Hospitality management is the study of the service or hospitality industry, which includes hotels, resorts, and casinos, and more broadly, tourism, travel, and transportation. For example, a hospitality manager ensures that a hotel adheres to a certain standard of quality while abiding by state regulations. Careers in hospitality management are ideal for individuals with a passion for people and tourism. Hospitality managers understand the industry behind vacationing and are able to help hotels cut down on costs while continuing to offer a quality experience to guests.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in hospitality management are projected to increase by 4% between 2016 and 2026. To enter this field, you need at least a high school diploma, but an associate degree in hospitality management is encouraged. By earning this degree, you may increase your marketability and open doors to employment opportunities at luxury resorts with larger staffs and higher tourist traffic. This guide explains the process of earning an associate degree in hospitality management.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Hospitality Management?

Candidates interested in a career in hospitality management should have a passion for working with people, customer service, and tourism. Hospitality managers are primarily responsible for overseeing the staff of a resort or hotel and ensuring that guest concerns are addressed in a timely, professional manner. Earning this degree prepares you for a career working in hotels, resorts, and casinos as well as in the cruise and airline industries.

Associate degrees in hospitality management are separated into two types: an associate of applied science in hospitality management and an associate of science in hospitality and tourism management. An associate in applied science focuses on food safety, sanitation, hospitality accounting, and hotel management. An associate of science in hospitality and tourism management focuses more on the principles of management, cruises, event planning, and travel sales. Both programs allow students to tailor their programs to specific areas of interest.

Associate degrees are offered online and on campus. Online programs are valuable for candidates who work full time and would benefit from asynchronous coursework. On-campus programs offer students face-to-face networking opportunities with other aspiring hospitality managers and professionals currently in the field. Both online and on-campus programs may also assist graduates with job placement and internships. Many graduates with associate degrees continue their education to earn a bachelor's and/or master's degree in hospitality.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Hospitality Management?

An associate degree in hospitality management prepares you to work in most any area of hospitality. While most careers in this field require a passion for people and tourism, each position varies in the challenges professionals are presented with. The list below considers popular career options in this field.

Restaurant Manager

Restaurant managers oversee eating establishments and are in charge of the hiring, training, and scheduling of staff to keep pace with business demands. Restaurant managers also set a standard for food and service quality and make sure these standards are met by all members of the staff.

Median Annual Salary: $39,461*

Housekeeping Manager

Housekeeping managers oversee daily housekeeping operations. They make sure housekeeping staff maintain standards of quality, availability, and cleanliness in all public and private residence areas. Housekeeping managers also perform hiring, training, and scheduling duties for members of the housekeeping staff.

Median Annual Salary: $35,106*

Hotel Manager

Hotel managers are responsible for supervisory tasks at a hotel. They are in charge of hiring, managing staff, and maintaining hotel quality standards. Hotel managers also keep work orders and maintenance services up-to-date, even coordinating repairs as necessary. These managers also oversee bookkeeping and payment processing.

Median Annual Salary: $40,783*

Source: PayScale

How to Choose an Associate in Hospitality Management Program

There are a number of factors you should take into account before selecting an associate degree program. With the growing presence of technology in education, more programs are being offered online. Online programs offer more flexibility, allowing students to study asynchronously and to complete coursework and submit assignments on their own time.

Both online and on-campus associate in hospitality management degrees are typically completed within two years, though some schools may offer accelerated or part-time programs. Accelerated programs involve a heavier course load or more intensive classes, and may be completed in 12-18 months depending on the school. Part-time programs allow students to enroll in a lighter volume of coursework and complete their degree gradually. Schools vary in the number of credits a student may take per term.

Cost may also determine the school you choose to attend. Typically, online programs are more inexpensive than traditional ones because students spend less time with professors, have fewer physical textbook requirements, and aren't required to pay for room and board. Public schools, both online and on-campus, are often more affordable than private schools, though it may be harder there to obtain scholarships or financial aid.

Also important to consider is whether or not your school is accredited. Accreditation comes in national, regional, and programmatic form. Degrees with regional or national accreditation may also have program-specific accreditation. By attending an accredited institution, you ensure you are earning an education up to the standards of the industry you are attempting to enter.

Associate in Hospitality Management Program Admissions

Admissions departments require students to submit official high school transcripts and transcripts of previously attended institutions. While not required by all schools, some programs request applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores and at least one letter of recommendation from a former professor or employer. Online programs often require additional test scores or employment history if an applicant has taken time away from education. In selecting schools, make sure the program covers the area of hospitality management you are looking to enter, and again, ensure the program is accredited.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Applicants will submit their personal information, high school transcripts/diplomas, and the transcripts of any other institutions they've attended. A personal statement essay may be required as well.
  • Transcripts: Transcripts are documents consisting of the classes you have taken at a given institution and the grade earned in each class. By submitting a transcript, you are presenting a school with your proven academic abilities. Transcripts are processed by admissions personnel in reviewing your application.
  • Application Fee: While some schools do not have an application fee, the average cost of applying to a school is approximately $50. This fee goes toward the administrative duties associated with processing and reviewing your application.

