Hospitality Management Education and Career Guide

Home » Hospitality Management » Education

Guide to Earning a Degree in Hospitality Management

woman hotel manager hands room key to guest

A bachelor's degree in hospitality management is a comprehensive education for careers in leadership positions as hotel managers, restaurant managers, event managers, and more. From learning how to best engage with customers to understanding how to create and read a budget, these programs prepare you for the challenges that you'll face on the job.

In this Article

Associate Degree in Hospitality Management Overview

Even though a bachelor's degree is the degree of choice for hospitality management roles, don't rule out an associate degree to get your foot in the door. If you're dealing with time constraints and want to enter the field after two years of school instead of four, an associate degree can lay the groundwork for entry-level management duties—and make the path to bachelor's degree completion shorter.

You can even reach your professional goal of becoming a manager by pursuing a bachelor's degree online while you work after completing your associate degree and entering the workforce.

If you decide to pursue an associate, you'll need to have graduated from high school or earned your GED. When researching programs, make sure they hold accredited status so if you decide to pursue a bachelor's later your hard-earned credits will transfer and be applied to your four-year program. You can find accredited associate programs from community colleges, vocational schools, and four-year colleges and universities.

Here's some of the coursework you can expect to study at the associate-level:

  • Introduction to the hospitality, culinary, and tourism industries
  • Accounting basics
  • Lodging, beverage, and restaurant operations management
  • Psychology
  • Customer relations
  • Financial management
  • Writing and presentation
  • Communications
  • Spreadsheets and office administration technology

You should also expect to complete a requisite number of hours practicing what you've learned and applying your skills to your area of specialty. A good program may offer a set number of hours of on-the-job training, or an internship coordinated by your college with area businesses that offer dining, lodging, spa, convention, or travel services.

Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management Overview

A bachelor's degree can prepare you for a wide range of hospitality management positions. Hospitality is a broad field, but you'll leave school with the basic skills you'll need to succeed in roles such as:

  • Hotel Manager
  • Casino Manager
  • Event Manager
  • Wedding Planner
  • Resort Manager
  • Tourism Manager

What's more, you can often tailor a degree to your interests, taking additional coursework that's specific to the field you want to pursue.

Types of Bachelor's in Hospitality Management

There are many types of hospitality degrees that you can choose from, and they can vary by school and program. Some of the most common include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality
  • Bachelor of Science in Restaurant and Foodservice Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Hotel Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Event Management

You'll find that some programs offer concentrations in certain fields such as event management or food service. Deciding which program is right for you will depend on your career goals.

If you already know that you want to work in a specific hospitality industry, choosing a program with a concentration in that field could be a smart move.

If you're undecided about a career, choosing a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality could be the best option. These programs typically provide an education that applies to roles across the hospitality industry, so once you have your degree, you could go on to work in a restaurant, a hotel, a casino, or another setting.

"If you pursue a generic hospitality management degree, then you'll learn everything," says May Silvers, who worked as a director of catering and event planning at several luxury hotels before starting her own company, M2 Hospitality, in 2012. "That includes how to manage sleeping rooms, how to manage a restaurant, how to do events, and more, but the information is not as in-depth or as focused as a degree in a specific field, like event management."

If you already know that you want to work in a specific field, choosing a program with a concentration in that area could be a smart move. You'll gain more in-depth knowledge and skills in your specialty and be better prepared for your career, as a result. 

"If you're taking a restaurant management degree program, you'll learn 100% about food and beverage, staffing, and food and beverage regulations," says Silvers. "If you go into event planning, that degree is very focused on the specifics of the event field."

Hospitality Management Education Prerequisites

Depending on the program, you'll likely need to meet some or all of the following admission prerequisites:

High school diploma: If you haven't completed high school, some schools will accept a GED in place of a diploma.

GPA: Some schools require a minimum cumulative high school GPA. These can range from 2.0 up to about 3.5 for more competitive schools.

SAT scores: A school may also require that you submit SAT scores, so it's a good idea to take this college admissions exam.

Bachelor's of Hospitality Curriculum

Regardless of which degree or concentration you pursue, you can expect to take certain core classes that apply to the hospitality industry.

