What is a Hotel Management Degree?

Degree programs in hotel management prepare students for careers as managers of hotels, motels, resorts, and other lodging businesses.

The typical curriculum includes an internship, during which students have an opportunity to work in the field and learn from seasoned professionals. This hands-on experience is preceded by coursework in the various aspects of hotel management. These are some examples of classes offered by many schools:

  • Human Resources Management
  • Hospitality Facilities Operations and Management
  • Hospitality and Tourism Marketing
  • Hospitality and Tourism Sales
  • Hotel Front Office Operations
  • Hotel Food and Beverage Operations
  • Customer Service
  • Hotel Industry Financial Accounting
  • Hospitality Law
  • Management Information Systems for the Hotel Industry

Program Options

Associate Degree in Hotel Management - Two Year Duration
In most cases, an Associate Degree in Hotel Management prepares students for entry- and mid- level roles in the lodging industry. These may include dining room/banquet supervisor, front-office supervisor, or guest services associate.

The typical curriculum at this level covers:

  • Overview of Hotel Operations (rooms/housekeeping, food and beverage, conference services)
  • Introduction to Human Resources Management
  • Food Preparation and Service
  • Purchasing and Cost Control in the Hotel Industry

Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management - Four Year Duration
For individuals seeking management roles in the hotel field, a bachelor’s degree is generally the minimum education requirement. Bachelor’s programs in hotel management tend to combine liberal arts courses like English, history, and foreign languages with industry-specific classes, such as the following:

  • Menu Planning & Design, Catering, and Food Service
  • Conference Planning
  • Hiring Practices
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Employee and Public Relations
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Hotel Accounting, Finance, and Budgeting
  • Marketing, Advertising, and Sales for the Hotel Industry
  • Hospitality Law and Ethics

Master’s Degree in Hotel Management - Two Year Duration
Graduates with a Master’s Degree in Hotel Management generally qualify for positions like hotel manager, general manager, and other executive-level roles such as manager of convention or conference services.

Coursework at this level is considerably more advanced and includes classes in:

  • Human Resources Management
  • Market Research
  • Research Methods
  • Hotel Management
  • Financial Planning and Budgeting
  • Cost Analysis
  • Casino/Gaming Operations
  • Hotel Food Service and Restaurant Development
  • Hospitality Sector Technologies/Management Information Systems
  • Organizational Management
  • Tourism Marketing
  • Conference and Event Management

Doctoral Degree in Hotel Management - Two to Five Year Duration
As is true for most doctoral degrees, the Ph.D. in Hotel Management is research-based. Doctoral graduates often go on to work as chief executive officers of large hotels, hotel chains, or other hospitality-related businesses. They may become hotel management consultants. Many become hospitality researchers and/or teach hotel management at the university level.

At this level of education, programs are individualized. Among the hospitality-focused concentrations available to hotel management doctoral candidates are:

  • Branding Strategy
  • New Hotel Product Development
  • Hospitality Real Estate Development and Management
  • Facilities and Operations Management
  • Management Information Systems for the Hospitality Sector
  • Hotel Services Marketing and Sales
  • Hospitality Sector Financial Management
  • Hospitality Sector Human Resources Management

Degrees Similar to Hotel 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.

The finance field is concerned with how individuals, businesses, and organizations raise, distribute, and use money. Majors in this field learn how to make financial decisions concerning raising funds, investments, and cost control for organizations. Topics covered include budgets, stocks and bonds, and interest rates.

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.

Hospitality Management
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.

Human Resources Management
Individuals working in the human resources sector must have the capacity to interact with a very broad range of people. They must be effective communicators, interviewers, and conflict mediators.

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.

Public Relations
Public relations officers need to know how to appeal to their target audience. An understanding of sociology, of the different values and views held by different cultures and groups, is therefore both very important and very useful.

Skills You’ll Learn

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

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

What Can You Do with a Hotel Management Degree?

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

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

Cruise Lines and Luxury Rail Services
Cruise ships and high-end/luxury trains, of course, have a hotel component. These sectors, therefore, are also significant employers of hotel management grads.

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, tradeshows, speaker programs, and festivals. Hotel management graduates, especially those with some hotel conference services experience, may also be well-suited to working in this part of the hospitality industry.

Luxury Retirement / Senior Living Homes
In many ways, luxury retirement and senior living homes operate like luxury hotels and resorts. They offer their residents 5-star accommodation; fine dining; and high-end facilities like gyms, spas, golf-courses, and entertainment options.

Private Clubs
Private clubs such as golf clubs, tennis clubs, and business clubs can benefit from the skills and knowledge gained from hotel management graduates.

Restaurants and Catering Companies
A degree in hotel management can lead graduates to positions in the restaurant and catering industries. Among the possible roles are restaurant manager, food and beverage manager, sommelier, and catering manager.


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