What Does it Mean to Study Hospitality Management?
What do the high school student serving you popcorn, the concierge at your five-star hotel, and your local museum’s tour guide have in common? They all work in the hospitality industry. Although the hospitality industry can encompass everything from chambermaid to CEO, this page is dedicated to the upper management positions within the tourism and hospitality industry — and how an online degree in hospitality management can teach you the skills you need to earn such a position.
Types of Hospitality Management Degrees
Online tourism and hospitality degree programs, from associate degrees to MBAs, offer plenty of options. They can be particularly helpful, by virtue of convenience, for employees who are already working in the industry and do not want to leave their job in order to return to school.
Associate Degrees in Hospitality Management
An Associate of Science in hospitality management degree program is a logical starting point for further studies in tourism and hospitality. Internships with airlines, resorts or travel agencies may be required.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Hospitality Management
A bachelor’s degree program in hospitality management is designed to cover aspects of hospitality management such as: convention and meeting planning; destination services management; travel and tourism; recreation related industries; fundamentals of purchasing; or food and beverage. This curriculum may be supplemented by classes in liberal arts, business, specialized courses in technical applications, leadership, and case analysis applied to the global industry.
As part of a bachelor’s in hospitality management degree program, you may be able to specialize in:
- Casino Management
- Club Management
- Food and Beverage Management
- Lodging Management
- Tourism, Convention and Event Management
Certificate Programs in Hospitality Management
For those not interested in pursuing a full degree, or those who need a short program to round out their skills, other colleges offer certificate programs. These focused courses allow experienced professionals to add a hospitality dimension to existing business skills, or brush up on new developments in the industry.
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Hospitality Management?
The diversity of careers in tourism and hospitality makes it impossible to cover every job description. But with increasing levels of education, you open up the door to more opportunities, different branches in the field, and locations around the world.
A hotel manager is responsible for making a “home away from home” for business travelers and vacationers. They oversee the daily operations for the ‘front of house’ and ‘back of house’ staff, based on the guidelines set by the owners (or the executive staff, in the case of larger chains). They field complaints from customers, check that the premises are kept clean, hire and train new staff, order and maintain supplies, oversee advertising and marketing, and monitor accounting.
Many companies now consider a bachelor’s degree in hospitality to be a minimum requirement for management positions. General business degrees can also be applied, but you may need considerably more hotel experience to be considered.
Certification is not a career requirement for hotel managers, but is offered by professional groups such as the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, if you want to further boost your career credentials.
Event planners such as special events coordinators, meeting planners, bridal consultants, and party planners may have similar responsibilities, but on widely divergent scales. These professionals organize and plan events — weddings, open houses, conventions, birthday parties, etc. — up to and including the date, location, agenda, guest list and catering. It is also important for event planners to learn the logistics of the venue: fire regulations, space limitations, registration services, travel and accommodation planning, staffing and more. With so many details involved, these professionals need to be organized, creative and able to adapt when faced with obstacles or mistakes.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, business, communications, public relations, marketing, or sales is usually considered sufficient for this profession. Earning a graduate degree in one of those fields may be required for positions such as event company director or meeting planning executive.
Certification is available from several organizations such as Meeting Professionals International, which offers the Certification in Meeting Management, or the International Association for Exhibitions and Events, which offers the Certified in Exhibition Management designation.
Travel agents have two primary responsibilities. First, they help pleasure and business travelers to make arrangements for transportation, accommodation and excursions. Second, they help cruise lines, resorts and specialty travel groups promote their travel packages. As a travel agent, you must be well-organized, accurate, and meticulous to plan and organize your client’s travel itineraries. Other desirable qualifications include good writing, interpersonal, and sales skills.
Travel agents are expected to be experts on weather conditions, restaurants, tourist attractions, recreation, customs regulations, required papers (passports, visas, and certificates of vaccination) and currency exchange rates. Travel publications and the Internet are effective sources of this information, but travel agents supplement this hard data with their own personal experiences and/or based on feedback from clients. Depending on the size of the travel agency, an agent may specialize in type of travel — such as leisure, business or adventure — or specialize by destination — such as Europe or Africa.
At one time, the minimum educational requirement for a travel agent was a high school diploma, but with advances in technology and computerization, formal education is increasingly important. A college degree and proficiency in a foreign language is often desired by employers. Knowledge of accounting and business management can also be important, especially for those who expect to manage or start their own travel agencies.
Hospitality Management Certification and Licensure
There are no federal licensing requirements for travel agents. However, nine states (California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington) require some form of registration or certification of retail sellers of travel services. After five years of experience, you can complete an advanced course to earn your Certified Travel Counselor designation. The Travel Institute also offers certificates of competence in area-specific tours.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, April 15, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes413041
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, April 15, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes434081
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, April 15, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131121
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, April 15, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru#41-0000