Educational Paths for Hospitality Management Associate Programs

According to PayScale, professionals who hold advanced degrees generally earn higher salaries. To this end, individuals seeking an associate degree to save money or time on a four-year school may eventually transfer into a bachelor's program in hospitality management. Many colleges and universities have partnerships with community colleges, making the transfer process simple and allowing the maximum amount of credits to be counted toward a bachelor's.

Bachelor's in Hospitality Management

A bachelor's degree in hospitality management readies students for work in tourism and related careers such as commercial recreation, tourism, and travel. Hospitality management classes often focus on business law and ethical management.

MBA in Hotel Administration

An MBA in hotel administration combines a business education with coursework specific to the field of tourism and hospitality. Graduates of these programs enter the workforce in resorts, hotels, amusement parks, airlines, and with cruise lines. By earning this degree, you are expected to know the facets of both business and hospitality.

Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Business

A BA in hospitality management teaches students how to operate a hospitality-centered business, such as a restaurant, resort, casino, or hotel. Students are often able to specialize their degree in the area of their interest.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Hospitality Management Program?

Course and graduation requirements will depend on the school you've chosen. Some programs offer concentration and specialization opportunities, while some focus on a core curriculum. It is important to research what is expected from students prior to enrolling in any program.

Courses in an Associate in Hospitality Management Program

While most associate degrees in hospitality management will include the same basic coursework, specific class requirements, electives, and concentration opportunities will vary from school to school. Core classwork consists of fundamental topics hospitality professionals must learn to work in this field, including business in tourism and the ethics of management. The list below includes common classes found in curriculums for an associate degree in hospitality management.

Business Principles

A course in business principles provides a background in the fundamentals of business practices. Many degree programs tailor generalized classes such as this to be more applicable to the degree in question. Coursework in business prepares students for careers in management and overseeing operations.

Marketing Principles

Classes based on marketing principles prepare students for promoting products and activities. Marketing coursework in hospitality management readies students to promote the image of any given hotel or resort.

Fundamental Hospitality Management Principles

Classwork in fundamental hospitality management teaches students the basic knowledge needed to run a hotel or resort, including personnel management, hotel maintenance, and customer service.

Technology in Hospitality Management

As our world evolves to include more technologies, various industries are adapting to utilize these technologies in new ways. Tourism technology serves to streamline the traveling experience for both tourists and hospitality professionals. These courses prepare graduates to adapt to new technologies and automations meant to aid efficiency in this field.

Ethical Hospitality Management

As with any field, hospitality management requires professionals to uphold a certain standard of ethics. In a field that works so closely with people, hotel managers must be able to ensure that guests will receive fair and equal treatment. These courses teach students ethical requirements expected of professionals in this field.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Hospitality Management?

An associate degree in hospitality management can typically be completed in two years. Some schools offer degrees in accelerated formats for earlier completion. It is common for online programs to be available in an accelerated format; it is less common for on-campus programs. Students who opt to double-major or specialize their degree may have to take additional terms to complete all required coursework.

Others schools allow students to enroll on a part-time basis, taking fewer credits per term than is standard. But many institutions require even part-time students to graduate within a certain timeline. If you are interested in part-time enrollment, it is important to make sure you will be able to graduate within the accepted amount of time.

How Much Is an Associate in Hospitality Management?

On average, the cost of earning a degree at a two year college is approximately $3,000, while the average cost of a four-year school is almost four times as much per year. Students opting to attend school in-state will pay significantly less than students who choose a program in another state, though some online programs offer in-state tuition to out-of-state learners.

The cost of earning your degree may vary depending on a number of factors including the school you choose to attend; whether you enroll as a part-time, full-time, or accelerated student; and whether you opt to earn your degree online or on-campus. Students attending classes at a traditional brick-and-mortar schools often have to pay for physical books as well as housing and parking fees. Online schools frequently offer learning materials online at a lower cost. That said, some online programs require students to purchase access to online learning platforms such as Moodle or Blackboard.

Professional Organizations in Hospitality Management

Professional organizations — which offer members exclusive access to continued learning classes, seminars, and lectures as well as networking opportunities — benefit hospitality management students and professionals alike. These organizations are primarily non-profit and devoted to the furtherance of a particular occupation, though many require membership dues to assist in paying for member benefits. Students who choose to join a professional organization will have access to professionals who may provide career connections in addition to standard member services.

Events Industry Council

Formerly known as the Convention Industry Council, this non-profit organization is involved in meetings and conventions relating to the hospitality and exhibitions industry.

American Hotel and Lodging Association

The AHLA supports and advocates for the American hospitality industry. This organization believes hotels are the center of tourism across the country and that providing excellent hospitality to guests will ensure the future of this industry.

Destination Marketing Association International

The DMAI strives to inform and connect professionals in this field to further quality care and hospitality around the world.