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What Can I Do With A Hospitality MBA?

Hospitality is big business. How big? The global hospitality industry adds up to trillions of dollars, and no less than one person in every ten is employed in the tourism or hospitality sector. With vast sums of money and huge numbers of employees, this sector has a huge need for skilled business executives. Those with the highest training will be poised to shape the future of this rapidly evolving field, as emerging technology, shifting consumer trends, and international issues change the way people spend their recreational time and money. An MBA in hospitality can allow you to do exactly that. Business executives with a hospitality MBA have influential, lucrative, and flexible careers within a large, growing, and evolving industry.

The word “hospitality” itself is derived from the Latin root word “hospes,” meaning “stranger” or “visitor.” Fittingly, hospitality is all about transforming a newcomer’s experience from that of a stranger to that of a welcome guest. Hospitality is an essential part of the human experience, and hospitality settings, from inns to spas, have been around since ancient times. Some of people’s happiest memories, from a honeymoon in Bali to a trip to Disney with the kids, revolve around the hospitality industry. In short, leisure is more than just fun and games- it’s a deep-seated human value. With an MBA in Hospitality, you’ll not only have excellent job prospects, but a career in a person-centered field that enriches people’s lives.

We’ve gathered the latest information on hospitality MBAs, from what these degrees are, to how to earn one, to what you can do with an MBA in hospitality business management. Our guide will help you answer the question, “What Can I Do with an MBA in Hospitality?” and get you started on a lucrative and satisfying career path.

What is Hospitality Business Management?

It’s hard to overstate the size and impact of the hospitality economy. Annual revenue for hotels in the US alone came to $185 billion in 2017 and another $18 billion was spent on cruises. That’s over and above expenditures on countless other niche hospitality settings like theme parks, casinos, and spa retreats. And hospitality isn’t limited to the US, of course. People all over the world take vacations in their home countries and abroad, and international travel is one of the preferred ways for people to spend their free time and disposable income. Worldwide, the travel and tourism industry generates a whopping $8.72 trillion. Outside of leisure activities and vacation travel, the hospitality sector encompasses dining services, conventions, business travel, casinos, theme parks, cruises, and a host of other recreational and travel businesses.

With so much money and so many business types in the hospitality industry, skilled leaders are needed to make decisions and supervise operations at every level. Hospitality Business Management is the application of business principles and practices within the hospitality industry. That encompasses everything from supply chain management for a restaurant chain to real estate acquisitions for a resort to human resource management for a convention center. The breadth of the hospitality industry means that Hospitality Business Management frequently includes areas of business such as:

  • Real estate
  • International business
  • Safety and labor regulations
  • Technology
  • Marketing

What is an MBA in Hospitality?

An MBA is the gold standard in the world of business education, providing powerful training in a broad range of business topics, from finance to human resources. This flexible and in-demand degree gives graduates access to a wide range of prestigious and lucrative careers. A hospitality MBA is simply a master of business administration degree with a concentration in the business of hospitality. In a hospitality MBA program, you’ll focus on general business practices and principles, then hone in on the ways these play out in the hospitality industry.

An MBA in Hospitality prepares graduates to perform industry-specific business functions such as:

  • Quickly adapting marketing tactics to new trends
  • Solving management challenges in an unpredictable environment
  • Overseeing and motivating staff across multiple departments
  • Serving a diverse clientele and responding effectively to problems
  • Managing staffing, budgets, vendors, and chains of supply
  • Maintaining a global perspective in business decision-making

Whether you are enrolled in an on-campus or online MBA, this degree typically takes two years to complete. For those who wish to complete their degree faster, there are many excellent accelerated MBA programs, which compress the same curriculum into a shorter period, usually 18 months. Part-time students, on the other hand, can expect to spend 3-5 years earning their MBA in hospitality, depending on their course load per semester.

What is the Difference Between an MBA in Hospitality and a Master’s in Hospitality?

Both an MBA in Hospitality and a Master’s in Hospitality provide training in the management and business aspects of the hospitality industry. Both degrees traditionally take two years to complete. Both lead graduates to high-level management and administrative jobs. Both are associated with lucrative salaries. And both an MBA in Hospitality and a Master’s in Hospitality cover much of the same curriculum. With so much overlap between the two, many people wonder, “what is the actual difference between a Master’s in Hospitality Management and a Hospitality Management MBA?”

In spite of all the shared academic and professional territory, there’s a meaningful and clear difference between a Master’s in Hospitality Management and a Hospitality Management MBA. At the most basic level, this is a matter of focus; a Master’s in Hospitality Management is focused on organizational management, while an MBA in Hospitality is focused on business management.

An MA or MS in Hospitality Management provides thorough preparation for organizational leadership roles. This type of program teaches students how to make a hotel, cruise line, casino, or convention center run smoothly. To that end, this type of degree program covers how to supervise staff, direct customer service, balance the books, comply with regulations, and manage supplies. Administrative, problem-solving, leadership, and interpersonal skills are essential for this type of role.

