Best Master's Degrees in Hospitality Management

Apr 13, 2021

What Is a Master's in Hospitality Management Degree?

Master's degree programs in hospitality management not only equip students with the business knowledge needed to run their business but also help train them to create personalized experiences for their guests in the hospitality industry. Students in these programs further develop their management skills, learn about the global hospitality industry, and gain business skills related to finance and marketing. These skills and the specialized knowledge of the industry helps students advance their careers in the field to take on leadership roles.

These master's programs are usually offered as Master of Science (MS) programs in hospitality management or hospitality and tourism management. However, Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) degrees are also fairly common. Many of these degree programs are available in flexible formats, such as online or with evening courses, to allow students to work full-time while earning their degree. Find out more about these master's programs below.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Hospitality Management

It is fairly common for students entering master's programs in hospitality management to hold a bachelor's degree in hospitality management or other related areas, such as business administration. However, most of these master's programs do not require students to hold a degree in any one field. Those who do have a background in hospitality management may be at an advantage because they might have an understanding of some key concepts; these students may not be required to take additional prerequisite courses. Some programs require students without a background in the field to take prerequisites in areas such as strategic management in hospitality, guest services management, hospitality managerial accounting, and more.

Admissions Requirements for Hospitality Management Master's Programs

The most common admissions requirement for master's degree programs in hospitality management is a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum GPA. Usually, this minimum GPA is around a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Depending on the program, GRE or GMAT scores may or may not be required and some schools are willing to waive these test scores based on a student's professional/educational background.

Some programs require students to have passed a course in statistics as a prerequisite to the program and may require additional prerequisites for students who do not have a background in hospitality management. Other common application materials for these programs include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a goal statement or statement of purpose.

How to Choose a Master's in Hospitality Management Program

Choosing a master's degree in hospitality management that is the right fit generally involves finding a program that best fits a student's career goals. For example, many of these programs offer additional tracks or concentrations that better prepare students for a specific type of career.

Students may also prefer to find a program that includes an internship or other hands-on learning activities to give students practical experience. Unique resources or learning opportunities could also play a role in a student's choice, such as career counseling, guest speakers, or a thesis and non-thesis option. Finally, students should consider the logistics of a program, such as the format, the flexibility and financial aid options that can make the degree more affordable.

Hospitality Management Master's Degree Courses

Depending on the program, students may take between 30 and 48 credits for their master's in hospitality management. Usually, these programs can be completed in about 4 semesters, or 2 years, but some may allow students to finish in as little as 16 months. Students generally take some core hospitality courses followed by concentration courses or electives. It is fairly common for these master's programs to include a culminating experience of some kind to help students apply what they have learned and prepare for their careers after graduation. Here we discuss the curriculum for these master's programs in greater detail.

Hospitality Management Foundational Courses

Students may take anywhere from 18 to 27 credits of core hospitality management courses. These courses cover a wide range of areas related to the field, from hotel management courses to marketing and financial management in the industry. In general, these courses are designed to further develop students' leadership and managerial skills while increasing their knowledge and experience with the hospitality industry. Several programs conclude with a culminating experience, such as a capstone course, internship, thesis, or master's project. While course titles are unique to different schools, students in master's programs in hospitality management are likely to take core courses in areas including:

  • Strategic management in hospitality
  • Leadership in hospitality
  • Financial management
  • Managing hospitality and guest services
  • Service industry analytics
  • Strategic marketing
  • Operations management
  • Hospitality human resources

Hospitality Management Specialist & Elective Courses

Hospitality management master's programs that do not offer additional concentration areas typically have students finish the program with some electives. These courses may vary based on thesis versus non-thesis tracks. For instance, students who choose to complete a thesis will likely conclude the program with research hours and not many electives. Non-thesis students may take between 9 and 15 credits of electives, depending on the program. Elective courses are usually designed to allow students to explore different areas of interest within the field and gain specific skills for a particular type of career in the industry. Although electives vary greatly amongst schools, students may be able to choose from courses in areas such as:

  • Event management
  • Food and beverage management
  • Legal issues for hospitality
  • Hospitality brand management
  • Hospitality information technology
  • Management of lodging operations
  • Social media in hospitality

Licensure & Certification in Hospitality Management

Professional certifications in hospitality management are available from a wide range of sources and are specific to different types of careers. For instance, lodging managers can pursue the Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). This certification includes an online review program and then students must pass an exam.

Event planners in the hospitality industry can choose from a variety of professional certifications to stand out in the job market, including the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential from the Events Industry Council or the Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) designation from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

Many certifications in the field of hospitality management are voluntary, but help professionals stay competitive and advance their careers.

Internships in Hospitality Management Master's Programs

Several master's degree programs offer an internship or hands-on learning experience that aims to prepare students for a real job in the industry. Some examples of these experiences include a summer internship, a work requirement, or a consulting project. Some of these internships require as many as 400 hours of experience, while internships may last between 8 and 10 weeks. Students typically complete their internship, projects, and other experiences with real companies in a professional hospitality setting. They may shadow professionals in the field before moving on to perform supervised activities on their own. Students also get a chance to network with professionals in the field, explore career options, and apply the skills they have been learning in the program. After the experience, students may be required to present a reflection or summary of their experience.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's in Hospitality Management Degree

Depending on the program, students may be able to choose from available concentrations, focus areas, or tracks to further specialize within the field. Generally, these concentration areas are focused on a business-related skill, such as marketing or operations management. Students take additional courses in their concentration area that are designed to give them a competitive edge in the job market.

