5 Careers in Hospitality You Can Pursue With an MBA

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5 Careers in Hospitality You Can Pursue With an MBA

Tourism and hospitality have long been central to the U.S. economy. In 2019, the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated nearly $2 trillion, supporting 9.5 million jobs and accounting for almost 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the International Trade Administration.

While the global pandemic temporarily paused the industry’s growth, conditions are once again becoming favorable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the leisure and hospitality industry has almost fully recovered all the jobs it lost from the pandemic, and is expected to account for roughly 23% of all new jobs this decade.

Those who wish to participate in this vibrant industry will find a number of careers in hospitality and tourism, with countless opportunities for advancement. One of the best ways to prepare for success in this field is by obtaining an advanced business education, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

An MBA program that offers a concentration in hospitality and tourism can be especially helpful for pursuing work as a hotel manager, restaurant manager, food and beverage director, events manager, or guest services director. By providing foundational skills in budgeting, operations management, and organization, an MBA can set the tone for success in any of these roles.

1. Hotel Manager

One of the most important roles in the tourism industry is hotel manager. Professionals in this role work to ensure that guests have a pleasant experience staying in a hotel, motel, inn, or other type of lodging. Some of the most common duties and responsibilities associated with this role include:

  • Ensuring the cleanliness of guest rooms and public spaces
  • Answering guests’ questions about the facility’s standards or policies
  • Coordinating front-desk activities
  • Recruiting, hiring, and training staff

An MBA background can provide the managerial skills needed to thrive in this role. Hotel managers equipped with MBAs may also be well-suited to empower more women to advance to female leadership roles, something that is still far too uncommon in the hotel industry, where women filled just 10% of high-level leadership positions as of 2020.

Hotel Manager Salary and Job Outlook

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According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a hotel manager was $59,430 in 2021, with the top 10% of earners making more than $103,780. Additionally, the job outlook for the profession is very strong, with the BLS projecting 18% employment growth from 2021 to 2031, much higher than the average for all professions (5%).

2. Restaurant Manager

Restaurant managers make up one of the largest segments of workers in the hospitality industry, with more than 329,000 individuals employed in this role in 2021, according to the BLS. These professionals are responsible for the day-to-day operation of establishments that serve food and drink. Common responsibilities include:

  • Ordering food, equipment, and supplies
  • Hiring, recruiting, and training staff for the kitchen and front of house
  • Ensuring full compliance with all relevant safety and health regulations
  • Scheduling staff members and assigning duties

Completing an MBA program can provide the organizational skills and administrative competencies needed to keep a fast-paced restaurant environment running smoothly.

Restaurant Manager Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for a restaurant manager was approximately $59,400 in 2021, with the top 10% of earners making more than $98,070. An MBA can equip restaurant managers with the advanced skills and expertise to pursue more senior roles in the food service industry, including food and beverage director or even restaurant ownership. Restaurant owners had a median annual salary of $72,400 in March 2023, according to Payscale.

Employment of restaurant managers is projected to grow by 10% between 2021 and 2031, double the average for all professions, the BLS reports.

3. Food and Beverage Director

An executive-level career in hospitality, food and beverage directors may work for a hotel, entertainment venue, or other type of hospitality organization, directing and overseeing all aspects of the organization’s food and beverage service. Duties may encompass:

  • Menu budgeting and planning
  • Preparation for food and drink presentations
  • Overseeing aspects of guest service
  • Making human resources decisions, including payroll
  • Ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations

An MBA program can help students develop the organizational skills and financial acumen to stay on top of the compliance concerns and budgetary issues these professionals must deal with.

Food and Beverage Director Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for a food and beverage director was $73,800 in March 2023, according to Payscale, with a salary range between $50,000 and $111,000. Although the BLS doesn’t provide employment projections for food and beverage directors, overall employment in the leisure and hospitality sector is expected to grow at a rate of 10% or faster over the next decade, a promising sign for those interested in this role.

4. Events Manager

An events manager may work at a hotel or convention center, coordinating and arranging all aspects of meetings and professional gatherings. Some of the primary duties of this role may include:

  • Meeting with clients to gather information about their event
  • Planning the full scope of the event, including timeline and cost
  • Inspecting venues to ensure they meet client needs
  • Reviewing bills and approving payments associated with different events

The financial skills acquired in an MBA program, along with the managerial competence, can be invaluable to the events manager position.

Events Manager Salary and Job Outlook

According to Payscale, the median annual salary for an events manager was $58,400 in March 2023, with a salary range between $41,000 and $85,000. Events managers armed with an MBA may go on to pursue more senior roles in events planning and management, such as director of events. The median annual salary for events directors was $75,100 in March 2023, according to Payscale.

The job outlook from 2021 to 2031 projects growth of 18% for events managers, creating nearly 23,000 new jobs over that period.

5. Guest Services Director

A guest services director focuses on the front-desk functions of a hotel or resort, and may also serve guests in a concierge role. Duties can include:

  • Managing porters, bell staff, and other guest service representatives
  • Coordinating on-site or off-site events for guests
  • Answering questions about the facility or local attractions

MBA students are well-equipped for this role thanks to their managerial acumen and analytical skills.

Guest Services Director Salary and Job Outlook

March 2023 data from Payscale shows a median annual salary of approximately $58,200 for guest services directors, with a salary range between $38,000 and $89,000. Career advancement for guest services directors, particularly those who have acquired an MBA, could lead them to roles such as director of resort operations. A director of resort operations earned a median annual salary of approximately $96,200 in March 2023, according to Payscale.

While specific job growth numbers for guest services directors are not available from the BLS, it’s reasonable to assume job growth will be commensurate with other careers in hospitality, which suggests this role is potentially a very promising career.

Advance Your Career in Tourism and Hospitality with an MBA

Tourism and hospitality is a growing, dynamic industry that provides opportunities to meet new people and help them have great experiences. To prepare for success in the industry — or to take your career to the next level — consider the benefits of an advanced education, such as the Online Master of Business Administration from Washington State University.

The program, which includes a concentration in Hospitality and Tourism, is designed with working professionals in mind, offering you the flexibility to earn your degree while maintaining your personal and professional commitments. Discover how WSU can help you become a leader in hospitality.


Recommended Readings

Crisis Management Plans and Strategies for Businesses

Is an MBA Worth It?

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HotelTechReport, “30 Ways Hospitality Experience Builds Character”

Indeed, “The Pros and Cons of Working in Hospitality: A Definitive Guide”

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, “Women in Hospitality and Tourism: A Study of the Top-Down and Bottom-Up Dynamics”

International Trade Administration, Travel & Tourism

Payscale, Average Director of Events Salary

Paycale, Average Director of Resort Operations Salary

Payscale, Average Guest Services Director Salary

Payscale, Average Owner/Operator, Restaurant Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Food Service Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Industries at a Glance, Leisure and Hospitality

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Lodging Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners