With the food service and hospitality industries growing at a rapid pace, the businesses and organizations driving their success need skilled managers to lead their teams. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth for food service managers to reach 9% by 2026. An associate degree is an important step to achieving leadership roles in this field.

According to a 2018 Deloitte report, the hospitality industry helps drive the U.S. economy and is responsible for 10% of GDP growth on a global scale. As this growth continues, hotels expand and more restaurants open. If you consider yourself a responsible, driven, and organized person, restaurant or hotel management could be a perfect career for you.

This guide offers all you need to know about pursuing an associate degree in hotel and restaurant management online or on campus.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management?

When you get an associate degree in hospitality and restaurant management, you give yourself career opportunities in an important sector of the U.S. economy. It's a great option for independent students looking for leadership and management roles.

If you're looking to change careers or are a working adult who has numerous obligations outside of school, an online program may work best for you. Distance learning provides considerable flexibility in scheduling, so students can view lectures, take part in class discussions, and complete assignments at their convenience.

Recent high school graduates may find a more traditional on campus experience more engaging as they seek a hotel and restaurant management degree. On campus programs offer face-to-face social connections with fellow students and extracurricular activities not available to online students.

An associate degree in hotel and restaurant management provides a variety of skills, including how to manage people, effectively serve customers, conduct budgeting and forecasting, manage front offices, and engage in sales and marketing.

While taking classes, you'll meet fellow students and instructors, forming a network of professionals who can open up future career opportunities for you. Colleges may also provide internship and job placement services as well as advice about bachelor's degree programs in hotel and restaurant management. Graduates with a hotel and restaurant management associate degree benefit from greater competitiveness for higher level positions compared to those who have a high school diploma alone, and a bachelor's degree increases this competitiveness.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Hotel and Restaurant Management?

Those equipped with an associate degree in hotel and restaurant management can move into a variety of careers. Graduates tend to be detail oriented self-starters who ensure customers and guests get the best experience possible. Below you'll find four common career paths:

Lodging Manager

Overseeing the guest experience at hotels and other hospitality venues, lodging managers set high standards for the appearance of premises, customer service, and housekeeping. They may hire, train, and supervise staff, while also performing managerial accounting duties.

Median Annual Salary: $51,800*

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planner

These professionals coordinate all aspects of meetings, conventions, and conferences, coordinating details with clients to ensure these events run smoothly. They solicit bids from vendors, arrange transportation and meal service, and review and pay invoices.

Median Annual Salary: $48,290*

Food Service Manager

Overseeing the daily operations of restaurants and other foodservice businesses, these professionals hire, train, and manage employees; order equipment and supplies; work with vendors; and ensure their establishments meet food safety and health standards. They also set employee schedules, manage payroll, conduct performance reviews, and address customer complaints.

Median Annual Salary: $52,030*

Office Clerk

These professionals help ensure offices run as smoothly as possible. This involves answering phones, taking messages, distributing mail, writing and editing communications, and scheduling appointments and meetings. Office clerks also perform data entry tasks and file and update documents on a daily basis.

Median Annual Salary: $31,500*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose an Associate Program in Hotel and Restaurant Management

To find your ideal associate degree in hotel and restaurant management, consider several key factors, including the length of the program. Most associate degrees allow full-time students to finish their studies in two years. Also explore which classes you'll take and determine whether they fit your interests and career goals. For example, some programs focus more on the hospitality sector, while others feature more courses on restaurant management.

The overall cost of each program also affects which program you choose. Public institutions tend to come with lower tuition for their associate degree programs. Many online hotel and restaurant management programs also provide savings, both in tuition and expenses like transportation, childcare, and housing. If you do plan to enroll in an on campus program, look into these costs, the quality of life, and employment opportunities in the area.

If you're a working professional or have other time consuming obligations outside of school, look for programs tailored to the needs of adult learners. Some hotel and restaurant management associate degrees may allow you to attend part time while still moving quickly through the program and graduating in two years.

Finally, check the accreditation status of each school under consideration. Accreditation indicates that a university and its program curriculum meets educational standards. Attending an accredited program also makes it easier to transfer credits from an associate program to a bachelor's program at another university. Attending an unaccredited school could serve as a major disadvantage.

Associate in Hotel and Restaurant Management Program Admissions

As you begin the admissions process, consider applying to three to five associate degree in hotel and restaurant management programs at the same time. Doing so helps ensure that you get into a respectable program, even if it was not your first choice. Once you have a list of a dozen or so options, narrow it down to a handful that you like above the rest. Then, rank that list from one to five. Consider costs, required classes, length, and any other relevant factors as you form this list.

When you fill out each application, you'll provide basic contact information, including your high school and any colleges or universities you previously attended. You may also need to provide a personal statement explaining why you wish to receive an associate degree in restaurant management or hospitality management. Some programs ask you to submit letters of recommendation from teachers, employers, family members, or friends.

Admission Materials

  • Application: An application asks you to provide contact information a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Many schools use Common App, a standardized digital application enabling you to apply to multiple programs at once.
  • Transcripts: Official transcripts from your previous high school or college program are often required, and most programs charge a small fee for them.
  • Application Fee: Most schools charge application fees of between $20 and $50, but fee waivers are available for students demonstrating financial need.

