What is it like to manage a hotel, and what kind of background is needed for this career?
Here’s the story of a hotel manager who does not have a college degree, but who worked his way up from his first job as a valet.
I’m in my late twenties and I work at a major 150+ room hotel in a major city in Louisiana. My official title is “Operations Manager.” I’ve been working in hotels since 2007, first as a valet and bellman for two years at a 200 room corporately-owned resort in coastal Alabama, then at the front desk at a smaller independent hotel. After that I was a front desk agent at a 300 room corporate hotel in Dallas where I was promoted to front desk manager, and finally I moved to Louisiana a year ago. I started at my current hotel as front desk manager and was promoted to Operations Manager in a couple of months. I’ve been at this hotel for one year.
A college degree may be the preferred way to enter this field, but another way is through “a beastly work ethic”.
To get my first hotel job I just walked in and applied. It’s easy to get an entry level position. To be an Operations Manager, you usually need a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management/Business or, like me, a beastly work ethic, willingness to go above and beyond expectations, work long hours, and volunteer to take on tasks around the hotel that go outside of your job description.
A degree can offer specialization in various areas, including travel and tourism.
Hospitality management, or hospitality administration, is a large field with an array of majors. Depending on your interest and skills, you can pursue degrees centered on hotel management, travel and tourism, conference or event management, the restaurant industry and more. A course of study can cover everything from business to food science to botany, and internships and assistantships are typical components as well.
U.S. News offers information about hospitality management scholarships.
TheBestSchools.org* ranked hospitality management four-year college programs, including these top five:
- Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration
- Michigan State University, School of Hospitality Business
- University of Nevada at Las Vegas, William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration
- Fairleigh Dickinson University, International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
- Virginia Tech, Pamplin College of Business, Dept. of Hospitality and Tourism Management
An associate’s degree in hospitality management is another way to prepare for a career in this field.
The bad news is that competition is tough for the best jobs.
Job growth in management positions is projected to show little or no growth over the next several years, even though growth in tourism and travel is predicted to be robust. Like many other segments of the economy, the hospitality industry is streamlining operations, leading to scaled-back staffing. Median salary in 2012 was $46,810.
In New York, SUNY at Delhi is a state school that offers a BBA Hospitality Management: Hotel and Resort Management. Their students can participate in the Walt Disney College Program.
… Through this program, students work at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for six months in a unique working/learning experience. Students can now earn SUNY Delhi course credit for the Disney courses offered as part of this program while they are working at Disney. Any student interested in this special program option should discuss it with his/her advisor early in their Delhi career. Disney courses include Communications, Leadership, Hospitality Management, Human Resources Management, Disney Marketing U, and Disney Experiential Learning.
It sounds like a good program for the right type of students, but I wonder if they are the target of jokes about their “Mickey Mouse” degree.
* ADDED: Thebestcolleges.org doesn’t disclose its ranking method, but their list can be a starting place to find colleges that offer hospitality management major. The College Board is another resource to use for finding and evaluating schools.
Andy Orin, “Career Spotlight: What I Do as a Hotel Manager”, Lifehacker, January 20, 2015.
Matt Konrad, “Check Into These Hospitality Management Scholarships”, U.S. News, March 20, 2014.