Earning a Master’s in Hospitality Management Online

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Given the growth of the overarching service industry, the hospitality field now counts itself among the nation's largest industries. Nevertheless, companies in tourism-heavy states often experience difficulties finding qualified candidates. Earning a master's in hospitality management (MHM) online can help graduates demonstrate their expertise and separate themselves from unqualified candidates. An online degree also particularly suits hospitality students who work full time or live in remote areas. These individuals can complete their degree without sacrificing their job or relocating.

The following guide provides a comprehensive overview of different topics related to earning a master's in hospitality management online. These topics include salary and job growth potential for master's degree holders, how to pay for the master's degree, degree requirements, and professional organizations.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Hospitality Management?

Several different groups of students earn master's degrees in hospitality management online. Master's in hospitality management students include individuals who have already earned a bachelor's degree in hospitality and want to advance their careers through graduate education or by specializing in a specific hospitality field. Additionally, working professionals who want to change careers or increase their salary potential enroll in these online programs. Students deciding between a professional certification or a master's degree also enroll in online master's in hospitality management programs, which split the difference by delivering pre-professional graduate education.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Hospitality Management?

Pursuing Specialization

Earning a master's in hospitality management online provides graduates with a clearly defined skill set that they can use to find employment. Many hospitality management programs allow students to specialize within the industry in hotel and lodging management, restaurant management, or even gaming management for students who want to work in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Professionals with hospitality management master's degrees can also branch out beyond the field. The skills that students learn in hospitality management programs (customer service, business, finance, and entrepreneurship) apply in a variety of business fields, providing universality in the workforce.

Career Advancement Opportunities

As we touched on above, the hospitality industry finds it increasingly difficult to find qualified candidates. While no one degree can guarantee employment, a master's in the field can help graduates take advantage of that developing trend. Earning a master's in hospitality management online can open doors to higher-level, higher-responsibility, and higher-paying positions.

Online Learning Technology

All industries, including hospitality management, increasingly use blended or online learning as a means for professional development. Therefore, students who earn their master's in hospitality management online gain an advantage when completing professional development and continuing education requirements for their jobs, as they already understand how the latest communication technology works. Learning online counts as a core competency in the professional realm and understanding online learning can provide numerous benefits to your career.

Prerequisites for Online MHM Programs

Students who enroll in master's in hospitality management online programs must often complete the following prerequisites or submit the following application materials.

    • Work Experience: Some master's in hospitality management online programs cater more to working professionals. These programs generally require a year or more of work experience in order to apply. Nevertheless, many programs do not require work experience as a prerequisite. Work experience can help give classroom learning a practical touch, but applicants should not worry if they do not yet have experience in the field.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Certain online MHM programs require students to submit GRE or, in rare cases, GMAT scores with their applications. Some programs list minimum GRE scores while others do not. Nevertheless, a competitive GRE score can greatly enhance an application. GRE scores remain valid for five years.
    • Coursework: Most online MHM programs do not include prerequisite courses for admission. However, an undergraduate background in hospitality management can give students an advantage in their coursework. Minimum GPA requirements vary from program to program, with the most common thresholds sitting at 2.5, 2.75, and 3.0.
    • Recommendations: Most master's in hospitality management online programs require all applicants to submit two to three letters of recommendation. In most cases, programs expect former undergraduate professors to write these letters. Since hospitality management is a preprofessional field, letters from former employers can also carry weight in the admissions process.
    • Essays: Almost all master's programs require some form of essay. Since graduate programs do not use The Common App, students applying to online MHM programs often need to write a different essay for each prospective school. Typical essay prompts ask applicants to describe their professional goals and explain how the program can help them achieve those goals.
    • Interviews: Some schools require an interview with a member of the program's admissions committee. These interviews help the committees get a more personal feel for each applicant as opposed to only reading about them on paper.
    • International Students: In general, international students must meet the same requirements as domestic students, with one additional obligation: an acceptable score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The required TOEFL score varies from program to program.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Hospitality Management?

The following section explores different careers in the hospitality management industry, evaluating both traditional and nontraditional positions and explaining the salary range for each. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the lowest 10% of lodging managers earn under $28,930 per year, while the uppermost 10% earn over $98,370 per year. While no degree can guarantee a job, relevant higher education can help you learn the business and financial side of the industry.

Traditional Careers for MHMs

Career Stats Description

Regional Property Manager

Median Pay: $72,612

Job Growth: 10.3%

These professionals take responsibility for all aspects of the day-to-day management of properties. Tasks may include collecting rent, ensuring that grounds stay presentable and well-maintained, responding to calls from tenants, and meeting with potential new tenants. Each day looks different for most property managers, so the career provides a good fit for people who love variety in their workday.

Ideal for: Extroverts comfortable with wearing multiple hats and juggling multiple tasks.

