Hotel & Restaurant Management Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What will you learn in a hotel and restaurant management associate's or bachelor's degree program? Read about requirements, pros and cons of associate's and bachelor's degree programs and potential careers.
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Studying Hotel and Restaurant Management: Degrees at a Glance

Hotel and restaurant management degree programs train students to excel in leadership positions in the lodging and food industries. Managers are needed in all aspects of the hotel and restaurant trades. Duties can include ensuring standards are met, hiring staff, setting budgets and more.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains that food service managers are typically only required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. However, employers often prefer at least some postsecondary education. Lodging managers typically need at least a certificate or an associate's degree. Job growth for both careers is moving slower than average. However, employment of meeting and event planners was expected to grow 44% over the 2010-2020 decade, according to the BLS. A bachelor's degree and previous hotel and planning experience is usually needed for this career.

Associate's degreeBachelor's degree
Who is this degree for? Students who wish to attain entry-level positions in hotel or restaurant managementStudents who wish to work in well-known chain hotels or as meeting and event planners
Common career paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Food service managers ($48,000)*
- Lodging managers ($47,000)*
- Meeting, convention and event planners ($46,000)*
Time to completion2 years, full-time4 years, full-time
Common graduation requirements - Liberal arts courses
- Business courses
- Core program courses
- Internship in the food service or hospitality industry
- Liberal arts courses
- Business courses
- Core program courses
- Internship or practicum
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 Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management

While most entry-level positions in food and lodging management do not require a college degree, applicants with associate's degrees may have the upper hand. This is especially true since demand for food service and lodging managers is not expected to be very high in the coming years. Associate's degree programs take 2 years to complete and give you the hands-on training that you need to stand out from the competition. Many programs require internships or cooperative experiences that can help you get your foot in the door. Once your program is completed, you can either begin your career or transfer your credits to a 4-year program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Associate's degree programs take only 2 years to complete
  • A degree can help you stand out in a wavering job climate
  • Internships can help you make contacts and give you hands-on experience

Cons

  • Many entry-level positions do not require a degree
  • The job market for food service managers is on the decline (3% decline predicted for the 2010-2020 decade); the job market for lodging managers also is bleak (8% increase predicted from 2010-2020)*
  • Online programs are not common since hands-on experience is needed to learn the skills required for hotel and restaurant management jobs

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree programs typically require some liberal arts courses, such as English, science, math and speech classes. Programs also include several business courses, such as accounting, computer applications, sales and marketing, as well as core coursework related to the major. These courses may include food and beverage management, front office procedures and executive housekeeping. Finally, you'll typically need to complete an internship or cooperative experience at a hotel or restaurant.

Online Degree Options

To learn the skills necessary to be a hospitality manager, you need to gain hands-on experience; thus, fully online programs are uncommon, and those that do exist often are offered through for-profit institutions. Some community colleges offer a limited number of online hotel and restaurant management courses, such as hospitality sales and marketing, food safety and sanitation, and hospitality law.

Stand Out with this Degree

Knowing how to operate a computer is extremely important in this industry because you'll likely be involved in budgeting, accounting, inventory and booking. While degree programs often require a course on computer applications and fundamentals, extra computer courses could help you gain advanced proficiency in different programs and applications that you might use on the job.

While certification is voluntary, it shows professional competence and could give you an additional edge over the competition. For example, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation grants the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation. Earning this designation requires you to pass an exam, complete coursework and meet experience requirements.

Bachelor's Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management

A bachelor's degree program can help you advance in your career and move up the corporate ladder. Some major hotel chains may only hire applicants with at least a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, meeting, convention and event planners who have earned their bachelor's degrees in hospitality management may begin their careers with more responsibility than those who have earned degrees in other areas.

Bachelor's degree programs in hotel and restaurant management typically focus more on the business aspects of the industry than do associate's degree programs. They are sometimes offered with a variety of different specialization options. For example, you might choose to specialize in an area such as wine and beverage studies, baking and pastry arts or sustainability in the hospitality industry.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Applicants with bachelor's degrees may have more career opportunities
  • Internships or practicums obtained through your degree program can help you get a job upon graduation
  • Being able to specialize may make you more desirable and better trained for the job of your choosing

Cons

  • The hospitality industry is not expected to experience much job growth, according to the BLS
  • If you work as a meeting, convention and event planner, long work hours are often needed before a big event
  • If you're not interested in meeting, convention and event planning or working as a manager at a large hotel, you may need only an associate's degree

Courses and Requirements

Most bachelor's degree programs in hotel and restaurant management require liberal arts courses, core hospitality courses, business courses and an internship or practicum. Liberal arts courses include English, social science, math and humanities. Business courses are imperative because, as a hotel or restaurant manager, you will be expected to lead a group and handle day-to-day operations. Your business courses may include accounting, management principles, marketing and operations management. Core hospitality courses might cover such topics as:

  • Hospitality law
  • Guest services management
  • Wine and beverage management
  • Facilities management
  • International travel and tourism

Online Degree Options

Fully online bachelor's degree programs in hospitality and restaurant management are available. Instead of completing an internship, you may be required to obtain employment in the industry or have previous related experience. Your courses will cover many of the same topics that on-campus programs cover.

Stand Out with this Degree

While earning your bachelor's degree, you could consider taking extra computer classes just as you could while earning your associate's degree. Any additional computer skills or experience is appreciated in hotel and restaurant management careers. Communication skills are also extremely important because you will be in constant contact with both employees and guests. The way you handle situations is a direct reflection on the company you are working for. You could develop these skills by taking speech and communication electives.

If you become a meeting, convention and event planner, you could earn voluntary certification. This could help with career advancement, according to the BLS. One certification you could earn is the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation offered by the Convention Industry Council.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
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    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
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    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management
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      • BS in Applied Management
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    4. Colorado Technical University

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    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
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      • BS - Business Administration - General
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    5. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Hospitality Management
      • B.S. Business Administration - No Specialization
      • B.S. General Studies - Business
      • B.S. Management - No Specialization
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    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Management
      • BS - Organizational Leadership
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    7. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors in Management
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    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
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    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Centenary University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Business Administration - Management

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • BSBA - Investment

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American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Operations Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • BS in Applied Management

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Colorado Technical University

  • BS - Business Administration - Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. Hospitality Management
  • B.S. Business Administration - No Specialization
  • B.S. General Studies - Business

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Business Management
  • BS - Organizational Leadership

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Benedictine University

  • Bachelors in Management

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Keiser University

  • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
  • Business Administration, BA - Management

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