A Hospitality Management MBA, on the other hand, is more focused on the bigger picture, looking at the business as a whole. Instead of administration and management, graduates with an MBA in hospitality work in areas like strategic planning, marketing, analysis, and change management, all within the hospitality sector. An MBA in Hospitality trains graduates to uncover consumer trends, develop innovative brand strategies, increase profit margins, and grow market shares. To excel in the business end of hospitality, analytic thinking, a strategic mindset, qualitative skills, and sound decision-making are key.

In addition to classes, the academic setting between the two also differs. A master’s in generally offered through a graduate school, often as a school of hospitality, while an MBA is taught through a business school. Many schools also offer a dual MS/MBA in hospitality, which typically takes 3 years to earn. One more essential difference between a hospitality management master’s and a hospitality MBA is the experience required for enrollment. Many people begin pursuing their master’s in hospitality right after completing a bachelor’s degree, while a hospitality MBA typically requires two or more years’ professional experience.

What Classes Will I Take for a Hospitality MBA?

As noted above, a hospitality MBA is, first and foremost, a graduate-level business degree. That means you’ll be focusing on business classes for most of your MBA program, and then learning to apply business principles within the hospitality concentration.

An MBA aims to prepare students with a broad range of business masteries, including teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, and strategic thinking. In the first year or so of your two-year course of study, you’ll likely take such general business classes as:

  • Corporate Finance
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Operations Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Business Communication
  • Leadership Development
  • Organizational Behavior

After completing your foundation-level business courses, you’ll move on to complete classes in the business of hospitality. At this point, you’ll be able to apply your business insights and strategic thinking to hospitality issues. Class topics specific to the hospitality MBA concentration may include:

  • Competitive Strategies for the Hospitality Industry
  • Human Resources Management in Hospitality
  • Principles and Practices in Hotel Management
  • Convention and Meetings Management
  • Research Methodology
  • E-commerce
  • Casino and Gaming Management
  • Food Service Administration
  • Properties Development and Planning

For your hospitality MBA, you’ll learn through not only lectures but also projects, group assignments, research, and case-studies. Some business schools offer students the opportunity to do an MBA internship with a hospitality firm

One of the advantages of a hospitality MBA is receiving formal training in up to date skills and topics. This means learning about the latest management software, travel apps, new research, and current best practices in the business. You’ll also gain exposure to the latest trends in hospitality and leisure, and learn how to leverage these to help your employer stay current and competitive. Current trends in hospitality include:

  • Health and wellness focus
  • Local destination experiences
  • Tech-based travel planning
  • Boutique lodgings
  • Lifestyle activity programming
  • Personalized loyalty rewards

Can I Earn a Hospitality MBA Online?

Earning an MBA used to mean taking off two years from work to attend an on-campus MBA program at a brick-and-mortar business school. Today, more and more students are opting to pursue an online MBA, often part-time, in order to keep their current job or maintain a better work-life balance. Online business school, once a disruptive innovation in the education sphere, is now a well-established part of the world of higher ed. As we’ve covered in our ranking of <the Best Online MBAs, there are quite a number of truly excellent schools offering online MBAs that are affordable, rigorous, and well-respected.

Online MBAs tend to have the same curriculum as on-campus MBAs, but deliver course content in the virtual classroom. That usually means a combination of online modules, texts and assignments, video lectures, message boards, and live chats and video conferencing. Many schools also incorporate some in-person component in order to develop strong connections between students and their peers and professors. Examples include a few weekend intensives and annual week-long immersions.

What Jobs Can I Get with a Hospitality MBA?

With a hospitality MBA, you can truly work in any aspect of business management, and from anywhere in the world. From ski lodges to theme parks, from industry conventions to eco-tourism, there are literally thousands of hospitality niches, and each has real needs for marketing, budgeting, development, and strategic planning. And as the field changes, new jobs are opening up, such as positions in online travel booking and partnerships between businesses and short-term rentals.

Whatever their area of the hospitality field, jobs associated with a hospitality MBA focus on business management and require strength in leadership, planning, and decision-making. Examples of jobs for those with an MBA in hospitality include:

  • Guest Experience Manager
  • Tourism Coordinator
  • Director of Sales and Marketing
  • Director of Financial Planning
  • Hotel Director
  • Global Development Manager
  • Senior Loyalty Strategist
  • Groups and Meetings Manager
  • Director of Financial Planning

Where Can I Work with a Hospitality MBA?

There are more than 270 trademarked hotel brands in the US alone, and countless independent hotels, motels, inns, lodges, resorts, and B&Bs throughout the country. Established brands need skilled professionals with an MBA in hospitality to compete for a greater market share and stay on top of new trends. New and independent hotels and lodging sites need professionals with a hospitality MBA to leverage their entrepreneurial skills in order to develop and deploy business strategies to ensure they survive and grow.

With a hospitality MBA, you may work on site at a lodging or venue. It’s also very possible that you’ll work off-site at corporate headquarters. Needless to say, this is an industry where you can expect to do a lot of traveling for work. If seeing other parts of the country (or the world!) as part of your job appeals to you, an MBA in hospitality is an excellent choice. You may spend time visiting multiple hotel locations in a franchise, observing and supervising events at different venues, or gathering data on staff performance on a cruise. If you work in the e-commerce sector, you may also spend plenty of time in the virtual travel sphere, while work in global tourism may take you to international destinations.

