Graduate school can open new doors for current and aspiring hotel managers eyeing a move to a senior-level leadership role in hotels, restaurants and other areas of the tourism industry. Generally, your coursework in one of these programs will include studies in both business and hospitality coursework, but the mix of these types of courses depends on the type of master’s degree in hospitality management you are pursuing. You should also expect to complete coursework in the different issues found in the hospitality industry as well as research in this field, which may or may not include writing a master’s thesis.
Different Types of Master’s Degrees in Hospitality Management
The first thing students should know when choosing a program is that there isn’t just one kind of master’s degree in the field of hospitality management. In fact, there are many different graduate study options in this field, ranging from the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree to the Master of Science (MS) degree. Although it can be tempting to dismiss the subtle differences between degree program titles, this isn’t purely a matter of semantics. Whether a program is an MBA or an MS degree tells you whether it favors studies in business or in specialized hospitality coursework.
If you choose to earn your MBA in hospitality management, you can expect your coursework to be more business-oriented. The bulk of your curriculum will emphasize graduate-level study in business administration, finance, accounting, strategic management and similar topics, with a few hospitality courses mixed into the program. Master of Science degrees in hospitality management tend to be more focused on the industry. Although they incorporate some advanced business administration courses, you are more likely to find classes with titles like Organizational Behavior in the Hospitality Industry, Competitive Strategies in Hospitality and Strategic Marketing in Service Dominant Logic.
Some graduate programs in hospitality have a global focus that makes them particularly valuable if you aspire to work in internationally-renowned hotels and restaurants in countries anywhere in the world. These programs may require you to spend multiple semesters abroad in different locations. Your coursework might include studies in hospitality business strategies specific to different regions of the world.
Programs with titles such as Master of Management in Hospitality also emphasize business management but tend to include more specialized coursework, such as properties development and planning and competitive strategies for the hospitality industry.
Studying Issues in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry
Students in a master’s program in hospitality management have some background in the industry, either through undergraduate studies in the field or through considerable work experience. Since students already know the basics, advanced topics are what make up much of the curriculum. Often, that includes coursework that focuses on the most important challenges hospitality managers face. Many programs include general classes like Current Issues in Hospitality and Tourism Management, while more specialized courses such as Global Issues of Tourism Trade and Critical Issues in Hospitality Human Resources may also be part of the curriculum.
Problem-solving is among the most crucial skills needed for lodging managers, food service managers and event planners, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Understanding major issues in hospitality management is the first step to solving them.
Research Coursework in Hospitality Management
Many master’s degree programs in hospitality management include at least some coursework related to research in the industry. You might, for example, take a research seminar, a course in research methods and studies in statistical analysis of research data.
For some graduate students in hospitality management, these research classes help you prepare to meet a thesis requirement. A hospitality management thesis presents research performed according to an approved methodology that results in qualitative or quantitative data. Examples of thesis topics in this field of study include member recruitment and renewal in private clubs, the effectiveness of casino loyalty programs, attitudes of certain populations toward tourism and travel and many other areas of inquiry pertaining to the tourism industry.
Not every student of a master’s degree program in hospitality management is drawn to the research aspect of the field. If your interests in graduate study revolve around improving your practical skills instead of conducting your own original research, you would probably prefer a non-thesis track hospitality management program.
Instead of submitting a lengthy document full of research findings, the academic experience of students in a non-thesis program will culminate in some sort of capstone project, practicum or course that integrates all you have learned throughout the program.