Job Prospects and the Value of Graduate Education in the Hospitality Industry

As today’s students enter college and select a degree program, many employment outlook analysts are urging them to consider a career in hospitality management, citing both projected industry growth and a widespread lack of skilled job candidates.

The hospitality management industry can be divided into several subcategories. Food and beverage managers handle food service operations for hotels, restaurants and other establishments that serve meals to the public, for instance. Hotel, casino and spa managers oversee matters related to budget/finances, customer service, inventory logistics and marketing/sales that affect their respective establishments. Travel and tourism managers handle booking, budgeting and other logistical concerns for cruises, tour groups and travel agencies. Event planners help customers plan weddings, fundraisers, theatrical productions and other large-scale gatherings. Finally, human resources managers oversee staff training, employee relations and other inter-company matters for hotels, casinos, spas and other hospitality-related establishments. Wages and salaries vary between these subcategories. Food and beverage managers typically earn an annual salary between $29,000 and $68,000, while casino managers can earn as much as $339,000 per year.

Industry Growth
According to the 2012 Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, the field of “Leisure & Hospitality” is expected to grow by 15 percent by January 2013 – four percentage points ahead of the net employment average. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hospitality management is considered a “high growth industry,” with 17-percent projected wage and salary employment growth between 2004 and 2014.

The industry is not without its challenges, however. Employee recruitment and retention is one of the most notable. The hospitality industry has recently faced a shortage of skilled workers to fill desirable positions, and the sector’s somewhat negative image (stemming from a high number of low-wage jobs with little chance of advancement) has led to high turnover rates throughout the industry. Relatively high unemployment rates are another concern. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the hospitality sector averaged 9.85 percent between July and October 2012. In addition, the average employee in this industry earned roughly $13.37 per hour during this same period.

According to
, individuals who wish to enter the hospitality industry should have a certain set of relevant skills. In addition to “soft skills” such as effective communication and customer service, career hopefuls should be proficient at operating computers and managing technology-based systems. Other desired skills are specific to the type of hiring establishment. Hotel employees should understand the importance of safety and security measures, for example, while casino employees must have a working knowledge of applicable gaming laws; similarly, restaurant employees should follow government-mandated regulations pertaining to food preparation, service and storage.

If one wishes to successfully advance in the hospitality industry, a master’s degree in business management may prove very effective. Many MBA programs expose students to finance/accounting, human resources, information systems and other facets of management that are valuable to hospitality employers, and certain programs educate students in matters pertaining to a specific sub-sector (such as hotel or restaurant management). Advanced college degrees are also considered preferable to in-house training programs offered by many hospitality-oriented companies.

“The hospitality industry as a whole lacks consistency and portability in training models and skill certifications,” notes the U.S. Department of Labor. “Many employers provide internal training programs for entry-level workers, which makes it difficult to monitor the content of training and the skills acquired.” MBA degrees, in many cases, allow employees to bypass these programs and advance without earning in-house certification. These credentials are also much more universal.

Today’s applicants are encouraged to practice effective job-seeking strategies in order to land a desirable position within the hospitality industry. First, applicants should proactively search for positions by networking with co-workers and other hospitality employees, consulting employment web sites, and keeping an eye on specific industry trends. Job seekers would also be wise to build a strong resume highlighting skills that are not only relevant to the hospitality industry as a whole, but also to the niche sector they wish to pursue (hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc.) Finally, applicants should focus their search on establishments with a good track record for employee advancement and satisfaction.

The hospitality industry is expected to grow considerably in coming years, and many skilled employees — especially those with an advanced degree in hospitality management — will greatly benefit from this growth. While the industry has long been regarded as a low-paying field for young people, experts say hospitality management and services will be a promising career choice for MBA graduates in the coming years.

Sophia Foster is a writer and researcher for Feel free to check out more of her writing!

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