What is the Job Market with an MBA in Hospitality?

Across all areas of hospitality, travel and leisure, growth has been robust and sustained. According to research by Deloitte, the hotel and cruise industries have been experiencing nearly 10 years of continuous growth.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 33% growth in the hospitality and leisure sector. In fact, the BLS found that the hospitality and leisure sector beat out every other sector in the United States economy in terms of job openings for 2017.

The BLS also reports that, as of 2018, there were no less than 1,139,000 job openings in the travel and hospitality sector. That’s a truly massive talent shortage, and one which is not limited to low-level labor. There are openings in finance, strategy, and other top-level positions, especially given the unprecedented rate of change in the industry, which is being transformed by technology. All that adds up to an incredibly robust job market for those in the hospitality industry in general, and those with a hospitality MBA in particular. Professionals with this credential won’t just be well positioned to get jobs, but to hold down the most influential jobs that will shape the future of this robust industry.

How Much Can I Earn with an MBA in Hospitality?

According to salary.com, the average salary associated with a hospitality MBA is $96,979 – $114,439. Salaries for senior positions can come to $175,000 or more.

Generally, positions with a hospitality MBA that involve strategy, marketing, and finance are associated with higher salaries than those that involve supervision or personnel management. Large employers also tend to offer more generous salaries, along with better benefits, bonuses, and big perks, such as free lodging at affiliated hotels or discounted flights. According to data from Indeed, common large corporate employers of high-level executives with a hospitality MBA include:

  • Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
  • Choice Hotels
  • American Hotel Register Company
  • InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Marriott International, Inc

What are the Pros and Cons of a Hospitality Management MBA?

There are many attractive features of a hospitality MBA, from flexible job prospects to interpersonal connections. But this degree is not without its drawbacks as well, and an MBA in hospitality is certainly not the best fit for every person. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of a hospitality MBA carefully and be certain that this degree is right for you before taking the plunge.

Pros of a Hospitality Management MBA

Range of Career Options

Hospitality is an incredibly broad field which encompasses everything from travel to dining to events. Each area of the industry has specific needs in terms of supplies, oversight, technology, personnel, and regulatory compliance. That means you can find work in a number of areas doing any number of different job functions within the industry with a hospitality MBA.

Lucrative Jobs

The average salary associated with a hospitality MBA is $97,000 – $114,000. That’s an impressive figure, and the potential perks of working for a hospitality company (such as free stays at a hotel chain or discounted air travel) add to the attractiveness of this compensation package.

Flexible Degree

Unlike a master’s in hospitality, an MBA in hospitality is, first and foremost, a business degree. MBAs are in high demand, and provide a well-rounded foundation in general business practices. That means your training in business management will be sufficient to allow you to transition to another industry if you decide to switch over to a new field at some point.

Interpersonal and Analytical

Working in business can mean less opportunity to connect with people, especially for those who conduct strategy, finance, technology and supply chain management. But the entire hospitality industry is driven by people in search of fun, relaxation, and new experiences. Even if you’re involved in the technical side of the business, you’ll be far more likely to connect with others in this people-centered industry. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve contributed to some of people’s happiest and most meaningful experiences, whether that’s a honeymoon or a roller coaster ride.

Cons of a Strategic Management MBA

Frequent Travel

For many, frequent travel is a job perk, especially if it takes them to visit venues and lodgings in exotic locations. But there’s no denying that frequent travel for work can be disruptive and draining, especially for those with families or other obligations outside of work. Depending on your role, regular business travel may be an unavoidable part of your position.

Shifting Industry

All industries shift over time, but hospitality is especially subject to change. By nature, the industry is seasonal, impacted by the regular cycle of seasons and holidays. There are also plenty of unpredictable factors that can impact the industry, too. Economic shifts, international issues, and even politics and weather events regularly impact the hospitality industry and change the way people spend their weekends and vacations. And, of course, innovations like the rise of short-term rentals and travel apps sometimes arise and disrupt business as usual. Working in a volatile industry can be an exciting challenge for those who are agile thinkers and innovators, but can also be stressful. If you like to be in control and work with known quantities, this may not be the best industry for you.

High Tuition

Tuition for a hospitality MBA can vary wildly. An MBA at a top-tier private school can cost
over $150,000 per year. Tuition for business school at a state university is typically closer to $60,000 per year. And unless you’re enrolled in an online MBA program, you’ll need to factor in the time and cost of commuting as well, along with the cost of textbooks and school fees.

Opportunity Cost

While enrolled in an MBA in a hospitality degree program, you’ll be taking time away from the workplace. That will mean missing out on progress in your career, from professional development to networking to job experience. If you’re enrolled in a part-time MBA, of course, you’ll be able to continue to gain job experience while you pursue your degree. But there’s no denying that much of your energy and time will be dedicated to your studies, and potentially directed away from your existing job. Your professional gains after graduating with a hospitality MBA will need to justify the opportunities for professional growth you miss out on while enrolled.

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