One of the most common questions students who plan on majoring in Hospitality Management ask is, “what is the best hospitality management school?” or for those who may already be in community college, the question may sound something like, “what school should I transfer to to earn my bachelor’s degree in hospitality management?” These types of questions are typically directed to high school counselors or faculty advisors at community colleges.
The answer to that question should never be the same because the best school for each student varies from person to person and is contingent on exploring a number of factors that would have a crucial impact on the student’s career and finances.
The short and simple answer to that question is you should pick a school that provides a broad range of hospitality courses with the option of specializing in a particular segment within the industry. Regrettably, that answer does not really help most students. So a more elaborate answer is necessary, and it begins by first attempting to define what your professional goals are as a student. That is to say, begin with the end in mind. Defining what your dream job is in the hospitality industry makes it easier to match you with the best school for you.
What many people do not realize is that each hospitality management school has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, so they’re not all the same.
Here are four things that can help you pick the best hospitality management school:
- Placement Rate
- Student Life
The hospitality industry attracts many types of people, but generally speaking, it is best suited for students who:
- enjoy serving others and making people happy.
- enjoy meeting new people.
- enjoy new challenges.
- are active people.
- thrive in a team environment.
In the medical profession, if students go to medical school for seven years, they eventually graduate and become general practice physicians. However, they have the option of going through additional training to specialize in a particular field of medicine such as: pediatrics, cardiology, orthopedics, etc.
Similarly, a degree in hospitality management provides you with the basic foundation to be successful in the hospitality industry, but you also have the option of specializing in a specific area within the hospitality industry.
The hospitality industry is a broad field that includes areas like: lodging, food and beverage, cruise ships, parks and recreation, gaming, club management, event management, and tourism. If you know in which of these area you want to work, picking the best school for you becomes easier. All you would have to do is pick a school that has an emphasis in that particular segment.
If you are unsure what you want to do in the hospitality industry, your best option is to find a school with a general hospitality program, and it would be a good idea for you to get an internship in the hospitality industry while going to school to get a better sense of what specialization appeals to you and your lifestyle the most.
However, if you know you have a passion and possibly some experience in a particular segment and want to specialize in it, you’ll need to go through the exercise of identifying which schools offers the specialization you seek.
But how do you do that?
Start with a general search online for hospitality management programs and create a list of 10 to 20 schools that appeal to you based on location, cost, and name recognition.
To find out if the school you are considering offers your specialization, evaluate the following three things:
Courses: look at the list of all the courses offered at the school you are considering and see if they have a concentration, minor, or area of emphasis in your specialization, or at the very least, have 3-4 courses specifically focused on your area of interest.
Faculty: checkout the list of faculty on the school’s website and review their profile. See if their faculty actually have industry experience in the area that you want to specialize. Unfortunately, some schools have faculty with high academic qualifications and research background but very little or no actual experience working in the field they’re teaching.
Location: the city that your school is located in should have a good number of hospitality businesses that focus on your area of specialization. For example, if you wanted to specialize in casino management, you should consider going to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) since they offer that specialization and the location supports it. If you wanted to specialize in event management. your options could include schools in Orlando, Chicago, Las Vegas, or San Francisco. Picking the right location provides you with internship training opportunities, industry exposure, networking opportunities, and possible employment after graduation.
In addition to a specialized program, you’ll need to know what your employment prospects are after you graduate from your school of interest.
Call the school your are interested in and find out if they have a career placement office or staff and what their job placement rate is in your industry. The whole point of going to college and earning a degree is to gain the training, skills, and education to help you be successful in getting a job or starting your own successful business. Ideally speaking, you want a school that has a placement rate of 90% or higher. If you’re not able to get the placement rate, find out how involved industry professionals are in your school. Some of the questions you should be asking the schools you’re interested in are:
- Does the school have an advisory board made up of industry employers and professionals?
- Does the school have hospitality career fairs?
- Do faculty invite industry professionals as guest speakers to the classroom?
While education is an investment in your future, it needs to be a manageable investment and not a life-sentence in financial burdens and student loans. Many private and for-profit schools charge an enormous amount in tuition fees. While some are worth the investment for a few students, for the majority of students it is a debt sinkhole with a very difficult climb.
So what’s the right tuition fee amount? Whatever you’ll be able to comfortable pay-off within a 20 year period. The following is not a scientific formula, it’s just a general rule that I tend to suggest.
The annual tuition fees should NOT exceed the amount of annual income you will reasonably expect to earn at your first professional job after you graduate. The average entry-level management position in the hospitality industry tends to be about $30,000 per year. So your annual tuition fees should be no more than about 50%-90% of that amount, which equals to $15,000-$27,000.
Attending college should be one of the best times of your life. While your goal is to earn a degree and get the best possible training in your field, you should also make sure that you’re enjoying your time in school beyond the classroom walls. So, find out if the school that you’re researching has student clubs or organizations in your major. Find out what type of enrichment programs and activities the school offers for students. Find out if there’s a place on campus where students can just hang-out, socialize, or study. If you’re planning on being in school for 4 years (or more), you might as well have fun while you’re there.
So, in conclusion, there isn’t one particular thing that you should be looking for when you’re trying to find the best school for you. However, if I were to summarize what you should be looking for in a school, I would include the following three things. The school should fulfill your:
- Academic goals: earn the degree that you want
- Professional goals: find a job or employment prospectus that you can pursue
- Personal goals: have memorable experiences and build new friendships
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