2020 Best Hospitality Management Degrees Online

By OnlineU Staff | Updated March 28, 2020

Our ranking list highlights the best schools offering online hospitality management degrees. These schools were chosen and ranked based on tuition rates and alumni salaries provided by PayScale. Students interested in an online hospitality management degree should also be sure to check accreditation at the schools they are interested in, as well as career options depending on degree level.

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Hospitality Management Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Hospitality Management Badge

The following 17 schools offer the best online bachelor's in hospitality management degrees, based on their low tuition rates and high mid-career salary potentials. Graduates of the #1 school, the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, report earning a median salary of $78,600. At #6, Missouri State University has the least expensive tuition on the list, charging only $8,850 per year for its Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Leadership.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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2020 Online Colleges Offering Hospitality Management Degrees - Ranking Details

Online Hospitality Management Degree Overview & Career Information

Online associate degrees in hospitality management are typically offered as an Associate of Science (AS) degree. These programs are often designed to train graduates specifically for the workforce, but some are designed to segue into a bachelor's degree in hospitality. Common courses include food science, commercial food preparation, organization and management, tourism planning, and restaurant management. Most programs also require a small grouping of general education classes in topics like personal finance, college writing, and literature.

The online bachelor’s degree in hospitality management is the degree most likely to lead to supervisory roles such as grounds supervisor, convention services manager, event manager, and guest service representative. The bachelor’s degree program is often a business administration degree with a specialization in hospitality management. Core classes include subjects such as accounting in the hospitality industry, operations, food production management, and leadership in the hospitality setting. Many programs require a certain number of years of professional experience in hospitality or a certain number of documented hours of work experience. Many online programs in this field require an internship.

Online master’s degree programs and graduate certificates in hospitality management address advanced business skills for the hospitality industry. Students study strategic management, information technology, organizational behavior, and law as they apply to the hospitality industry. Electives can be used to tailor the program to the particular hospitality area students plan to work in, such as casino or restaurant management. Most graduate programs require an internship in a management or administrative setting.

Online Associate Degrees in Hospitality Management

The associate degree in hospitality management is typically a two-year degree earned at a community college or through a qualifying online school. Associate degrees are designed to represent half the time commitment and required credits as a bachelor's degree, and many students use it as a prelude to a four-year degree program because it can save students time and money and help them make the transition into advanced education more easily and with more accessible support services.

Every associate degree program features a set of general education requirements. These classes cover a range of disciplines and are intended to ensure that students have the basic skills necessary to help them succeed in college courses. Classes may include math, life sciences, social sciences, communications, and English, or another discipline with a significant writing component. More specific hospitality management courses will likely focus on basic leadership and administrative skills, accounting, human resources, and customer service. Some courses that discuss legal parameters of hospitality and employee management may also be useful.

People who study hospitality management generally have a very particular career goal in mind; they want to work in hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, or resorts. Often, those who are interested in hospitality management love to travel and would like to work at hotels and hostels around the world. They may be qualified to work as human resources managers or assistant managers at first, and can work their way up to general management, even with only an associate degree. Still others hope to own their own hotel or bed and breakfast, and hospitality management associate programs can provide people with the basic skills to do so.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Hospitality Management

There are relatively few bachelor's degree programs in the United States that are dedicated to hospitality management; more popularly, students enroll in a Bachelor of Business Administration program that offers specializations in hospitality management. As business schools struggle to attract business students, they often implement more and more specialization programs to suit the specific needs of career-minded college students, and hospitality management is one such specialization. A bachelor's degree program usually requires a four year, full-time commitment from students. Once students graduate with a degree in hospitality management, they will be able to market themselves at hotels and similar environments around the world.

As with any general bachelor's degree program, a program in hospitality management requires students to take general education classes alongside program-specific requirements. These general education requirements typically take two years and include liberal arts subjects such as literature, writing, history, science, arts, and mathematics. The rest of the program will involve courses specific to hospitality management. Some of the classes that students might encounter include the following:

  • Food and Beverage Operations Management: This is a core requirement of most programs and is often taken in the first semester of study. The class provides students with an overview of food and beverage management and a foundation for the rest of the program.
  • Fundamentals of Accounting: A basic accounting course is generally required for any graduate in hospitality management. Students will learn bookkeeping skills, from logging incoming and outgoing finances to income tax reporting.
  • Leadership and Organization: Hospitality management is, at its core, a degree in management and leadership. Students will learn how to apply leadership principles to a real work setting.
  • Planning and Cost Control: Often the difference between a successful business venture and a failure can be traced back to a reduction of extra costs through careful planning. This course examines some basic strategies for how to plan ahead and reduce costs for your business.
  • Strategic Marketing: Another important skill for any manager is how to market a business to bring in the most money. This class covers basic principles of how to bring in business through current marketing techniques.