  • Food preparation techniques
  • Restaurant management
  • Guest services management
  • Hospitality information systems
  • Hospitality communications
  • Hospitality industry finance
  • Lodging operations
  • Revenue management

Depending on your interests, you may be able to pursue hospitality concentrations in areas such as:

Pursuing Internships

Virtually all hospitality degree programs require you to complete an internship, which can be great preparation for your career. Internships give you an opportunity to step into a business and see how it operates. You'll get a sense of what a day-to-day career would look like and have the chance to put the skills you've learned in school to use. Internships vary in length, but some can require as much as 1,000 hours of work, the equivalent of six months.

Virtually all hospitality degree programs require you to complete an internship, which can be great preparation for your career.

Internships are available in many fields, so you'll want to choose one that tracks with your career goals.

  • Hotel guest services intern: Ideal for students planning a career in lodging hospitality. You'll learn about the inner workings of hotel management, how to best engage with guests, and how to manage schedules and coordinate staff.
  • Food and beverage intern: For students planning for a management position in the restaurant industry. You'll learn about food preparation, ordering, and customer service.
  • Event coordinator intern: Ideal for students who want to gain experience in event planning, logistics management, and vendor coordination.

Many schools also offer study abroad programs. These programs, usually one semester, give you the chance to immerse yourself in another culture and learn about its approach to hospitality. This experience can prepare you not only for engaging with people from other counties but also for an international career.

Online Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Options

In addition to traditional campus programs, you'll also find many bachelor's degrees in hospitality that are offered online. Some programs are entirely online, aside from an internship or studying abroad. Classes may be delivered "synchronously," where all students log on at the same time and interact with the teacher. "Asynchronous" classes allow you to log in to complete your coursework at any time.

Some programs have a hybrid format where you may take most of your classes online but still travel to campus for certain in-person work.

In addition to traditional campus programs, many bachelor's degrees in hospitality are offered online. Some programs are entirely online, aside from an internship or studying abroad.

Online programs offer advantages and disadvantages. They're very flexible, especially when

Online programs offer advantages and disadvantages. They're very flexible, especially when classes are delivered asynchronously. You can save time on commuting and may even be able to attend a school that's in another state without having to relocate.

But online learning also requires you to be self-motivated and organized. You'll need to be disciplined enough to keep up with your coursework without the supervision or reminders you might receive in a classroom.

Hospitality Management Certifications

Professional certifications can demonstrate your competence and knowledge in a field or a specialty within a field. This can help make you a more competitive job candidate or open the door to new roles or a higher salary.

If a certification requires professional experience, you can pursue one with a foundation of knowledge and skills in your field. Here's a sampling of the many hospitality certifications a manager can pursue.

Certified Meeting Planner (CMP)

Granting Organization: Events Industry Council (EIC)

Who It's For: Meeting management professionals all over the world, including those who work for corporations, government, and institutional organizations

Requirements: 36 months of full-time work in the meeting industry, 25 hours of continuing education, passing an exam

Exam Format: Computer-based test that consists of 165 multiple-choice questions

Exam Prep: EIC manual and glossary and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) manual. All three can be purchased from the EIC.

Certified Hospitality Sales Professional (CHSP)

Granting Organization: American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI)

Who It's For: Directors of sales and banquet, catering, and sales managers who spend at least 50% of their time focused on the sales of sleeping rooms or meeting spaces

Requirements: At least six months in their sales role.

Exam Format: Computer-based test with 100 questions

Exam Prep: Students receive resource materials after purchasing the CHSP application package

Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer (CHDM)

Granting Organization: Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Who It's For: Hospitality professionals looking to demonstrate their marketing expertise

Requirements: Complete the application and pass the exam

Exam Format: Students can opt to take the exam immediately after an optional CHDM Review Course "cram session"

Exam Prep: A study guide, "Hospitality Digital Marketing Essentials: A Field Guide for Navigating Today's Digital Landscape," is included with the exam's purchase

paige cerulli

Written and reported by:

Paige Cerulli

Contributing Writer

may silvers

With professional insight from:

May Silvers

Owner, M2 Hospitality

Search for programs near you