,470 employed, $63,460
  • Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Roswell, GA: 6,020 employed, $59,980
  • Boston – Cambridge – Nashua, MA-NH: 5,170 employed, $68,690
  • Miami – Fort Lauderdale – West Palm Beach: 4,500 employed, $69,610
  • Houston – The Woodlands – Sugar Land, TX: 4,020 employed, $62,030
  • Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario, CA: 3,800 employed, $54,810
  • San Diego – Carlsbad, CA: 3,670 employed, $68,770

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. For instance, students might want to look at options like:

You may also want to check with your school to learn about other scholarships.

In addition, keep in mind that federal financial aid may only be available to accredited schools. You may learn more by visiting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website.

Resources

If you are pursuing a hospitality career, then you might also find these groups to be useful. They could provide more info on aspects of the field. For example, they may offer reports about issues or trends that impact the industry.

  • American Hotel & Lodging Association: AHLA represents and supports major hotel chains, independent hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other parts of the hotel industry.
  • National Restaurant Association: This is the likely the largest food service trade group in the world. And it represents and advocates on behalf of more than 500,000 restaurants.
  • Event Planners Association: This national trade group is for those who focus on the events and amusement industries. They offer podcasts and webinars to members, as well as networking opportunities.
  • American Gaming Association: AGA is a national trade group for the casino industry. In part, they focus on highlighting the positive economic and social impacts of gaming. They also publish research reports on a regular basis.
  • Corporate Event Marketing Association: CEMA offers networking options for senior level event marketing pros. Members may share ideas through an online forum.
 
Related Resources

 

 
Online Travel and Tourism Degree Programs

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Online Restaurant Management Degree Programs

Online restaurant management degrees could help turn love for the dining experience into a career.

 
Methodologies and Sources