Hospitality Sales Director

Median Pay: $121,060

Job Growth: 7.5%

Hospitality sales directors oversee and manage the sales staff responsible for the promotion and growth of the services offered by a restaurant, hotel, or other tourism organization. In most cases, these professionals work for hotels, participating in business development tasks, such as finding large organizations who may want to host conferences or purchase group packages.

Ideal for: Experienced sales professionals looking to reach managerial levels.

Franchise Owner

Median Pay: $46,041

Job Growth: 8%

Franchise owners operate a single location of a larger operation, such as Chick-fil-A, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Holiday Inn, or McDonald's. These operations must adhere to the manuals, rules, and regulations that the central company requires. Nevertheless, these professionals own their own business with less risk than solitary entrepreneurs without a parent company.

Ideal for: Entrepreneurial individuals looking for a slightly safer option.

Non-Traditional Careers for MHMs

Career Stats Description

Hospitality Software Developer

Median Pay: $103,560

Job Growth: 24%

Software developers in the hospitality industry work for hotels, restaurants, other tourism organizations, or third-party companies. Their job setting often mirrors that of other developers: collaboration, time spent in daily meetings, and occasionally long hours in the heat of a project.

Ideal for: Developers interested in creating client-facing solutions.

Hospitality Architect/Designer

Median Pay: $78,470

Job Growth: 4.2%

These professionals plan hotels, restaurants, or other hospitality buildings while overtly considering user and guest experience in their designs. They often work for hospitality-specific architecture and design firms, creating plans and drawings for clients.

Ideal for: Visually creative professionals with an interest in the hospitality industry.

Fan Experience Manager

Median Pay: $129,380

Job Growth: 5.4%

Fan experience managers take charge of the entire gameday experience for fans attending a sporting event. This includes in-game activities, such as contests and promotions, music, scoreboard tributes, pyrotechnics, and fireworks. Hospitality-minded professionals can thrive in this position by putting themselves in other fans' shoes and providing them with the best possible experience.

Ideal for: Hospitality and marketing professionals with a particular love for sports.

Restaurant/Hotel Critic

Median Pay: $61,820

Job Growth: 7.6%

Restaurant and hotel critics visit restaurants or hotels, sample their services, and write articles detailing the quality of their experiences for different publications. Opinionated personalities with a passion for hospitality can succeed in these positions.

Ideal for: Strong writers and communicators with opinions on leisure, food, and travel. Critics must also be comfortable with confrontation.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Hospitality Management

Students can explore several avenues to reduce the cost of their master's in hospitality management online. Some schools offer online students in-state tuition rates. Moreover, students who enroll in accelerated programs often end up paying less, as they spend less time in school. Several hospitality management organizations and groups also offer field-specific scholarship and grant opportunities to students who commit to working in hospitality after they graduate.

Tuition Timelines

The following section provides a list of study timelines that prospective students may pursue. These timelines include full-time, part-time, and accelerated degree paths.

Part-Time Path

A part-time online master's in hospitality program typically requires students to take one course at a time. Part-time online master's programs often deliver one course every eight weeks and require about two years to complete.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Total Credits Required: 30
Summary: The program typically takes two years to complete.

Full-Time Path

On the other hand, a full-time online hospitality management program requires students to take four classes each term. Because of this requirement, students can often finish a full-time master's program in 12-18 months.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of New Orleans
Total Credits Required: 30
Summary: The program typically takes one year to complete.

Accelerated Path

Accelerated paths -- often called "executive" programs in business-related fields -- usually only accept students with significant professional experience. Because of this requirement, the program can cover material more quickly and assume certain prior knowledge.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Roosevelt University
Total Credits Required: 30
Summary: Completion times vary, but this executive program allows students to take multiple classes each semester.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

The following scholarships applies exclusively to the hospitality management industry. As the industry generally offers far more scholarships for undergraduate as opposed to graduate education, master's students may encounter more competition for these opportunities.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Hospitality Management Program

Most master's level online hospitality management programs take 12-18 months of full-time study or 24-36 months of part-time study to finish. Program curricula generally include core coursework, electives, and some sort of capstone, thesis, or otherwise concluding experience. In many cases, these programs deliver coursework asynchronously, meaning that students do not need to attend class at any specific time. Instead, students complete assignments at their convenience and stay in touch with peers and professors through tools like discussion boards.

Major Milestones

  1. Core Coursework - Early in the program

    As they complete core courses, students begin to take hospitality-specific courses to develop their skill sets as managers and hospitality professionals.

  2. Electives or Concentration Coursework - Throughout the program

    Since hospitality management is a preprofessional field, many programs require students to complete internships to gain direct field experience, which helps graduates with the job search.

