Food Management Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a food management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Food Management: Degrees at a Glance

As a foodservice manager, you'll fuse business logic with knowledge of culinary and food products to create memorable dining experiences. You'll also manage accounting, human resources and foodservice concerns. If you specialize, you could work in a medical setting, such as a hospital or extended care facility, providing dietary therapy for patients. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that foodservice managers would experience a 3% decline in employment during the 2010-2020 decade and that competition for jobs would be keen.

Foodservice management programs offer a robust business foundation coupled with extensive education in beverage and food facility administration. An associate's degree program typically offers basic training in food safety and leadership and can prepare you to work in a hotel, restaurant or resort. A bachelor's degree program usually provides additional flexibility and could allow you to specialize in event planning or lodging management.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level support or management positions People who want to work as managers or who seek knowledge in both foodservice and hospitality management
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Food preparation worker ($19,000)*
- First line supervisor of food preparation and serving workers ($30,000)*
- Chef or head cook ($42,000)*
- Foodservice manager ($48,000)*
The career path for the associate's and bachelor's degrees are similar with the exception of:
- Dietitian or nutritionist ($54,000 - licensure required in most states)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time - 2 years full-time with an associate's degree
- 4 years full-time without an associate's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 60 credits in general, core and elective coursework
- Directed laboratory work
- Internship or field experience
- Up to 190 credits in general studies, elective and major coursework
- Internship
- Laboratory work
Prerequisites High school diploma or its equivalent - High school diploma or its equivalent
- Accelerated programs may require an associate's degree
Online Availability Hybrid and online Yes

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

Associate's Degrees in Foodservice Management

An associate's degree in foodservice management offers theoretical coursework combined with supervised practice that can provide a foundation in nutrition, business and management. You may learn about sales analysis, marketing, menu development and food sanitation. Upon graduation, you'll likely possess the knowledge required to prepare large quantities of food and apply current technologies to the management of a facility.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many employers prefer to hire managers with postsecondary education*
  • Most programs incorporate an internship to provide practical experience
  • Many programs provide the foundation to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program

Cons

  • Job growth for foodservice managers is expected to decline 3% during the 2010-2020 decade*
  • In addition to a degree, you may also need several years of experience to become a manager
  • A degree may not be necessary if you plan to work in fast-food management*

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

Courses and Requirements

An associate's degree program requires approximately 60 credits in general education and core coursework. Programs may also require laboratory work and a cooperative work experience program or internship. Some of courses you could take may include the following:

  • Food preparation
  • Food cost control
  • Introduction to nutrition
  • Menu and catering management
  • Team development
  • Sanitation and safety

Online Degree Options

Some colleges offer associate's degree programs in a hybrid format, while others offer them completely online. Hybrid programs combine web-based and traditional coursework, requiring you to attend some on-campus classes. Online programs offer flexibility and are designed for working professionals. Some online programs may still require that you complete on-site field or work experience.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

The National Restaurant Association confers the Foodservice Management Professional designation, which validates a candidate's supervisory skills and competency. If you earn an associate's degree, the minimum requirement to take the certification examination is two years of supervisory experience and a valid Food Protection Manager Certification. During the course of your studies, you can take advantage of the fieldwork or internships that are required by your program to help meet the experience requirement.

Bachelor's Degrees in Food Management

A bachelor's degree program in food management may also incorporate hospitality and/or restaurant management courses or allow you to specialize in one of these areas. Programs can provide training in the management of food and beverages, purchasing practices, accounting and marketing. Some may also require a language component. Intensive coursework, project-based learning experiences and internship programs are not uncommon. Programs may combine online courses with a required internship component to build upon laboratory and leadership classwork.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Taking electives and laboratory coursework can lead to a well-rounded education
  • Most programs offer an internship, which can provide important practical experience
  • The degree is transferrable to hospitality subfields, such as facilities management
  • Bachelor's degree holders may have an edge when competing in the workforce, especially when seeking positions at upscale establishments*

Cons

  • The reduction in job growth may leave degree holders seeking employment outside the foodservice industry
  • An associate's degree may be more appropriate, because many positions only require a high school diploma and suitable experience
  • Internship or residency programs may require an extensive time commitment before credit is given toward the degree

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

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs can prepare students to enter the hospitality or food industries as entry-level managers. Programs offer coursework that can develop your critical thinking, time management and leadership skills. These programs may require up to 190 credits of coursework. You may also be required to complete a nonresident experience that includes an internship of up to 700 hours.

These programs can also enhance your business skills through courses in management, accounting and marketing. You can gain knowledge of the food industry through classes in beverages, nutrition and food preparation.

Online Degree Options

Several colleges offer bachelor's degrees online in an accelerated or 3rd and 4th year format. Accelerated programs require roughly 40 credits and may require candidates to hold an associate's degree in a related discipline. Programs that offer the 3rd and 4th year format build on the education obtained through an associate's program and focus on the coursework required to finish the degree program. Despite enrolling in an online program, you may still be required to complete a brief, on-campus residency.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Employers commonly prefer that candidates have previous experience. Participating in nonresident experiences or internships offered by your selected program can increase your marketability. You can also focus your language studies on conversational Spanish or take additional courses in the language, which is commonly used in the foodservice industry, to improve communication with restaurant staff. Obtaining the appropriate certifications can also validate your skills and illustrate your competence. The Foodservice Management Professional certification, in addition to certification programs offered by your state's department of health services, can also increase your employment prospects.

Degree Alternatives

While foodservice managers earn a competitive salary, the BLS expects a decline in employment over the 2010-2020 decade. Dietetics is a closely related field of study and can lead to a career as a dietitian or nutritionist. Bachelor's degree programs in dietetics or nutrition can prepare graduates to seek state licensure as Registered Dietitians. Programs usually require supervised training through an internship, which can help you build your nutritional knowledge in a real-world setting. The BLS predicted that dietitians and nutritionists would see faster-than-average job growth of 20% during the 2010-2020 decade. These professionals earned median annual salaries of $54,000, as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
  • Milwaukee, WI

    Milwaukee Area Technical College

  • Charlotte, NC

    Johnson & Wales University

  • Youngwood, PA

    Westmoreland County Community College

  • Pewaukee, WI

    Waukesha County Technical College

  • Vincennes, IN

    Vincennes University

  • Victorville, CA

    Victor Valley College

  • Orlando, FL

    Valencia College

  • Missoula, MT

    The University of Montana

  • Austin, TX

    The Art Institute of Austin

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management

Which subject are you interested in?

Westmoreland County Community College

Waukesha County Technical College

Vincennes University

Victor Valley College

Valencia College