What Can You Do With a Hospitality Degree?

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A hospitality management degree may be your ticket into an array of fields like food service, tourism, lodging, and recreation. With a degree in hospitality, you’ll qualify to work in a wide range of settings. Interested in working with people and navigating interpersonal issues? You might be cut out to manage a hotel. Have an affinity for far–off, exotic places? You might enjoy a career as a travel agent. Enjoy creating memorable dining experiences for your guests? Then you might look at a career in catering or the culinary arts. Depending on the concentration you choose, a hospitality management degree could make those dreams come true.

A hospitality management degree will center on tourism, culinary arts, and event planning, as well as the business practices, marketing, and ethics of the industry. Hospitality management focuses on the operational and administrative policies of several establishments, including hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, casinos, and convention centers.

Because the field of hospitality is so diverse, your exact program could take on several different forms. Your courses and research might center on accounting or bookkeeping, on client service and the study of leisure, or on food preparation and techniques. The determining factor will be what you want to do with your hospitality degree after your program is complete.

There is a fair amount of overlap with the field of business administration. You might work behind the scenes, keeping up with inventory or payroll at a hotel, or providing one–on–one service to clients at a restaurant or bar. Your job options range all the way from a server or front desk clerk to upper management. It all depends on what degree you choose and how many years of education you are willing to undertake. Taking some business courses or programs could improve your professional prospects.

What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?

Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.

For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?

What is Regional Accreditation?
Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies

To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What Is National Accreditation?
National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
 
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.

To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.

For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.

What is Programmatic Accreditation?
Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
 
Hospitality is a broad discipline, and the accreditation needed will vary based on your field of focus. There is no single programmatic accreditation agency for hospitality degree programs. However, there are a few reputable accreditation groups that can be a positive indication of quality and credibility. These include:
 
While these accreditations are useful, they aren’t necessarily mandatory—and your program almost certainly will not have all them. Absence of one of these accreditations is not a deal–breaker if your hospitality program is housed within an institution that is accredited by one of the regional accreditation associations listed in the section above. To reiterate, regional accreditation should be treated as mandatory.

The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.

To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?

What Kinds of Hospitality Management Degrees Are There?

Hospitality degrees cover a wide range of related businesses, such as food, tourism, lodging, and human resource management. While not all entry–level jobs in hospitality require a degree, it’s always a good idea to become educated in your field so that you can progress into bigger and better–paying positions. You should also be aware that different schools have multiple names for their hospitality degrees. For instance, hospitality, hospitality management, and culinary arts are all different but overlapping programs. It’s important to research your specific degree program to be sure it will give you the opportunities you want.

Associate of Hospitality Management

An associate degree in hospitality management is a good starting place. An associate hospitality degree is typically a 60–credit degree, or two–year program, combining general education classes with classes in management, introduction to business, purchasing and cost control, and ethics in hospitality management. This level of hospitality degree can prepare you for a range of jobs, including in the food and beverage industry, casinos, and travel and tourism.

What Hospitality Courses Will You Take in an Associate Program?

  • Business Principles
  • Convention & Events Management
  • Ethical Hospitality Management
  • Introduction to Management in the Hospitality Industry
  • Technology in the Hospitality Management Industry
  • Workplace Mathematics

What’s the Difference between an AS and an AAS in Hospitality?

An associate of science (AS) degree in hospitality typically combines discipline–specific courses with some humanities and liberal arts requirements. By contrast, the associate of applied science (AAS) in hospitality is geared towards practical vocational education, with fewer liberal arts classes. Which you choose will depend upon your overall goals for your career in hospitality. If you plan to continue into a bachelor’s degree program in hospitality, make sure the program that you choose will allow you to transfer credits to your four–year degree. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to take the same class multiple times.

Bachelor of Hospitality Management

A bachelor’s in hospitality management degree gives you a more advanced and thorough education. To achieve a bachelor’s hospitality degree, you will need to complete 120 credit hours, which will take at least four and possibly five years. The bachelor’s degree in hospitality management is important if you want to pursue a career in management. In fact, many jobs look specifically for a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. These programs will give you a stronger grasp on business practices and ethics in hospitality management. This is also the time for you to specialize in one area. Choices include lodging management, events and conventions coordination, restaurant management, and hospitality and tourism management.

