Online hospitality management degrees

For those with wanderlust, a career in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry might seem like a perfect fit. Those looking to work in this field will have to contend with declining job opportunities in many travel-related occupations, as, in the wake of the recession, job growth for many positions is stagnant or declining. That doesn't mean travel and tourism can't be a good career path, but students should be smart about getting the hospitality degrees needed to position themselves for the best job opportunities. Getting the right education could be a strong first step.

Hospitality degrees and classes

While some travel jobs, such as being a lodging manager or travel agent, don't require a degree, these are also the jobs with some of the least growth potential. So, rather than focus on careers requiring little education, those interested in the field may want look to the area of hospitality and management, where job opportunities are expected to be more positive. Hospitality degrees are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and there are also certificates available for those seeking a faster educational option. The following are some examples of hospitality degrees and certificates:

  • Certificate in hospitality management
  • Associate degree in hospitality, travel and tourism
  • Associate degree in hospitality management
  • Bachelor's degree in hospitality management
  • Bachelor's degree in hotel administration
  • Master's degree in hospitality management

While a certificate or associate degree may be enough for some positions, those with a bachelor's degree may have the greatest job opportunities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, meeting, convention and event planners are expected to see significant growth in the coming years, 33 percent from 2012-2022 according to BLS estimates, and individuals typically need a bachelor's degree in hospitality or a related field to be eligible for these jobs.

Regardless of where students ultimately go to school or which degree they pursue, the core courses for degrees in hospitality management or hotel administration are likely to be similar. These classes might include:

  • Finance or managerial accounting
  • Human resource management
  • Hospitality facilities management
  • Food service theory and practice
  • Meeting and event planning

Online hospitality schools offer convenient options

Busy students may be relieved to learn they can study hospitality online. Degrees offered at online hospitality schools typically provide the same level of education provided by campus programs. The difference is the materials are delivered entirely online, and students can often review course materials and lectures at their convenience.

The quality of online education is continuing to improve in general, and some very prestigious hospitality programs are offered online. Of the top 20 U.S. schools ranked by the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, the following offer either certificates or full hospitality degrees online:

  • Cornell University
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Nevada-Las Vegas
  • Iowa State University
  • Purdue University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Drexel University

While looking for programs, students may also want to consider online business degrees with an emphasis in tourism, travel or hospitality. These degrees may give graduates a broader base of skills that can be used both within and outside the hospitality industry. After graduation, students may go on to work in management, human resources or administration.

What to do after graduation

Once they have their degrees, individuals working in the hospitality industry may benefit from joining an organization dedicated to their specialty in the field, or from earning additional certifications or designations. Both may be ways to improve opportunities for career promotion. Professional organizations and associations are available for nearly all specialties within the industry. The following are examples of some of the choices that may be of interest:

  • American Society of Travel Agents
  • National Tour Association
  • Professional Convention Management Association
  • Society for Hospitality and Food Service Management

These organizations provide members with a variety of resources to help them further their careers. In addition, some associations offer professional credentials to members who meet certain requirements. For example, the Professional Convention Management Association designates qualified members as Certified Meeting Professionals. Another organization, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, offers certifications for everyone from front desk clerks to upper management.


Certified Hospitality Professionals, American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute,

Join ASTA, American Society of Travel Agents,

Core Courses, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration,

For Members, National Travel Association,

Everything You Need for the CMP, Professional Convention Management Association,

"A World Ranking of the Top 100 Hospitality and Tourism Programs," Denver E. Severt, Dana V. Tesone, Timothy J. Bottorff and Monica L. Carpenter, Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, Vol. 33, No. 4, November 2009, pgs. 451-70,

Society for Hospitality and Food Service Management,

Hospitality Management Major and Courses, University of San Francisco,

Lodging Managers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,

Travel Agents, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,

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