What is a Hospitality Management Degree?

Degree programs in hospitality management teach students how to operate hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that serve business travelers and vacationers. Coursework may vary from one curriculum to another, depending on whether the program offers general hospitality management training or is focused on a specialty area, such as travel agency operations, restaurant management, or hotel management. Regardless of the specific course content or concentration, students are likely to take some or all of the following classes:

  • Employee Labor Relations
  • Facilities Design
  • Food Service Operations
  • Hospitality Finance: Budgeting and Payroll
  • Hospitality Law
  • Hotel and Resort Operations
  • Inventory Management
  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Meetings and Events Management
  • Scheduling
  • Tourism Geography

Program Options

Associate Degree in Hospitality Management - Two Year Duration
This degree program prepares students to continue their studies in a bachelor’s program or to work in administrative and entry-level roles in the field. Coursework typically includes food and beverage ordering and inventory management, wine and beverage control, basic bookkeeping, and an introduction to advertising.

Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management - Four Year Duration
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management, graduates generally qualify for positions as food and beverage managers, conference coordinators, gaming supervisors or managers, and assistant lodging/front-desk managers. At this level of education students can typically choose a concentration such as gaming management, meetings and events, restaurant management, or PGA golf tournament.

These are examples of classes that are commonly offered in hospitality management bachelor’s programs:

  • Foundations of Hotel Management – hotel and resort operations; maintaining service standards
  • Food and Beverage Management – restaurant operations; food and beverage purchasing
  • Wine History and Culture – wine styles; old world wine regions; new world wine regions
  • Meetings and Events Management – corporate meetings, conferences, and incentive travel management
  • Human Resource Management – hiring hospitality staff and managers
  • Hospitality Facilities and Operations Management – design features used in the hospitality industry; space planning; floor layouts
  • Technology for the Hospitality Industry – software and systems used in the hospitality industry

Master’s Degree in Hospitality Management - Two Year Duration
Holders of a Master’s Degree in Hospitality Management may find employment as hospitality training and development managers, hospitality industry office managers or administrative service mangers, meetings and event planners, hospitality advertising and marketing managers, and hospitality industry sales managers. Concentration options at the master’s level include event management, marketing management, operations and revenue management, and entrepreneurship.

Classes in master’s degree programs include:

  • Human Resource Management in the Hospitality Industry – workforce management theories and practices
  • Global Service Management – navigating cultural and language barriers in serving international guests
  • Corporate Finance – making and managing money in the hospitality field
  • Franchising in Hospitality – laws and best practices pertaining to hospitality franchises
  • Hospitality Business law – laws that govern the hospitality industry

Doctoral Degree in Hospitality Management - Four to Eight Year Duration
Doctorate programs in hospitality management instruct students in the formulation of new and original theories and ideas for the industry. The typical curriculum is divided into four sub-areas, as follows:

  • Tourism and Hospitality Business Operation Management – hotel management, human resource management, organizational behavior, consumer behavior, service marketing
  • Tourism, Event, and Recreational Management – applications of technology in hospitality and tourism, economics of tourism, social and cultural impacts of tourism, reducing poverty via tourism, special interest tourism, sport and event management, sustainable and responsible tourism
  • Tourism and Hospitality Business Development Management – entrepreneurship, environmental management, hospitality and tourism real estate development
  • Food Science – food safety management

Degrees Similar to Hospitality Management

Business Administration
Business administration includes overseeing finances, staffing, and contract negotiations. A business administration degree program, therefore, teaches students how to plan, organize, and direct all the activities of an organization.

Culinary Arts
Culinary arts are the arts of preparing, cooking, and presenting food. Food that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the taste buds is the goal of the culinary artist. Degree programs in the field prepare students for a variety of roles within the food and hospitality arenas. The typical curriculum covers professional cooking techniques, world cuisines, how to balance flavors, food aesthetics, and menu planning.

Food Service Management
Degrees in food service management are targeted at individuals who wish to combine their passion for food with an interest in managing a food-related business.

International Business
Students of international business study business from a global perspective. They learn how to work cross-culturally, how to manage multinational businesses, and how to turn local and national companies into international corporations. Coursework often includes some foreign language studies, as well.

Recreation and Leisure Studies
This degree field focuses on the theories of recreation and leisure and teaches students how to market and provide recreational and leisure services to consumers. Coursework covers area and facility design, recreation for specific populations, legal issues in leisure services, and recreation leadership.

Professional Golf Management
Degree programs in professional golf management teach students the skills they need to work as golf club professionals and golf instructors. Typical courses include golf management and accounting, turf management, coaching and player development, and food and beverage management.

Skills You’ll Learn

By its nature, the hospitality industry is about customer service and the customer experience. Therefore, perhaps more than in any other business sector, soft skills are very much sought after by employers. It follows, then, that hospitality management programs include the teaching of such skills as part of their curriculum. Graduates come away with skills in:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self confidence
  • Resilience
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Management
  • Problem-solving
  • Networking
  • Emotional intelligence

What Can You Do with a Hospitality Management Degree?

Hotels, Resorts, and Casinos
Opportunities for hospitality management graduates exist with hotel chains, independent boutique hotels, business hotels, apartment hotels, casino hotels, and resorts. Within each of these sectors there are jobs with food and beverage outlets, the front-desk/reception, reservations, concierge/guest services, conference services, the rooms division, kitchens, human resources, and payroll.

A degree in hospitality management can lead graduates to positions in the restaurant industry. Among the possible roles are restaurant manager, food and beverage manager, and sommelier.

Airlines, Airports, and Ground Handling Agents
Holders of a hospitality management degree may pursue potential positions in the various areas of airline operations: passenger service, reservations, marketing, sales, and inflight crew. Passenger service agent jobs are also offered by handling agents and airport authorities, to which many airlines subcontract their ground handling. Services that are often subcontracted include check-in counter services; gate arrival and departure services; customer service and transfer counters; and airline lounges.

Tourism / Destination Management
Tourism attractions worldwide need to hire personnel with training in customer service and hospitality. Jobs exist with museums, art galleries, historical monuments and buildings, national parks, theme parks, aquariums, zoos, and landmarks. Cruise lines, luxury trains, and city tour companies are also significant employers of hospitality management grads.

In addition, in most major cities there are destination management companies that coordinate all of these tourism products for companies that hire them to organize incentive or reward travel programs for their employees or customers. Local tourism boards also employ individuals with a hospitality management background.

Event Management
This sector of the hospitality industry is very specialized. It includes meetings, incentives (corporate reward programs), conferences, and events. Event management specialists plan, organize, and execute events of all kinds and all sizes. While corporate conventions and incentive travel programs form a large part of this subfield, the sector also includes events like concerts, trade shows, speaker programs, and festivals.

Conference and Exhibition Centers and Event Venues
These facilities are central to the hospitality industry and employ significant numbers of people, many of whom have a background in hospitality and tourism.

Luxury Brand and Experience Management
Luxury brands target their luxury products to luxury consumers. These brands come from non-traditional hospitality sectors: high-end products like yachts and private jets; and exclusive jewellery, fashion, cars, wines, spirits, financial services, gaming establishments, and spas. They are more recent employers of hospitality graduates, as they recognize the value of creating upscale buying experiences for their exclusive clientele.


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