May 20, 2022
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Guide to Online Hospitality Courses

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism and travel market encompasses more than 40 different industries, employs more than 230 million people, and produces $6.4 trillion dollars in economic activity. Online hospitality education can help you break into this exciting field or further your current hospitality career.

How Online Hospitality Programs Work

Online hospitality education programs use various web technologies — including e-mail, online discussions, and streaming video — to deliver courses. In addition to a reliable Internet service, online hospitality students will need email access and may need basic office software. Some courses may also use textbooks and other printed materials.

Richard Garrett, Director of Online Learning for the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA;), points out that not all online programs are equal and that students need to do some research before choosing a program.

“Students should pay particular attention to how available the instructor is and how long the school has been offering online training programs. The most successful programs see that getting online education right takes a lot of work,” says Garrett.

Garrett also notes that the same principle applies to successful students. “Many students make a dangerous assumption that online is easier and get themselves into trouble because they don’t treat online courses the same way they would traditional courses.”

Online Schools and Programs Offered for Hospitality Students

Ranging from individual courses to graduate degrees, below is a selection of schools offering online hospitality education:

  • Cornell University – eCornell
  • American Hotel & Lodging Association Educational Institute
  • American College of California Hospitality Institute
  • American Public University
  • California University of Pennsylvania
  • Columbia Southern University
  • Penn Foster College
  • University of Massachusetts

Paying for an Online Education

Online hospitality courses can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Check out the various financial aid options including loans, grants, scholarships, and tuition assistance.

To apply for federal assistance, you’ll want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You should also check with school financial aid offices for information on private loans, school scholarships, and payment plans. Employed students may also be eligible to receive tuition assistance from their employers.

Hospitality Management Degrees

A well-run hotel, resort, convention center, casino, cruise ship, or restaurant pleases customers and the bottom line. The managers who run these businesses need to have sharp business skills, be able to communicate with customers and clients, and keep everyone safe and happy.

This is where a hospitality management degree can really come in handy.

In a hospitaly management degree program, you’ll learn business concepts like human resources, finance, taxes and real estate laws. You’ll also learn concepts specific to the business of hospitality – event coordination, nutrition and serving; perhaps even navigation, geography, and foreign languages. It’s a good idea to complete an internship. Degree programs are available at associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

Some degree programs focus on a specific aspect of the industry, such as restaurant management or tourism studies.


The hospitality industry offers a wide range of employment options including hotel, restaurant, and tourism jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in most hospitality occupations are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014, including an impressive 26.6% projected growth for hospitality management, business, and financial occupations.

Potential students may question whether employers will accept online credentials. Richard Garrett with the AH&LA Educational Institute says that employers have been very accepting of their online programs. “The primary limitations we have run into are not from employers, but from the state regulatory side, as some states regulate what type of training is accepted to serve in certain positions.” Although Garrett does believe online education is widely accepted in the hospitality industry, he notes that reputation counts. “Particularly for certification in specific areas, I would advise students to look for programs with name-brand recognition throughout the industry,” says Garrett.

Ross Pearo, vice president of marketing and business development for eCornell, points out that degrees and credentials aren’t the only things that online education can provide to help students advance within the hospitality industry. “One feature of a well designed online course is the social aspect,” notes Pearo. “Online courses can provide a lot of opportunity to interact with other people in the industry. In fact, they often provide more opportunities for interaction than traditional programs. The ability to develop a network in the industry is certainly there in an online course, students just have to take advantage of it.”

Hospitality Specialties

Listed below are specialties for students of hospitality.

Banquet Manager
The banquet manager directs staff, handles customer service issues, implements marketing strategies, manages banquet finances, and has general responsibility for the operations of the banquet.

Bar Manager
The bar manager supervises bar staff, maintains records and inventory, assists with training, handles guest complaints, supervises and implements special promotions and events, and maintains quality standards and atmosphere.

Casino Manager
Casino managers are responsible for overseeing the entire casino, including gambling, hotel operations, and restaurants.

Chefs are charged with menu development and the creation and styling of food. Depending on their level of responsibility and expertise, chefs may also supervise kitchen staff and oversee standards of production.

Front Office Manager
The front office manager of a hotel is responsible for guest reservations, check in and out procedures, and all subsequent guest requests.

Hotel Manager
Hotel managers make management decisions about the hotels or resorts they run, including who to hire, rates to charge, and how to settle disputes.

Depending on the hotel and the size of its staff, hotel managers may either perform or direct housekeeping, personnel, office administration, marketing and sales, purchasing, security, maintenance, oversight of recreation facilities, and other activities. Hotel management degree programs are generally considered good preparation for this career, since they cover both business and management concepts, and issues related specifically to tourism and accommodations.

Meeting Planner
Meeting planners organize special events, such as meetings, parties, conventions, conferences, and banquets. They are responsible for coordinating everything from space and layout to catering and food service.

Reservation Manager
Reservation managers ensure a hotel’s occupancy is maximized and also that reservation operations run smoothly. They may oversee a staff of reservation agents.

Restaurant Manager
Restaurant managers run restaurants and similar food service establishments. They oversee the buying of food, menu creation, food preparation and service, employees, costs, and many other things. Sometimes, chefs with experience and money open and manage their own restaurants; business owners with other experience may do the same thing. There are also restaurant management programs that prepare graduates for the field.

Travel Agent
Travel agents work directly with clients to coordinate travel plans, which may include arranging for air and ground transportation, overnight accommodations, tours and activities, and meals.


Whether you want to brush up on a particular topic, get certified in a specific area, or earn your hospitality degree, there is most likely an online program to meet your needs — you just may have to do a little research to find the right program for you.