What Is Hospitality Management? Careers, Skills, Salaries, and More

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover examples of jobs in the hospitality industry, needed skills and education, and hospitality courses you can take to advance your career.

[Featured Image] A businesswoman in a blazer sits outside at a cafe and considers a career in hospitality management.

Hospitality management involves all the tasks and aspects associated with managing a hospitality business. These businesses focus on welcoming customers and providing them with pleasant experiences, whether through dining, lodging, events, entertainment, or travel. 

Take a closer look at how hospitality management is different from hotel management and examples of hospitality management career paths. You'll also discover the skills and education you may need to succeed in this industry, the job outlook, and how to get started.

Hospitality management vs. hotel management

Hotel management has to do with the lodging industry only, and hospitality management involves a variety of industries. Hotel management is a type of hospitality administration. You'll find that most hospitality businesses fall under one of five key categories:

  • Food and beverage

  • Lodging

  • Meetings and events

  • Recreation

  • Travel and tourism 

Career paths in hospitality management 

A background in hospitality management may open a variety of job opportunities. Here are some of the career paths you can take.

*All salary data sourced from Glassdoor June 2022

Hotel general manager

Hotel general managers use business, management, and interpersonal skills to oversee the day-to-day operations of a hotel, motel, lodge, inn, or resort. The various hotel department heads report directly to them, and they must have knowledge of all areas of hotel management. Depending on size, the departments within a hotel might include:

  • Accounts

  • Food and beverage services

  • Front office

  • Housekeeping

  • Human resources

  • Information technology

  • Kitchen and food production

  • Maintenance and engineering

  • Marketing and sales

  • Purchasing

  • Security

The level of education needed for a hotel general manager depends on the size of the business. If you want to work for a full-service hotel, you'll likely need a bachelor's degree in hotel management or hospitality. Smaller hotels will often hire general managers with an associate degree. Luxury hotels may require you to have a master's degree in hospitality management. 

Average annual salary (US): $67,918

Property operations manager 

In addition to mechanical and engineering knowledge, property operations managers need good organizational skills, a knack for time management, and an ability to work well individually. This position may also be referred to as a property maintenance manager. 

As a property operations manager, you'll conduct regular inspections on properties such as resorts or hotels. Inspections help ensure that the property’s appearance is up to standard and that all parts of the property are operating normally. You will either do maintenance and repairs yourself or supervise your maintenance staff members. 

You can take a few routes to get a job as a property operations manager after graduating from high school. Consider getting an apprenticeship, going to trade school, or getting a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering.

Average annual salary (US): $51,004

Restaurant manager

Restaurant managers perform all the tasks that ensure a restaurant runs smoothly, such as:

  • Hiring restaurant staff

  • Setting schedules

  • Dealing with customer problems

  • Overseeing food prep and plating

  • Ordering food and restaurant supplies

Special skills that might benefit you in this job include the ability to work under pressure, flexibility with your schedule, and good communication skills. 

To become a restaurant manager, you can get a high school diploma and work your way up to the position in a restaurant, or you can get a degree. Many restaurant management positions call for at least an associate degree in restaurant management or hospitality management.  

Average annual salary (US): $49,789

Front office manager

Front office managers are responsible for the operation of a front office. In the hospitality industry, this might be the front office of a hotel, a casino, an event company, or an eco-adventure business. Some duties may include:

  • Overseeing the front office staff

  • Accounting

  • Record keeping

  • Answering phone calls

  • Interacting with customers 

Some workplace skills you'll need include an ability to communicate in person and in writing, good supervisory skills, and the capacity to work well under pressure. 

You'll need at least a high school diploma or the equivalent to become a front office manager and some experience working in a front office. Or, you can get an associate or bachelor's degree in communications, business management, or human resources.  

Average annual salary (US): $42,740

Director of housekeeping

A director of housekeeping is in charge of the housekeeping department in a business that provides lodging like a hotel or resort. Some duties include:

  • Hiring and training housekeeping staff

  • Managing staff schedules

  • Overseeing housekeeping needs for regular business and events

  • Helping out with cleaning tasks 

To get a position as a director of housekeeping, you might only need a high school diploma or a GED and significant housekeeping experience. However, some housekeeping director positions require an associate degree in hotel management or hospitality management.

Special skills needed for this job include:

Average annual salary (US): $55,266

Sommelier

Sommeliers have a deep knowledge of wine and understand how to recommend and serve it to customers. Their knowledge of wine might include:

  • Types of grapes used to make wines

  • Where wine grapes are grown

  • Select wine regions around the world

  • The proper way to taste wine 

To become a sommelier, it helps to have experience in a fine dining restaurant as a front-of-house attendant. It's possible to work your way up to a sommelier position, but an educational program designed specifically for sommeliers can be an efficient way to learn what you need to know. Examples of two institutions that offer sommelier education programs include the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS). The time it takes to get these certifications typically spans from about 18 months to three years.