Specializations can be chosen as early as the completion of students' first semester, once they have had the chance to explore different career options in the industry. Although it varies by program with the title of the concentration and availability, students can find programs that offer specializations in areas such as:

  • Digital marketing
  • Revenue management and analytics
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Wine marketing and distribution
  • Food and beverage management
  • Event management
  • Tourism and hospitality marketing
  • Hospitality operations management

Post-Graduate Options After Master's in Hospitality Management

Doctoral degree programs in hospitality management are fairly common for those wishing to continue their studies in the field beyond a master's degree. These programs are usually offered as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree and are designed for students wishing to pursue more research-based or teaching careers in academia. Graduates of these programs can also pursue consulting positions or jobs as practitioner-researchers. Typically, students complete a final dissertation and may be able to compete for an assistantship or fellowship to help fund their education.

What Can I Do with a Hospitality Management Master's Degree?

Hospitality management careers are available in a variety of settings and even specialty areas within the field. For example, jobs in hospitality administration are available in professional organizations, foodservice organizations, the arts and entertainment industry, and more.

Students can pursue different types of jobs in the hotel industry, food services, event planning, tourism, and more. In general, those with a degree in hospitality management will work to help serve guests and ensure that they have a positive experience with the organization. Graduates with their master's are prepared to jump into leadership positions within the field. Some possible job titles for graduates with their master's in hospitality management include:

  • Hotel manager
  • Food and beverage manager
  • Wedding planner
  • Hotel operations manager
  • Cafeteria director
  • Exhibition organizer
  • Convention planner
  • Revenue manager

Job Outlook for a Master's in Hospitality Management

The job outlook for specific careers in hospitality management varies by position. However, those with a master's degree in the field may have better job prospects as they have advanced knowledge in hospitality management and likely qualify for multiple positions within the industry. Some positions within the hospitality industry have positive job outlooks. For instance, meeting, convention, and event planners. This job outlook is faster than the national average.

On the other hand, some other positions within the hospitality industry are expected to decline over the same decade. Lodging managers, for example, have a job outlook of -12% (decline), per the BLS. This may be due in part to the increased competition of short-term rentals to traditional lodging establishments, as well as the already competitive nature of the field.

How to Become a Lodging Manager

Depending on the position and level of experience one has, lodging managers may be required to have anywhere from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree. Those with less formal education generally need to have more relevant work experience. It is common for lodging managers to work their way up to leadership positions and they may continue to advance and work for larger hotel chains or take on regional management positions. Professional certification is available in the field to help managers demonstrate their expertise.

Per the BLS, lodging managers made a median annual salary of $56,670, as of 2020. These managers include titles like revenue managers, general managers, convention service managers, and front-office managers. Lodging managers are generally responsible for helping guests have a positive experience at their establishment. This involves guest service-related activities, such as ensuring rooms and common spaces are clean and addressing any issues that arise, as well as administrative duties, including scheduling staff members, setting room rates, and managing financial records.

How to Become a Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner

Meeting, convention, and event planners usually need to have at least a bachelor's degree. Typically, this degree is in hospitality management or a related field, such as business administration, communications, or meeting and event planning. It is helpful for these planners to have some experience in the field. They may gain experience by shadowing professionals, volunteering, or coordinating other events while earning their degree. To stand out and be competitive in the job market, these event planners may pursue one of several different professional certifications available in the industry.

The median annual salary for meeting, convention, and event planners was $51,560, as of 2020, according to the BLS. Event planners, meeting planners, exhibition organizers, and convention planners are all found under this umbrella. These planners are responsible for coordinating and overseeing all of the activities involved in an event. They work closely with their clients to understand the goal of the event and then help establish the time and venue, coordinate transportation and food, and handle payments for the event.

Master's in Hospitality Management Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources

Paying for school can be difficult for many students, but several forms of financial aid are available to students attending an accredited institution. All students should first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what grants and loans they may qualify for. Then, students can explore what financial aid options their school of interest provides, such as scholarships, assistantships, tuition discounts, and more. Finally, to cover any remaining costs, students can apply to a wide range of outside grants and scholarships. These awards may be related to a student's area of study, academic record, prior work experience, talents, and other characteristics. A couple of examples of available scholarships specific to hospitality management include:

  • Master of Management in Hospitality Need-Based Scholarship- Cornell University has an MMH degree program and offers a need-based scholarship through the School of Hotel Administration. Students need to apply for these scholarships early, as funds are limited, and the awards are broken into several categories, including Women in Hospitality Scholarship, Food and Beverage Management Scholarship, and Hospitality Entrepreneurship Scholarship.
  • American Hotel and Lodging Association Foundation Scholarships- The AHLA offers both self-nominated and school-nominated awards that provide over $500,000 towards funding education. Applicants are considered on several criteria, including financial need, GPA, work experience, essay responses, and more.
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