Educational Paths for Hotel and Restaurant Management Associate Programs

After you receive your associate degree in hospitality and restaurant management, many graduates continue their studies in hospitality and restaurant management with a bachelor's degree. According to PayScale, the average annual pay for graduates with an associate degree in hotel management is $45,000. Those with a bachelor's in business management, however, make about $59,000 per year. Here are a few bachelor's degree programs for students interested in advancing their careers.

Hotel Management

A bachelor's degree in hotel management makes you competitive for higher level jobs, such as a regional manager of several hotel properties under a single brand. Students gain more advanced skills and knowledge in managerial accounting, budgeting, operational analysis, hospitality law, and human resource management.

Foodservice Management

This bachelor's degree program covers a variety of skills and concepts relevant to restaurant managers, including organizational behavior, operations management, marketing, financial statement analysis, and human resource management.

Business Administration

A natural next step for those with associate degree in hotel and restaurant management, these programs deliver more comprehensive training in the business world. Students learn about finance, international business, project management, investments, and marketing. This option works well for entrepreneurs or those who aim to move into management or executive roles within businesses and organizations.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Hotel and Restaurant Management?

Pursuing an associate degree in hotel and restaurant management provides you with skills and knowledge in areas critical to leadership in the hospitality and foodservice industries. This section includes information on the courses you can expect to find, the length of a typical program, and common costs for tuition and fees.

Courses in an Associate Program in Hotel and Restaurant Management

You'll take a variety of courses when seeking an associate degree in restaurant management or hotel management. These programs can differ significantly in terms of the required courses; however, you can expect to find some common classes as you conduct your research. Below you'll find a list of five typical hotel and restaurant management degree courses:

Front Office Management

This course offers an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of hotel and resort front desk staff, including receptionists, concierges, and door staff. Students learn about effective staffing, conducting room inventories, providing exceptional guest service, and performing auditing and accounting duties. They also get introduced to common software and technology used in this setting.

Hospitality Safety and Security

Through this course, students explore the various safety threats affecting hotels. This includes implementing proper prevention tactics, threat assessments, security surveys, and physical security measures.

Menu Design and Planning

Students learn about the importance of an effective and visual menu, along with concepts like portion control, cost management, and effective item descriptions and menu layouts. This also involves analyzing consumer trends and knowing how to adjust menus accordingly.

Managerial Accounting in Hospitality

This course offers students advanced training in managerial accounting specific to the hospitality industry. Students learn how to create and analyze financial statements, manage revenue and expenses, and develop budgets. It also typically involves reviewing case studies of real-world scenarios and challenges hotel managers often encounter in their work.

Hospitality and Foodservice Law

Students learn about legal and regulatory issues affecting the hospitality and foodservice industries, along with consumer protections, public policy, and binding contracts. The course places a special focus on liability and the obligations of managers and supervisors to protect the safety of guests and employees.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Hotel and Restaurant Management?

Most students can finish an associate degree in hotel and restaurant management in two years. Several factors may affect the length of your program, the most notable of which is whether you attend part time or full time. Taking more credits per term can help you graduate sooner. Some programs limit the number of credits a student may take each quarter or semester, so check with an adviser.

On the other hand, many students find the need to take fewer credits at times due to professional or personal obligations. While most programs allow this, it may lengthen the time it takes to graduate and increase the total cost of your hotel and restaurant management degree. The typical associate degree program requires 60 total credit hours, provided students attend an average of 15 credits per semester to graduate within two years.

How Much Is an Associate in Hotel and Restaurant Management?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average two-year college charges a yearly tuition rate of around $10,400. This number varies depending on the program and school, as public institutions and online programs tend to come with lower tuition compared to private or on campus programs. Additionally, some schools charge tuition per term, while others require students to pay by the number of credits in which they enroll.

Besides tuition, various other costs -- including housing, healthcare, student activities, and technology fees -- affect the overall cost of a degree program. Many schools do not charge these types of fees to online learners. Research these fees and additional costs, in addition to your school's tuition, to determine the actual cost of your higher education.

Considering costs represents such an important factor because it can prevent you from having to put your education on hold due to financial difficulties. Budgeting expenses ahead of time allows students to determine which colleges are feasible for their income. Financial aid can assist with college tuition costs, so it should also factor into students' budgets.

By taking the right steps from the start, you ensure solid financial footing throughout your pursuit of a hotel and restaurant management associate degree.

Professional Organizations in Hotel and Restaurant Management

While getting an associate degree in hospitality and restaurant management puts you on the right path, even greater career opportunities await you through membership with a professional organization. These groups offer many benefits for their members, including professional development, conferences, job boards, career services, and networking opportunities.

American Hotel and Lodging Association

The AHLA advocates for the hospitality industry on a national scale, while also providing its members with continuing education, professional development, and career services.

National Restaurant Association

The largest restaurant trade organization in the world, this group helps food service professionals understand and overcome regulatory and financial obstacles to success. Its membership incorporates more than 500,000 foodservice businesses.

Professional Convention Management Association

PCMA serves those responsible for organizing conferences and other events around the world. In addition to continuing education and training, the association promotes awareness of the economic impact of business meetings, conventions, and trade shows.