Food & Beverage Management: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

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What kind of jobs can you get with an associate or bachelor's degree in food and beverage management? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses in food and beverage management programs.
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Studying Food and Beverage Management: Undergraduate Degree Programs at a Glance

Food and beverage managers are responsible for the inventory in a restaurant and duties may include ordering food and beverages, complying with safety standards and managing budgets. As a manager, you will often coordinate with the executive chef or head cook on menu items, food preparation and meal presentation.

In some establishments, food and beverage managers may also oversee staff hiring, training and scheduling. However, in larger restaurants, food and beverage managers may be part of a management team. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you don't need a formal degree to work in food and beverage management, but some post-secondary training is preferred when combined with experience.

Although food and beverage management degrees are available at the undergraduate degree level, graduates may need to obtain experience in the field before earning a management position. The BLS predicted that employment for food service managers would decline three percent from 2010-2020. The BLS noted that this might be due to the number of new restaurants and bars declining.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in food management positions Those who want to expand their career options within the food industry
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Fast Food Cook ($19,000)*
-Head chef ($47,000)*
-Food service manager ($53,000)*
-Lodging manager ($55,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements -About 20-24 courses -40-48 courses
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Some online courses are available Yes

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

Associate in Food and Beverage Management

An associate degree in food and beverage management is a 2-year program that combines classroom courses with practical experience. This program may be ideal if you already have experience in the food service industry and want to pursue management opportunities. In addition to food-related courses, students will also learn about basic business management practices. While not required, some programs recommend that students seek out an internship during the summer to supplement classes. It's important for graduates to be aware that experience may be valued over education in the job market.

Pros and Cons


  • Some programs offer transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program
  • You can gain business skills
  • You may have an advantage in the job market over applicants without a degree*


  • You may be competing for jobs against applicants who have experience*
  • Employment opportunities are expected to decline between 2010 and 2020*
  • You may have to work long hours*

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

Courses and Requirements

Students in a food and beverage management associate degree program will take courses involving culinary arts and business. Culinary arts courses will teach you the basics of food preparation, food production, nutrition, catering and baking. In order to prepare for management positions, business courses will involve marketing, accounting and managing. The program will also require you to complete general education requirements in communications, humanities, math and science.

Online Course Options

Online programs at the associate degree level are not currently available. This may be due to the hands-on nature of many programs. However, students will be able to find online associate degree programs in related fields, such as hotel and restaurant management or hospitality management. Studying online can still prepare you for employment opportunities in the food and beverage management field. These programs cover many of the same topics and offer similar classes as a food and beverage management program, including food and beverage service, accounting and business writing.

How to Stand out in the Field

One of the best ways to stand out in the field is to gain experience. You may consider working part-time in a restaurant as a waiter or cook while earning your degree. Another option is pursue an internship during the summer. In order to work in a management position, the BLS notes that it's important that you have strong customer service, leadership, management and problem-solving skills, so it can also be helpful to take any available elective courses in these areas.

Bachelor's in Food and Beverage Management

At the bachelor's degree level, food and beverage management may be offered as a concentration or track. You will be able to take high-level business courses and open up additional career opportunities, such as management positions in hotels and casinos.

Graduates may also be qualified to find entry-level positions within food and beverage businesses and organizations. These programs are designed to teach students how to analyze costs and accounting practices, manage staff and ensure profitability. However, those who want to manage in bars and restaurants may only need to earn a high school diploma or associate degree.

Pros and Cons


  • Bachelor's degree programs can provide training in business topics
  • Additional employment opportunities*
  • You can prepare to manage your own restaurant (42% of food and beverage managers were self-employed in 2011)*


  • Dealing with customers can be stressful
  • Work nights and weekends
  • You may be competing against applicants with lower education and more experience*
  • Higher education may not always result in better paying jobs*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

While the course topics in a bachelor's degree program will resemble those found in an associate degree program, students will take higher-level courses in more topics. For example, you can learn about regional and ethnic cuisine, wine and spirits fine dining, contracts and business management.

To learn how to manage the operations of a restaurant, students may be required to complete a business plan that will involve inventory control, marketing and overhead. Students may also be required to complete an internship in a professional setting.

Online Course Options

Online programs at this level are available, as well as related programs in hospitality management. You can also find online degree completion programs that will require you to complete your first two years of study on-campus or through an associate degree program. You will be able to study similar topics to campus-based programs through online lecture and communication with professors utilizing e-mail and discussion forums. In order to complete your professional practice or internship, you may be required to find a location, such as a restaurant or hotel, in your area.

How to Stand out

While it's not required to work in the field, you may consider obtaining professional certification. For example, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation offers the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) designation. In order to earn this certification, you will need to meet the minimum work experience and specialized training requirements, as well as take the FMP examination. You can also pursue a Certified Professional Food Manager (CPFM) training and certification program offered by Prometric. Requirements for pursuing the CPFM credential are generally set by the jurisdiction or organization.

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