Students will likely have access to many of the same organizations, competitions, and societies that business students do. They may participate in marketing challenges or honors society marketing events. Hospitality management is also an excellent field for internships; students can work in hotels, bed and breakfasts, or resorts to gain practical experience and establish contacts for future career endeavors.

Online Master's Degrees in Hospitality Management

Master's degrees are the most advanced degrees available in the field of hospitality management. Master's degree students often coordinate with a business school to take the comprehensive courses they need and to connect with faculty members. Earning a master's degree generally requires a two-year commitment. One of the most important components of a master's degree is the thesis, an extensive research paper. Students may conduct their own original research or they may analyze existing data and information to help them formulate an opinion on one specific, relevant component of hospitality management. Many degree programs require that students defend their thesis before a panel of professionals and professors.

The courses required during a master's program will be specific to the hotel industry -- customer service, human resources, accounting, and administration -- but they may also take on a broader scope to accommodate students who work within the hotel industry in roles that don't involve management. Therefore, students may take courses that explore corporate structure, marketing and brand recognition, and large-scale administration. A significant amount of on-site training will also be required during the master's program, both during the courses themselves and during an internship.

Master's degree graduates in the field of hospitality management often have considerable professional experience and will generally be overqualified for many positions in hotels. Instead, they may work in the corporate offices for large hotel chains or even start their own hospitality businesses.

Online Certificates in Hospitality Management

Online certificates in hospitality management usually take about one year to earn, though many last only a few months. The programs aim to give students the chance to develop specific skills and knowledge that will make them more effective as managers at various hospitality locations. Often, people who seek such certificates are already working in the industry in some capacity and are interested in promotional opportunities. In such cases, a certificate is a valuable way to prove your commitment to the field and set yourself apart from other applicants.

People who work as servicemen and women in hotels and resorts already have exposure to the industry, and when they combine this experience with demonstrated leadership ability and the training provided by a certificate in hospitality management, they can work their way into management positions. Larger hotels, in particular, typically require many managers, including those who lead certain departments, such as human resources and event planning. A general administrator may have several assistants. Someone who has no other experience but earns a certificate may be able to start in one of these assistantships.

Aspiring hospitality managers will learn about basic management and administrative duties, including attracting, hiring, and training personnel; scheduling; payroll; enhancing customer service experiences; and handling financial transactions and budgets. Programs will introduce students to the specific ins and outs of the hospitality industry, with special emphasis on how to successfully run one individual hotel or comparable overnight-guest-experience environment. Some certificate programs will also include courses in event planning because hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts are popular places to hold weddings, meetings, and parties, and it often falls to an administrator to oversee the planning and execution of such events. These courses will concentrate on design, utilizing independent contractors, and budgeting.

The Importance of Accreditation

If you decide to invest your time and money in higher education, it's wise to make sure that the program you select is of the very highest quality. The Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA) is an accrediting body that can help you choose a worthy associate or bachelor's degree program. While specific programmatic accreditation is not required for hospitality management positions, it can be useful for identifying programs that cover particular student outcomes and for narrowing down the field of prospective degree programs you’re considering.

Programmatic accreditation is a process by which a particular degree program or type of school is evaluated by a third-party organization. Unlike institutional accreditation, programmatic accreditation cannot be used for federal financial aid funding, but it does indicate that a program meets high standards, and it may help you earn professional certifications or credentials later in your career.

Accreditation is useful for hospitality management schools, in particular, because the accreditation process takes into account the specific skills and techniques students will need to be successful hospitality managers. ACPHA ensures that a program's curriculum covers subjects such as hospitality marketing, operations, accounting, financial management, legal issues, ethical considerations, organization theory, and administrative processes. ACPHA also makes sure that students have access to sufficient hands-on experience so that they leave their degree program with the appropriate skills.

Along with the course curriculum, ACPHA also evaluates the qualifications of a school’s instructional staff and their effectiveness as teachers. ACPHA also investigates the student services available, such as counseling, industry exposure, and clear program standards. Each school’s financial status is also assessed to make sure the program is solvent and able to meet its financial demands. The school’s library collection, learning facilities, and audio-visual equipment are also taken into account.

Related Degrees

A hospitality management degree is closely related to many other degrees in the field of hotel and food services and hospitality management. The most closely related programs are hotel management and food and beverage management. These degrees cover many of the same topics as hospitality management, but they are more focused in their approach. Hotel management is specific to the management of hotels, large casinos, or resorts, while food and beverage management is often sought after by those interested in creating restaurant chains or upscale food or beverage establishments.

Tourism and travel is also closely related to the field of hospitality. A tourism and travel degree focuses on ways to increase tourism, provide tourism-related services to consumers, and capitalize on both business and leisure travel. Many who graduate with this degree work for hotels, cruise lines, local tourism offices, or travel agencies. Many students who pursue a degree in hospitality management might also be attracted to a degree in business or marketing. The important skills of running or establishing a business, working effectively with clients and customers, and successfully marketing a product or idea are relevant and can be easily transferred to careers within the hospitality industry.


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