  3. Internship or Practicum - In the final year of the program

    Most hospitality management master's programs require students to complete either a thesis or a capstone project that involves original research in the field. Some programs replace this requirement with a concluding seminar.

  4. Capstone - The final course of the program

    Most hospitality management master's programs require students to complete either a thesis or a capstone project that involves original research in the field. Some programs replace this requirement with a concluding seminar.

  5. Job Search - Near the end of the program

    Students begin the job search as they approach graduation. In many cases, the business where students completed their internship hires them upon graduation.

  6. Graduation - At the end of the program

    After completing all of their coursework, students earn the master's that helps them stand out from other applicants when applying to positions in the hospitality management field.

Coursework

Students typically find the following core courses in most master's level online hospitality management programs. While all hospitality management programs differ, their core courses often cover similar topics.

Issues and Trends in the Hospitality Management Industry

This survey course provides an overview of the current state of the hospitality industry, covering topics such as government, transportation, convention management, food, and lodging.

Hospitality Operations Analysis

Students learn to create profit and loss statements and other financial or business reports relevant to the field. Many MBA programs with a concentration in hospitality management include this course as well.

Research Methods in Hospitality Management

Students examine data analysis, research design, and other research techniques while learning how to make data-driven decisions as a hospitality management professional. Many schools now include geographic information systems in this course.

Management Theory

As many students with a master's become managers in the hospitality field, this course provides an invaluable resource. Students learn about delegation, motivation, change, evaluation, leadership, and other topics.

Thesis or Capstone

In these concluding course options, students perform original research about a trend or issue in the hospitality management industry and either write a paper or create and present a project. Students take this course in their final semester or year of study, synthesizing everything that they learned in the program.

Requirements to Practice

Unlike some other fields, the hospitality management industry does not require any licensure or certification beyond a degree in the field. Nevertheless, work experience can demonstrate competency and skill and help professionals find their next job. Professionals in the field may also earn certifications to demonstrate skill in a particular area of hospitality management. Below, you can read about four of the industry's top certifications.

    • Certified Hotel Administrator: CHA licensure constitutes the most prestigious certification in the hotel management field. In order to earn the certificate, candidates must possess two years of experience as a hotel general or assistant manager and pass an exam offered by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI).
    • Certified Hospitality and Tourism Management Professional: AHLEI also awards the CHTMP certification, which requires candidates -- primarily high schoolers -- to complete a two-year curriculum and an internship. Candidates must pass a yearly exam during the program and complete 100 hours of unpaid work in the field.
    • Certified Hotel Asset Manager: Awarded by the Hospitality Asset Managers Association, this certification brings together an elite group of professionals with at least seven years of experience as asset managers for hotels. Candidates must pass an exam to earn the certification.
    • Certified Hospitality Revenue Manager: Another certificate overseen by AHLEI, the CHRM credential goes to candidates with at least six months of experience in a position in which at least 50% of tasks involve revenue management. Candidates must pass a comprehensive examination to earn the certificate.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Especially in a field as people-facing as hospitality management, networking and professional development can make all the difference. Membership in professional organizations provides opportunities to perform both of these actions, as many organizations offer courses, access to publications, and networking events like annual conferences. Below, we list five of the best professional organizations in the hospitality management field and five additional resources for current students or recent graduates.

  • World Tourism Organization: A division of the United Nations, UNWTO promotes tourism throughout the world as a means of economic development and sustainable growth. The organization hosts several networking events each year.
  • American Hotel and Lodging Association: AHLA provides advocacy and support for hotel and lodging professionals through events, career development, and access to publications and research.
  • National Restaurant Association: The National Restaurant Association serves as the largest trade organization in the industry with over 500,000 members. The association provides advocacy, research, networking events, and a job board.
  • Society for Hospitality and Foodservice Management: SHFM serves the corporate foodservice industry, providing events, resources, sponsorships, and scholarships to its members.
  • Club Management Association of America: CMAA caters to the needs of all membership-based clubs, including country clubs, golf clubs, and yacht clubs. The association provides networking events, access to research, and a job board to its members.
  • HospitalityNet: A prolific website that hosts a plethora of opinion and news-based articles about the hospitality industry, Hospitality Net also offers a job board and guides to certain hospitality hotspots.
  • Little Hotelier: Little Hotelier provides a convenient system for front desk tasks, such as reservations. The software allows hospitality management professionals who own or run small operations to execute their business strategy more efficiently.
  • Social Hospitality: Social Hospitality styles itself as a "boutique digital marketing agency" that exists to meet the needs of different hospitality businesses. The site's blog provides free marketing tips to hospitality professionals.
  • Hospitality Technology: Hospitality Technology hosts articles about several different topics that can help hospitality professionals. The site's current categories include customer experience, data and analytics, point of sale, operations, and events.