Bar Management Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in hospitality or bar management? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and hospitality and bar management training programs.
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Studying Bar Management: Degrees at a Glance

The revenue restaurants and entertainment venues receive relies significantly on providing an enjoyable customer experience. The bar or restaurant manager oversees the operation of a facility's dining room and bar. Professionals in the field manage the costs of alcoholic beverages, create drink menus and ensure the accurate pricing of beverages. Employers want candidates who possess energy, a strong leadership style and superior customer service skills.

Colleges and universities offer degree programs that deliver training in the hospitality market. The associate's degree program offers basic training in the principles of food and beverage management. The bachelor's degree program offers a close study of viticulture and the brewing process. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that food service manager opportunities would slowly decline by -3% over the 2010-2020 decade.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level jobs in the food, beverage and hospitality industry People interested in a career in food, beverage and hospitality management
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Bartender ($22,000)*
- Food service manager ($53,000)*
- Lodging manager ($55,000)
- Purchasing manager ($103,000)*
- Food service manager ($53,000)*
- Lodging manager ($55,000)
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits- Roughly 120 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Hospitality Management

The associate's degree program offers a basic education in hospitality theory and business concepts. Programs prepare students for entry-level or assisting management opportunities. Colleges design curricula to provide a hands-on approach to learning and many require the completion of an internship or field experience. Major coursework emphasizes the principles of bar and beverage management, sales and marketing. You will learn to supervise line or dining room staff and utilize technologies common in the industry.

Pros and Cons


  • Bar and food service manager positions usually require a high school diploma; your associate's degree might boost your marketability
  • Food service and lodging managers earned a relatively competitive salary
  • Many associate's degree programs transfer to bachelor's degree programs in hospitality management


  • Bartenders will only see a 9% increase in jobs over the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Salaries for bartenders were comparatively low; mean annual salaries were $22,000**
  • Taking bartender courses might increase the time it takes to get up to speed in the field

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (May 2011 figures)

Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program combines a business education with hospitality philosophy. You will gain an understanding of hospitality operations and restaurant management through courses that explore service etiquette, food safety principles and hospitality law. Many programs offer the following courses:

  • Food and beverage purchasing
  • Catering and banquet management
  • Beverage cost control
  • Wine essentials
  • Hospitality marketing
  • Bar and beverage management
  • Business law

Online Degree Info

Some colleges offer a complete online associate's program, while others might offer a hybrid option. The online program offers courses similar to campus-based options. You will take courses in food and beverage planning, resort management and marketing for the hospitality industry. Many schools design distance-education programs with working professionals in mind; you may find accelerated programs through online schools.

Stand Out with This Degree

Many employers prefer candidates with some experience for bar management positions. Understanding the fundamentals of shaken and stirred beverages, glassware and mixology might make you more marketable. Consider taking courses in the fundamentals of mixology; mixing drinks requires knowledge of the techniques and equipment used to design unique beverages. If your school doesn't offer foundation bartending courses, contact your local community college for direction. In addition, consider pursuing the ServSafe Alcohol certification, which validates your understanding of alcohol laws, assessing levels of intoxication and managing difficult customers.

Bachelor's in Hospitality Management

The bachelor's degree program emphasizes the principles of management in the hospitality industry. You will learn to use managerial decision-making skills when supervising the work of both beverage and food staff. Programs emphasize sanitation and food safety concepts as part of the core requirements and usually develop business skills through a set of hospitality or lodging concentration courses. Some programs require that students complete cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid and ServSafe certification before graduation.

Pros and Cons


  • Purchasing managers earned a relatively competitive mean annual salary of $103,000*
  • Employers at upscale locations are looking for candidates with higher education
  • You can transfer the management skills you gain in school to other occupations


  • Several positions don't require a bachelor's degree and associate's degree holders and high school graduates earn comparable salaries
  • You may need to take a bartender position to build the skills and experience required to move into management
  • Programs don't always offer the best combination of computer technology coursework

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program requires roughly 120 credits, although some schools issue roughly 90 credits that complement courses earned through an associate's degree program. Schools design the program to address the legal and business aspects of running a hospitality service, restaurant or bar. You will learn to complete purchasing, cash control, accounting and marketing tasks. Programs offer courses in computer applications for hospitality, entrepreneurship, leadership, food study, conventions and meetings, global tourism and international cuisine. Some schools offer a specialization in wine and beverage studies. You can expect to take courses in beverage pairing, distillation and brewing.

Online Degree Info

Several schools offer a distance-education program that you can complete online. Programs generally offer courses comparable to onsite options and many offer a specialization in food and beverages. Keep in mind that some online programs require an associate's degree prior to admission. Universities design online programs for those seeking advancement or a career change.

Stand Out with This Degree

Similar to the associate's degree program, taking courses that familiarize you with the bartending process and pursuing certification might boost your marketability. If you decide to enter the purchasing field - which could include visiting wineries or vineyards - building solid industry contacts early on might ease the transition into a buyer or purchasing agent career. In addition, the American Purchasing Society confers 4 certifications, including the Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant and the Certified Purchasing Professional, which demonstrate your commitment and understanding of the purchasing industry to employers.

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