Be aware, as you’re looking for hospitality management degrees, that some of these programs are classified under business administration degrees. At the bachelor’s level, a hospitality management degree may be called a business administration degree with a concentration in hospitality or tourism.

What Hospitality Courses Will You Take in a Bachelor’s Program?

  • Destination Marketing
  • Financial Analysis in the Hospitality Industry
  • Hospitality and Tourism Law
  • Hospitality Managerial Accounting
  • Hospitality Marketing
  • Introduction to Conventions and Special Events
  • Microeconomics
  • Operational Analysis
  • Personnel/Human Resources Management
  • Restaurant Operations Management
  • Service Operations Management

What’s the Difference between a BS and a BBA?

At the bachelor’s level, degrees in hospitality or hospitality management are either a bachelor of science (BS) or a bachelor of business administration (BBA) with a concentration in hospitality and tourism. If your school offers either of those degrees, you’re in luck; both of those are the primary types of bachelor’s in hospitality degrees. However, a general BBA can also be a fine choice if you’re looking to go into management in hospitality, although you may not learn about the specific businesses associated with hospitality and tourism.

Master of Hospitality Management

If you plan to pursue a leadership or executive role anywhere in hospitality and tourism management, you may benefit from a master’s degree in hospitality management. A graduate degree in hospitality management or business administration can make you much more desirable to future employers—or to your current employer if you’re already working in the industry. In order to enter a master’s degree program for hospitality management, you will need to have your bachelor’s degree in a related field. Your master’s program will ask you to complete one to two years of coursework and you may have to complete a thesis as well. Many of these programs are offered online, making it easy and convenient to get your master’s degree in hospitality management from wherever you happen to be.

What Hospitality Courses Will You Take in a Hospitality Master’s Program?

  • Applied Research Methods in Hospitality Management
  • Crisis and Risk Management
  • Executive Leadership
  • Global Tourism
  • Hotel and Restaurant Accounting Information Systems
  • Human Capital Management and Development
  • Leisure Theory
  • Sport Tourism

Doctorate in Hospitality Management

A Ph.D. in hospitality management is for those who want to conduct academic research. With your Ph.D., you might choose to be a professor yourself or go into upper management. While some universities offer Ph.D. programs in hospitality or hospitality management, this is also a level at which you may undertake a degree in business or business administration and concentrate your studies and research on an aspect of hospitality management. Typically, a Ph.D. program will include coursework, independent research, and culminate in a dissertation. How long your program lasts depends largely on your area of focus. With a Ph.D in hospitality management, you will be at the top of your field and in line for the most lucrative jobs.

For some possibilities in related fields, check out The Best Online Doctorate in Business Administration Degree Programs or The Best Online Doctorate in Management Programs.

What Can You Do with a Hospitality Management Degree?

If you are wondering, “What can I do with a hospitality management degree?” there are plenty of options. Because the field of hospitality management is so broad, any list of possible careers is going to be merely representative of the breadth of actual positions available. Your job possibilities include, but are certainly not limited to:

What Kind of Salary Can You Earn with a Hospitality Management Degree?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the hospitality sector generally has a projected job growth outlook that is higher than the average field of employment. Though your earning potential will vary depending upon the level of degree you seek, the Bureau offers a largely positive salary outlook for hospitality management professionals. The following data reflects median annual salaries as of 2018:

Career Median Salary
Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers $21,750
Waiters and Waitresses $21,780
Bartenders $22,550
Food Preparation Workers $23,730
Cooks $25,200
Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers $28,530
Information Clerks $34,520
Chefs and Head Cooks $48,460
Lodging Managers $53,390
Travel Agents $38,700
Food Service Managers $54,240
Top Executives $104,980

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Professional Hospitality Associations or Societies You Should Join?

Professional associations in hospitality management are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for hospitality associations that correspond with your professional concentration. Below are a few key associations. Check these out for key resources, literature, and networking opportunities.

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