Hospitality Management Education and Career Guide


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How to Become a Hospitality Manager

hospitality hotel manager presents guest with charges
hospitality manager registers hotel guest

What is a Hospitality Manager?

Hospitality managers are responsible for ensuring that businesses in the tourism and entertainment industry operate smoothly and meet their clients' needs. The job is often fast-paced, and great hospitality managers are skilled at engaging with a variety of people. In a single day, a hospitality manager might check in with staff, review financial statements, address customer concerns, and schedule workers for the coming week.

One of the great advantages of pursuing a career in hospitality is that the field is so broad you can work in many settings—hotels, foodservice and restaurants, tourism, entertainment, event planning, and more. Whether you want to manage a casino or help ensure weddings go off without a hitch, pursuing an education in hospitality management could help you achieve that goal.

In this Article

Steps to Become a Hospitality Manager

Find the Right School

There are plenty of schools that offer hospitality degrees, but it's important to find a school that's right for your goals and your career plan. Some considerations might include:

Accreditation: Accreditation confirms that a school meets or exceeds minimum quality standards, so you know that you'll be getting a solid education. Some employers or graduate programs will also require that you have an undergraduate degree from an accredited school, so attending an accredited school from the start can influence your future education and career path.

A hospitality specialty that interests you: Hospitality can encompass everything from event planning to hotel management. A degree program that has a concentration in a field you want to pursue will provide the education that can best prepare you for your career.

Online programs: If you'll work while you're in school or don't live near the program of your choice, an online program can provide the flexibility you'll need for your studies.

Select a Bachelor's Degree

You'll want to carefully consider which program is right for you. An associate degree in hospitality management will provide an introduction to the field, but it will lack the depth of a bachelor's degree, which you'll likely need to move into management.

Competition can depend greatly on the specific position you're applying for, according to May Silvers, former director of catering and event planning for several luxury hotels who now runs M2 Hospitality. She added that the degree you hold can play a large part in getting management-level positions.

You can choose from several bachelor's degrees in hospitality management. Some of the most common:

Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management: The most general of all the hospitality degrees, this program provides an education in many areas of the hospitality industry, including restaurants, hotels, and event management.

Bachelor of Arts in Hotel and Restaurant Management: Designed for students who plan to work in the hotel and restaurant industry, this program dives deeply into food safety, staffing, purchasing, marketing, and more.

Bachelor of Arts in Event Management: This degree prepares students to oversee events like banquets, weddings, large company meetings, and conventions.

Earn Admission into a Program

Every hospitality program has its own prerequisites for admission, but there are some that are common to most bachelor's programs: a high school diploma, SAT scores, and a minimum GPA for high school coursework.

Complete Your Coursework

Regardless of which field you choose, most bachelor's degrees in hospitality will include courses on:

• Statistics
Accounting and finance
• Psychology and sociology
• Food and beverage control and safety
Human resources
Marketing

In addition to your coursework, you'll also want to complete an internship. This training will give you real-world experience and give you the opportunity the make connections that may help you find your first job.

Land Your First Job

Once you have your degree, be prepared to work in one or two entry-level jobs before moving up your first hospitality management position. The reputation of your program, whether you've pursued any certifications, your internship, and any previous experience can influence how competitive you are as a job applicant. If you have a certification in your field, you may be able to move into management faster than a candidate who lacks certification.

Entry-level jobs can give you valuable experience, though. For example, working as an assistant to an event manager will give you the opportunity to learn every day on the job. Other entry-level positions include working as a casino greeter or in the front of the house in a hotel or restaurant.

Move Ahead with a Certification

Professional certifications demonstrate deep knowledge and expertise in a field, usually beyond what you'll learn in school, and can help you stand out and advance your career.
There are many hospitality management certifications. Some of the most common include:

• Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)

• Accredited Wedding Planner (AWP)

• Certified Hospitality Sales Professional (CHSP)

Hospitality management requires the knowledge you'll gain in school, but soft skills, especially interacting with others, also are a crucial part of this profession.

"In the hospitality field, you'll be working with people from all different levels of social, economic, and cultural backgrounds," says Silvers. "You can learn from books, but you need people skills to succeed."

If you're a positive person who is empathetic and enjoys leading teams and solving problems, hospitality management could be a promising career for you.

Hospitality managers must make sure the people they serve are satisfied with their experience and solve any problems that arise. To do this, a hospitality manager must motivate their staff to do well, and this requires leading by example.

"Think about how well you react under stressful conditions," says Silvers. "When you're dealing with people, emotions are high. In the hospitality field, there are high expectations." 

If you're a positive person who is empathetic and enjoys leading teams and solving problems, hospitality management could be a promising career for you.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Hospitality Manager?

Your path to becoming a hospitality manager will depend on your degree program, experience, and how competitive the management position is. Most bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete, and you'll typically need to work in an entry-level position before you reach a management role.

From the time that you start your bachelor's degree, you might become a hospitality manager in as little as six years.

Job Outlook and Salary

Since the hospitality industry consists of many sectors, the job outlook and salary can vary by position.

For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual pay for lodging managers such as hotel managers is $59,430. Employment of hotel managers is predicted to grow by 18 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than job growth across all industries. 

The median annual pay for food service managers is similar at $59,440, according to the BLS, but employment in this area is forecast to grow slower, at 10 percent through 2031.

Professional Resources

Professional resources can help you to stay on top of trends in your field, network, and advance your career. Here's a sampling to get started.

  • Hospitality Upgrade is a publication that provides hospitality news and information through its magazine, newsletter, and blog.
  • The Event Service Professionals Association represents these professionals throughout North America and provides educational opportunities, including webinars and annual conferences.
  • Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals is an international association that provides virtual education, conferences, and career opportunities. 
  • Hotel Business is a magazine that provides hospitality news about the hotel and lodging industry.
  • The American Hotel & Lodging Association offers a member resource center, a research and data center, and an industry report.

paige cerulli

Written and reported by:

Paige Cerulli

Contributing Writer

may silvers

With professional insights from:

May Silvers

Owner, M2 Hospitality

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