Online Hospitality Degree Programs

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From planning events to serving up good food, the hospitality industry thrives on creating exceptional experiences. Professionals in the field include restaurateurs, wedding planners and resort managers.

"The diversity of the individuals within the industry itself provides for unique relationships and experiences that are unparalleled by any other career option," explains Chef G. Allen Akmon, department chair for the culinary arts programs at Sullivan University's Louisville and Lexington campuses.

Those relationships are one reason students may want to consider a career in the field. Beyond that, a career in hospitality offers the chance to work in an always in-demand field where jobs are growing and compensation is good.

"Trained hospitality industry workers hold all of the cards," Akmon says. "They have the ability to find work in just about any corner of the world."

What Should I Know About Online Degrees in Hospitality?

Before they can hold all the cards, hospitality professionals need the right education. Online hospitality programs are one option for the next generation of industry workers to get ready for their dream job.

While traditional campus programs require students to travel to school at certain times for classes, online hospitality schools may let people log in to complete classwork at any time of the day. This level of convenience can be crucial for busy adults who need to schedule study times around work or family commitments.

"Many hospitality degrees are available 100 percent online," Akmon says. "For a baking and pastry or a culinary degree, an individual would need to complete roughly half of the credits in person in a laboratory and theory setting.

"Many hospitality degrees are available 100 percent online," Akmon says. "For a baking and pastry or a culinary degree, an individual would need to complete roughly half of the credits in person in a laboratory and theory setting."

In that case, Akmon suggests students earn an associate degree on campus to learn the hands-on aspects of the job before moving to an online bachelor or master's degree program. He adds some employers may pay for people to go back and continue their education while working.

Regardless of whether you choose an on-campus or online program, here's a look at the degrees typically held by hospitality professionals.

  • Associate degree: Completed in two years, an associate degree used to be adequate for many hospitality jobs. However, Akmon says many employers now want their high-level workers to have four-year degrees. "An associate's degree may be great and adequate for an entrepreneur," he says, "but all industries expect that individuals making their way into upper level management need at the very least a bachelor's degree." Examples of associate degrees include those in hospitality management and culinary arts management.
  • Bachelor's degree: "I always recommend that students should at the very least attain a bachelor's degree," Akmon says. Done in four years, a bachelor's degree gives students a greater depth of knowledge and also allows them to specialize their skills. For example, bachelor's degrees in hospitality may offer concentrations in gaming management, golf management, culinary arts, event planning, real estate or other niches.
  • Master's degree: A master's degree is typically the highest level of education pursued by hospitality and culinary arts professionals. Depending on the program, these degrees may be completed in one or two years, and graduates may be in line for promotion to the highest level of management or be able to work in academia as a college instructor. Some hospitality professionals opt to earn an MBA with a concentration in hospitality management to further expand their employment options.

What's Career Outlook for Hospitality Professionals?

As people continue to value experiences such as travel and dining out, job prospects should be good for hospitality professionals.

"The hospitality industry continues to grow and projected shortages of trained and passionate workers will not be filled anytime in the foreseeable future," Akmon says.

The chart below looks at government data for some common hospitality careers, including nationwide employment and salary data as well as expected job growth.

Position Employment (2014) Average Salary (2014) Expected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Chefs and Head Cooks 127,500 $45,880 9%
Lodging Managers 48,400 $57,230 8%
Meeting, Convention and Event Planners 100,000 $50,910 10%
Food Service Managers 305,000 $53,500 5%
Bakers 185,300 $25,550 7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Akmon is confident hospitality students will be able to find work after earning a degree. "If you can't find a job on your own, you are either not looking or you just plain don't want to work," he says, adding that Sullivan University offer lifetime job placement for its graduates.

Choosing the Right Hospitality School

Selecting the right hospitality school is a personal choice and can depend upon your specific career goals. Look for faculty who are actively involved in their profession and check retention rates and graduate placement as well.

If you're considering online hospitality schools, ask the following questions before enrolling.

  • Can all the degree requirements be completed online?
  • If not, how much on-campus work is required?
  • Do I need to log-in to the online classroom at a specific time?
  • Does the school provide internship placements for online students?
  • Is my computer compatible with the school's online delivery system?

Beyond asking these questions about online hospitality programs, students should also have a good grasp of the industry itself. "Hours are long and the work can be trying, but it can be very rewarding and exciting for the right individual," Akmon says. "Valuable employees are obviously scheduled during the most crucial times so take pride in the fact that you work on holidays, Fridays and Saturdays."

For the right person, hospitality is an exciting career path. To learn more, contact the schools below for further information.

1. Akmon, G. Allen, Interview with Author (December 22, 2015)
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition,
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014

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