Hotel & Hospitality Management: Master's, PhD & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a hotel and hospitality management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and doctoral degree and potential careers in this field.
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Studying Hotel and Hospitality Management: Degrees at a Glance

Success in the hospitality management field requires keen business sense and a good understanding of the lodging, tourism and hospitality industries. You may be able to enter positions in hotel and hospitality management with a high school diploma, associate degree or bachelor's degree, plus 1-5 years of work experience. However, job growth for lodging managers is expected to be below average; the BLS predicted an 8% increase between 2010 and 2020. The specialized training you receive in a master's or doctoral degree program can make you more appealing to employers, particularly if you want to work in research or academia.

Master's Doctorate
Who Is This Degree For? - Those working in the hotel and hospitality industry who want to advance their careers
- Students who want to specialize in an area of research with the idea of continuing into a research or academic career
- Students interested in advanced research in the tourism and hospitality industry or university-level teaching positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - General hotel manager ($51,000)*
- Front office manager ($41,000)*
Revenue manager ($60,000)*
- Academic faculty ($75,000 for postsecondary business teachers)**
Time to Completion - 1 year to 18 months (full time)
- 2 years (part time)
- 3-4 years (full time)
Common Graduation Requirements - 30-36 credit hours
- Research component, including oral defense
- Internship
- 60-80 credit hours beyond undergraduate or master's degree program, including research credits in your area of focus
- Comprehensive exam
- Dissertation project and defense exam
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree in hospitality, tourism or a related field, including courses in statistics, accounting, economics and computer science
- 1-3 years of work experience
- Good command of the English language
- Bachelor's or master's degree - At least one year of work experience
Online Availability Yes Uncommon

Sources: * (April 2012 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Hotel and Hospitality Management

Master's degree programs in hotel and hospitality management can be geared toward industry research or professional development, so be sure you choose the program with the career outcome you prefer. Both tracks usually include an internship in addition to coursework in finance, technology and personnel management. The program can typically be completed in less than two years and might include a thesis option or other research-oriented project. Admission requirements often include a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

Pros and Cons


  • Offers internship opportunities that provide experience and insight into the field
  • Above-average earning potential (top 10% of hotel managers earned $92,000 or more in 2012)*
  • Opportunity to perform research in your area of interest


  • A graduate degree is not a common requirement in this field, unless you want to do research
  • An MBA with a concentration in tourism or hospitality can earn you more than a graduate degree in the hospitality management field (top 10% of hotel managers with MBAs earned $103,000 or more in 2012)*
  • Below-average increase in job opportunities, decrease in some areas (only 8% increase for lodging managers and 3% decrease for food service managers from 2010-2020)**

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Courses in a master's program usually cover both management theories and advanced industry-specific knowledge. The curriculum also includes research-oriented courses that prepare you for your final project. Common topics may include:

  • Financial management
  • Organizational structure
  • Hospitality services
  • Human resources management
  • Research methodologies
  • Statistics

Your research project or thesis will usually include an oral defense. However, not all programs have a research requirement.

Online Degree Options

Master's programs are available online for busy professionals. Online courses are often offered in shorter blocks (several weeks per class rather than a full semester) and can be completed at your own pace. You'll stay in touch with teachers and peers via e-mail, discussion boards and Web-delivered meetings.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you plan to work in a hotel or hospitality-related business, being able to use the latest technology can help you stand out in your field. With this in mind, you might choose to focus your studies on an area like management information systems. This kind of specialization can improve your knowledge of software tools, such as databases and spreadsheets, to better manage business records and finances.

You might also choose to pursue a professional management certification from an organization like the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. You can earn certification in areas such as front desk management, revenue management, housekeeping management or maintenance management. To earn any of these credentials, you need to pass an exam.

Degree Alternatives

If you're interested in a graduate program that may give you higher earning potential than a master's degree in hotel and hospitality, consider earning an MBA with a concentration in hospitality management. Many of these programs are available either on campus or online. Common topics can include management strategies, organizational design, marketing and revenue. According to in April 2012, most hotel managers earned from $25,000-$92,000 annually, but the top 10% of those with an MBA earned more than $103,000 a year.

Doctoral Degree in Hotel and Hospitality Management

Doctoral degrees in hotel and hospitality management aren't required in order to work in a hotel or hospitality business. Doctoral programs focus primarily on giving you the skills to perform original research in a specific area of the hospitality, restaurant, travel or tourism industry; you'll also gain teaching experience. The number of students in a doctoral degree program is often small, allowing you to work closely with faculty as you develop a research concept and find ways to put your theories into practice. Full-time enrollment is usually required.

Pros and Cons


  • Opportunities to perform and present original research
  • Exposure to leaders in the hospitality research field
  • Small classes encourage individual relationships between faculty and students
  • Average growth in employment opportunities for all professors (17% increase expected from 2010-2020); however, over 300,000 new jobs are expected during this time*


  • Program completion can take many years
  • Career opportunities are typically limited to research or postsecondary teaching
  • Some programs don't offer full funding for the amount of time it can take to complete the program

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Doctoral courses cover research methodologies and advanced hospitality management topics. Some programs require you to take courses in other areas to broaden your knowledge base. Other courses are designed to help you with your career as an educator. Examples of doctoral courses in hotel and hospitality management include:

  • Advanced marketing in hospitality
  • Industry psychology
  • Quality management
  • Consumer concepts
  • Adult education techniques

You're also required to complete a research project, and several of your courses will be directed toward your individual research interest. Upon completion, you must successfully defend your research to a dissertation committee.

Online Degree Options

Most doctoral degree programs are not available in a distance-learning format; however, there are some programs that have a flexible format and schedule. You'll usually attend a few on-campus sessions, but most of your courses can be completed online. Like campus-based programs, you still need to complete original research and an oral defense of your project.

Stand Out with This Degree

Developing good relationships with program faculty may help you get ahead with this degree. Professors often have contacts in academia and private industry; they may know of potential job opportunities. If you expect to teach in the field, you might want to expand your instructional abilities by incorporating technology courses into your curriculum. You may be able to take classes in computer-assisted instruction or instruction in the use of media in education.

Degree Alternatives

If you're less interested in research or academia, an alternative to a Doctor of Philosophy in Hospital Management is a Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration with a concentration in tourism. In this type of program, your core courses are in business, while your concentration courses are in hospitality and tourism. Completing this degree can still prepare you for work as a researcher or academic, but it can also train you for leadership positions in the administration of various tourism or hospitality businesses.

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