Hospitality Management: Bachelor, Associate & Online Degree Info

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Earning a degree in hospitality management can lead to a career in the travel and tourism industry. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options, and find out what you can do with your associate's or bachelor's degree in hospitality management.
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Hospitality Management Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

The study of hospitality management gives students the knowledge and skills necessary for operations and leadership positions in tourism, hotel management, or food service. In this interdisciplinary field, students learn general business skills and gain expertise in a particular area of interest, such as lodging, restaurant operations, events, catering management, or travel. Graduates generally seek employment with hotels, convention centers, casinos, cruise ships, restaurants, theme parks, country clubs, and travel agencies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for hospitality management degree holders vary by industry. The BLS also reports that event and meeting planners will see the fastest job growth (44% between 2010 and 2020), while lodging managers will see slower-than-average growth (8%), and that food service management jobs will actually decline 3% from 2010 to 2020. Employment for travel agents is expected to grow 10%, or about as fast as average, during this same time period.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Students seeking entry-level positions in hospitality, tourism, or food service Individuals who want to become managers in the hospitality industry
Common Career Paths (with approximate average annual salary) - Hotel manager ($55,000)**
- Restaurant manager ($53,000)**
- Event & meeting planner ($50,000)**
- Travel agent ($36,000)**
- Guest services manager ($33,000 - may vary depending on experience)**
- Food & beverage manager ($51,000 - may vary depending on experience)**
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 60-69 credit hours
- Practicum and/or Internship
- Approximately 120 credit hours
-Foundation courses in business
-Work experience
- Internship
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED - High school diploma, GED, or prior college coursework
- Test scores (ACT or SAT)
Online Availability Hybrid available Hybrid available

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

Associate's in Hospitality Management

Associate's degree programs in hospitality management prepare you for entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry or enrollment in a bachelor's degree program. Most associate's degree programs emphasize applied learning and require students to participate in one or more practicums and an internship. In some cases, current employment in a hospitality-related job can substitute for an internship.

Pros and Cons


  • Internships give you the opportunity to gain real-world experience and may lead to future employment
  • An associate's degree can give you a competitive advantage over job seekers without a degree
  • Teaches you fundamental skills that can be used in many different areas of the hospitality industry


  • Internships typically involve 300 or more hours of work and are not always paid
  • Bachelor's degree is required for most positions in lodging management and event planning*
  • Employment in some segments of the hospitality industry, such as food service, is declining*

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

Common Courses and Requirements

Receiving an associate's degree in hospitality management requires 60-69 credit hours. About half of all credits are earned through general education coursework in English, math, science, and communications. The remainder of classes are designed to incorporate business principles, such as marketing and finance, with practical skills in hospitality operations. Internships are an integral part of this degree program and many schools establish partnerships with well-known hotels, resorts, and restaurants to provide internships for their students.

The following courses are often found in a hospitality management associate's degree program:

  • Employee relations
  • Food science
  • Sanitation
  • Tourism planning
  • Customer service
  • Lodging operations

Online Degree Options

There are very few associate's degree programs in hospitality management that can be completed 100% online. Those that are available often lack the hands-on learning component found in an on-campus program. Many programs offer a hybrid curriculum, which allows you to take your general education courses online and core hospitality courses in the classroom.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To get ahead of your competition, learn to use word processing and spreadsheet programs during your studies. Many of the day-to-day functions of a hospitality business rely on these applications.

Additionally, to stand out in the crowd, focus your studies on one area of the hospitality industry, such as restaurant management or tourism. Selecting an area of focus will show employers your expertise and possibly make finding employment in that area easier.

Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management

A bachelor's degree can help you advance in your current career or seek new opportunities in hospitality management. The core curriculum of a bachelor's degree hospitality management program is designed to equip you with the strategic planning, cost control, customer service, and team building skills necessary to succeed in the travel, tourism, hotel, or food service industries.

A bachelor's degree in hospitality management can be earned as a stand-alone degree (often a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management) or as part of a business administration degree. In either program, students take courses in accounting, statistics, marketing, and finance, as well as complete a core curriculum of hospitality-based classes. Intensive internships and practicums are required throughout these 4-year programs.

Pros and Cons


  • Event planners are expected to see record growth in employment (44%) between 2010 and 2020*
  • Unlike associate's degree programs, bachelor's degree seekers can choose an area of emphasis that matches their individual interests
  • A bachelor's degree can give you an advantage in some of the more competitive areas of the hospitality job market


  • In addition to one or more internships, a work training experience of up to 1,000 hours is often required
  • A degree may not be required for some positions, and work experience may get you just as far in your career as earning a bachelor's degree
  • Salaries for entry-level jobs in hospitality management do not vary much by degree level*

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

Common Courses and Requirements

Earning a bachelor's in hospitality management requires completion of a minimum of 120 credit hours of study. Many universities offer students the opportunity to specialize or minor in one area, such as event management, travel and tourism, catering, or beverage management. Depending on your area of emphasis, you will also be expected to complete one or more internships.

The following courses are commonly offered as part of a bachelor's degree in hospitality management:

  • Food production
  • Cost control
  • Human resources
  • Facilities management
  • Hotel operations
  • International tourism

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degree programs are rare. A few exist, but focus almost exclusively on general business and management skills related to the hospitality industry. There is no internship requirement with these programs, and thus online students do not receive the same practical work experience as do their on-campus counterparts. Similar to the associate's degree, hybrid programs are available and allow you to take some coursework online while completing practicums and experiential learning courses in the classroom.

How to Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out with your bachelor's degree in hospitality management, consider taking a course in the technology used in the industry. Most hotels and restaurants rely on computer-based reservation or point-of-sale systems to conduct daily transactions. Being familiar with the operation and use of these programs may make your resume stand out against your competition.

Additionally, consider earning professional certification. The Convention Industry Council offers meeting, event, and convention planners the opportunity to earn the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. Bachelor's degree holders with 24 months of work experience can sit for an exam to show their expertise in the field.

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