Guide to PhD Degrees in Hospitality and the Culinary Arts

The type of degree considered to be a terminal degree varies from one profession to another, but in general the doctorate (such as a PhD, EdD, or similar designation) is considered the most advanced type of academic degree. The field of hospitality and culinary arts is no exception. Doctorate-level programs in hospitality and culinary arts are somewhat rare, but they do exist. So, if you aspire to the top of this profession, you may want to learn more about earning a PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts.

Hospitality and Culinary Arts: Industry Overviews

It will be easier to understand the value of a PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts once you know a little bit about these industries.

Hospitality is an extremely broad industry, comprising such disparate elements as lodging, restaurants, cruises, spas, amusement parks, and conventions. As you might expect, this is very big business. Travelers spent an estimated $772.9 billion in the United States in 2009.

A subset of hospitality is the culinary industry. This includes restaurants as well as catering, and increasingly, retailing, as prepared foods become a more and more important line of business for supermarkets. Restaurant industry sales in the U.S. exceed $500 billion annually, which represents 4 percent of the gross domestic product. Any business activity has a residual affect on other businesses, so that $500 billion in direct sales is only a third of the $1.5 trillion economic impact the restaurant industry is estimated to have overall. An important part of this economic impact is job creation: the restaurant industry is one of the largest private-sector employers, with over 13 million employees nationwide.

An important aspect of the travel and culinary industries is that they are spread out into locations all over the country. For example, there are some 945,000 restaurants in the United States, meaning that you can pursue a career in this field in just about any part of the country.

A PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts

Given the nature and scope of these industries, it’s easy to see why a PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts might be useful. Any business generating revenue on this scale requires top management talent. There is a great deal of complexity involved in the logistics of catering safely and efficiently to literally millions of customers every day. There is even a scientific element, as nutrition is an important part of the culinary arts.

Besides preparing to meet those kind of challenges, there are four specific reasons why you should consider pursuing a PhD in Hospitality or the Culinary Arts:

  1. Credibility. Besides indicating that you have mastered a body of advanced subject matter, a PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts demonstrates that you take your field very seriously. This will give you instant credibility in your job search and in your professional interactions.
  2. Competitiveness. The job market can be tough, and the bar in terms of educational standards is steadily being raised. A PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts would put you ahead of the pack, and give you an academic credential that cannot be exceeded.
  3. Creativity. These are fields that rely on a certain amount of flair and originality in order to attract customers. Earning a doctorate in hospitality or the culinary arts would expose you to the freshest and most advanced ideas in the field, allowing you to further hone that cutting edge by adding your own individual touch.
  4. Teaching potential. One direction you can to take your interest in these fields is to become a teacher. Given the size of the job market, there is continual demand for qualified hospitality and culinary employees, which means a consistent demand for teachers. A PhD in Hospitality or the Culinary Arts would put you in a position to teach at the highest level.

Career Possibilities with a PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts

In day-to-day interaction with the hospitality or culinary industries, you might tend to think of the careers involved as the type of basic jobs that are most visible, such as desk clerks and waiters. If you look more deeply, however, you’ll find the more advanced roles that a PhD in Hospitality or Culinary Arts can help you qualify for, such as the following:

  • Hotel or restaurant industry executive
  • Executive chef
  • Convention director
  • Nutritionist
  • Professor
  • Food or beverage purchasing manager

In addition, many people who are interested in these fields have the entrepreneurial urge to run their own businesses. Earning a doctorate in hospitality or the culinary arts would be one way to thoroughly prepare for that type of venture.

Evaluating Graduate Schools in Hospitality and Culinary Arts

If you decide to earn your doctorate in hospitality or the culinary arts, the first step will be evaluating PhD programs in this field. As you begin your search, be sure to include both on-campus and online PhD programs.

With an on-campus program, you will be able to enjoy face-to-face interaction with professors and fellow students. For the culinary arts in particular, this type of hands-on involvement might be beneficial. At the same time, online PhD programs have their advantages as well. In general, online PhD programs are gaining popularity because of their convenience and cost-effectiveness. More specifically, given that there are still relatively few programs offering a doctorate in hospitality or culinary arts, an online PhD program may be especially well-suited because it can bring this degree option to any location.

Whichever way you ultimately choose to pursue your doctorate degree, including both on-campus and online PhD programs in your initial search will allow you to choose from the broadest range of options.

Cooking Up a Future in Hospitality and the Culinary Arts

In any field, PhD programs allow students to earn the highest level of academic credentials, and learn the most advanced aspects of their craft. Given the growing size and complexity of the hospitality and culinary industries, this combination of knowledge and qualification could prove very valuable. A PhD in Hospitality or the Culinary Arts would be an asset in your initial job search, and along the rest of your career path.


  • American Culinary Federation, The Authority on Cooking in America
  • Living, Pick a job in hospitality industry, by Rachel Zupek
  • National Restaurant Association, Restaurant Industry Facts at a Glance
  • School of Business and Economics Atlantic International University, Doctor of Hospitality Management (PhD)
  • University of Central Florida–Rosen College of Hospitality Management, Your Future at Rosen College Starts Here…
  • U.S. Travel Association, Economic Review of Travel in America, 2008 Edition
Our Partner Listings