Average annual salary (US): $60,908

Catering assistant

Catering assistants work for catering companies, which prepare and serve meals for events. Special skills needed for this position include knowledge of food preparation, food service, and food safety. You'll also need good time management and customer service skills

Catering assistant duties include:

  • Loading and unloading food and catering supplies

  • Washing, cutting, and peeling foods

  • Preparing salads and sauces

  • Setting up dining areas and buffets 

To become a catering assistant, you'll usually need a high school diploma or the equivalent and some experience working in the food industry. 

Average annual salary (US): $32,671

Travel agent

Travel agents plan different aspects of trips for travelers. Duties typically include conducting research and consulting with customers. They’re also responsible for booking flights, cruises, car rentals, hotels, tours, restaurant reservations, and event tickets. Special skills useful to travel agents include good verbal communication, time management, and the ability to work under pressure.  

To become a travel agent, you'll need a high school diploma or the equivalent and at least a few courses in travel planning from a community college or a vocational school. 

Average annual salary (US): $39,189

Tour guide

As a tour guide, you'll provide visitors or travelers with information about a particular place or a group of places. Examples include museums, government buildings, historic sites, parks, neighborhoods, and whole towns or cities. Additional job duties might include:

  • Collecting fees

  • Providing maps and brochures

  • Translating for foreign visitors

  • Giving briefings on safety procedures

Special skills that benefit tour guides include:

  • An engaging personality

  • Comfortable at public speaking

  • The ability to stay organized

  • Foreign language skills 

Average annual salary (US): $33,312

Event planner

When you're an event planner, you're responsible for the activities that ensure an event goes smoothly. Your duties often include:

  • Booking event sites 

  • Hiring caterers, entertainment, photographers, and other vendors

  • Consulting with customers

  • Overseeing staff

  • Negotiating vendor contracts

  • Supervising event setup and breakdown 

Important event planner skills include time management, the ability to work under pressure, and attention to detail.

While some event planning jobs require an associate or bachelor's degree in hospitality management. Several certifications may also help you qualify for more positions. A few examples include Certificate in Meeting Management (CMM) or Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP). 

Average annual salary (US): $41,189

Hotel marketing manager

As a marketing manager at a hotel, you're responsible for maximizing profits by boosting customer awareness and satisfaction. Duties typically include:

  • Managing hotel marketing staff 

  • Promoting the hotel through print, radio, video, and online marketing

  • Conducting market research to determine the needs of customers 

  • Building good customer relations 

To become a hotel marketing manager it's common to have a bachelor's degree in marketing or hotel management and have some experience in sales or marketing.   

Average annual salary (US): $54,579

Do you need a degree to work in hospitality management?

Whether or not you need a degree to work in hospitality management depends on the job. While a tour guide may not need a college degree, a hotel general manager often requires a master's degree. 

What skills do you need to work in hospitality management?

Having good communication skills, attention to detail, and proficiency in the technical skills specific to your job may help you succeed in hospitality management. Here's a look at the workplace skills and technical skills you will typically need.  

Workplace skills

Since jobs in the hospitality industry focus on giving customers enjoyable experiences, certain people skills are valuable. These often include:

  • Communication

  • Time management

  • Patience

  • Teamwork

  • Ability to multitask

  • Attention to detail

  • A positive attitude

  • Problem-solving

  • Flexibility

Technical skills

The types of technical skills you'll need for a job in the hospitality industry depend on the particular job. For instance, if you have a position as a front office manager, you may need to be good with numbers and have familiarity with accounting software. For an event planning position, you'd want to know about design, and as a hotel marketing manager, you would benefit from having a strong grasp of social media.

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

What is the job outlook for hospitality management?

The coronavirus pandemic greatly affected the leisure and hospitality industry. In April 2020, jobs in the industry decreased by 48 percent, but employment has steadily risen since January 2021 and the industry has made a significant rebound to recover almost all of that employment loss as of March 2022 [1]. This is especially true for the private industry, as opposed to government employers. Therefore, the job outlook appears relatively bright.  

To pursue your interest in a career in hospitality management, here are a few ways to get started:

  • Consider an internship or an entry-level job in the hospitality industry to determine if it's a good fit for you.

  • Identify if you have special knowledge or skills that would transfer to a hospitality management position.

  • Get a better understanding of the industry by taking a few hospitality courses. 

Next steps

If you're interested in being a general manager, front office manager, or marketing manager in a hotel, check out this hotel management specialization offered by ESSEC Business School on Coursera. If the travel and tourism industry is more to your liking, you might be interested in a course on sustainable tourism from the University of Copenhagen. 

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specialization

Hotel Management: Distribution, Revenue and Demand Management

Build a Hospitality Business. Prepare for a professional career in the hotel industry in just three courses.

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(1,478 ratings)

20,420 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 4 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Pricing, Revenue Management, Forecasting, Hotel Management, Hospitality Management, Hospitality Management Studies, Segmentation Analysis, Demand Management, Asset Management

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Sustainable Tourism – promoting environmental public health

The MOOC introduces learners to key environmental health and natural resources management challenges associated with the rapid growth in international ...

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(1,065 ratings)

26,795 already enrolled

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Average time: 1 month(s)

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Article sources

1. US Travel Association. "Leisure and Hospitality Employment Update, https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/leisure-hospitality-employment _march-2022-update.pdf." Accessed March 30, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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