Hospitality Degrees

Learn about the types of hospitality and tourism degree programs available, and how earning your hospitality management degree could help you take the next step in your career. Get the details about what's included in undergrad and graduate degree programs in hospitality management.

What Is a Hospitality Degree?

Hospitality is an in-demand field that is growing rapidly thanks to a strong global economy. In fact, Deloitte reports that in 2017 alone, the global travel industry achieved gross bookings of $1.6 trillion. To meet this demand, many professionals are seeking a career in hospitality by exploring the number of options of degrees, careers, and fields.

Typically, those entering hospitality programs work toward degrees in hospitality management or administration through a school's business department. These degrees prepare students for careers in hotels, resorts, airlines, and any other business that has a strong focus on creating a comfortable and pleasant customer experience. Several degrees are available, both in-person and online, ranging from associate's degrees and certificates all the way to MBAs and doctoral degrees. At each of these degree levels, students can explore many career options.

Hospitality Management & Tourism Degree

Hospitality management degrees are common across colleges nationwide. You can explore programs offering associate's, bachelor's, or master's degrees depending on your personal goals and work experience. Some schools also offer a offer doctoral degrees in hospitality, but this is less common and not necessary for most jobs within the hospitality and tourism field. Hospitality coursework and specializations available will vary program to program, but students can expect to gain real-world experience in each degree offered. Let's go over these degrees in detail.

Associate's Degree in Hospitality Management

An associate's degree in hospitality management program typically lasts two years. Alongside your required general education coursework, you can expect to learn about fundamental and effective hospitality principles and practices. You may also be able to focus in a certain field, such as food service management, so you can expect coursework tailored to your chosen concentration. Specific courses may include introduction to hospitality management, customer service, and hotel and restaurant marketing.

Once you graduate with with an associate's degree in hospitality, you may go on to pursue a more advanced degree to gain more core knowledge about hospitality. On the other hand, you can enter the workforce in an entry-level position, exploring jobs such as:

  • Dining Room Supervisor
  • Concierge
  • Assistant Food Service Manager

Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management

A bachelor's degree program in hospitality management will give you insights into the typical business functions in the hospitality industry with a strong focus on business, technology, and management practices. Throughout your course of study, you can expect both in-class time as well as practical, real-world experience gained through corporate partnerships and internships. Coursework in these programs will cover essential topics like event management and marketing, business law, food and beverage services, leadership, and lodging and facilities management. You can also choose electives based on a chosen specialization.

Upon graduation, you'll have several careers available to you across areas like lodging, travel, and food and beverage. Many choose to work in hotels, restaurants, or tourism companies, but others may choose to work for airlines, convention centers, and casinos. Possible career options include:

  • Food and Beverage Manager
  • Event, Meeting, and Convention Planner
  • Lodging Manager
  • Catering Manager

Master's Degree in Hospitality Management

If you're seeking upper-level management positions, an MBA or master's degree in hospitality management will help you stand out in the field. These one- to two-year programs will give you practical skills in the field with ample hands-on experiences and professional observation opportunities. You can choose a focus within hospitality management, which will dictate many courses taken in the program; however, you can expect coursework focused on leadership and management within the industry.

Hospitality master's degree holders are oftentimes deemed qualified for management and upper-level positions at hotels, restaurants, tourism franchises, and other hospitality areas. Some career options include:

  • Hotel or Restaurant General Manager
  • Conventions Manager
  • Resort Operations Manager
  • Consultant

Hospitality Management Degree Online

Online hospitality management degrees are offered at every level from associate's to doctoral degrees, and they allow you to focus in a specific area of hospitality. Popular among students with outside commitments such as careers or family obligations, these programs let you complete your degree at a pace and location that works for you.

Online programs offer the same education and coursework you would receive at a traditional school. Oftentimes, you are able to converse with classmates on group projects as well as regularly talk with your instructor. Tuition for online programs can be lower than the traditional counterpart, but as a student, you can expect to pay technology fees associated with your course.

Hospitality Degree Specializations

As mentioned, there are many concentrations you can choose to in your hospitality and tourism degree program. Choosing a specialization will give you more dedicated coursework in a certain area of hospitality, which will make you more competitive when applying for jobs.

Although there are many specialized areas to explore, here are a few options to consider:

  • Ecotourism/sustainable tourism
  • Resort management
  • International travel
  • Event planning
  • Hotel development
  • Food and beverage operations
  • Hospitality law

What Can You Do with a Hospitality Management Degree?

The hospitality industry offers careers for all levels of experience, education, and salaries. Some entry-level hospitality jobs include concierge, customer service, servers, and front desk employees. However, many hospitality careers include management and director positions. The salary and availability of management positions will vary between hospitality industries. Here are a few of the most common hospitality careers along with salary information:

  • Hotel, Motel, Resort Desk Clerk - $22,850*
  • Concierge - $30,150*
  • Front Desk Manager - $37,954**
  • Guest Services Manager - $40,451**
  • Lodging Manager - $51,800*
  • Restaurant Operations Manager - $51,908**
  • Food Services Manager - $52,030*
  • Gaming Manager - $72,930*

Median salary from *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), **payscale.com (2018)