How to Become a Hotel Manager
If you enjoy working with people, organizing events, and leading employees, a career in hotel management may be for you. It’s an exciting career — no day is exactly the same — and the skill set you develop can even take you to related industries like hospitality, management, or event planning.
But, how do you get started in a management position? And what is the best way to work and pursue professional development at the same time? Here is a quick guide to pursuing a successful career as a hotel manager.
What Does a Hotel Manager Do?
As the manager at a hotel, you will not only manage people, you’ll manage situations. Beyond managing the daily operations of the property, you will also handle a host of other concerns and issues. You’re the one who answers angry customers and helps juggle maintenance and packed floors for local events. There may also be managers for a number of other departments, like human resources or food service managers, that report to you.
When hotel guests have a problem, you’re the one that smooths it over and finds a solution. If you manage a boutique hotel, you may be expected to provide a more personalized guest experience than you might find at a chain hotel. You might be put in charge of marketing and public relations for that location, as well. For larger hotel chains, there are general managers that supervise a number of locations—and their managers—for a whole region. Conversely, if you work in a small hotel or lodging establishment, you might be one of a very select few managers, or even the only manager, with only the owner to answer to.
No matter the size of the hotel, you will likely be in charge of hiring and training staff to work within the hotel. You may also be responsible for the financial management of the hotel, including payments, promotions, and room charges. Overall, it is your job to ensure that guests have an enjoyable experience during their stay.
Typical Hours and Salary
The entry-level salary (less than a year of experience) for hotel manager positions is around $40 to $45k. Highly experienced hotel managers are likely to earn closer to $60k, according to Payscale. According to Salary, the average hotel management salary might be as high as $109k for those who manage a five-star hotel or luxury hotel. The overall median salary for the position is $54,430 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many hotel managers work from 9 am to 5 pm, covering the hours when most customers would expect them to be available. During busy weekends and certain evenings, there may be times where extended hours are expected to meet guests’ needs. You might also be expected to travel for conventions, suppliers, or to meet with corporate clients.
Hotel management might sound like a desk job, but that’s not often the case. Many hotel managers primarily work on their feet, staying on top of issues, making important decisions, and providing solutions as problems arise. So, if you are looking for a job that is active and ever-changing, then becoming a hotel manager could be a great fit.
Skills and Qualifications
What does it take to be a good hotel manager? There are a number of important skills you should have:
- Excellent customer service
- Outstanding communication
- Great budgeting skills
- An ability to oversee employees
- Leadership skills that create willing followers
- Being a “people person”
- Outgoing and extroverted
- Organizational skills
- Effective time management
- Quick problem-solving skills
- Passion and dedication
- Persistence and drive
Many lodges and hotel chains appreciate—and hire—professionals with relevant degrees to fill their leadership roles. At the very least, you'll need a high school diploma. Most full-service hotels require an undergraduate degree for the position, but earning your master's degree could help with career advancement.
One of the best ways to get your foot in the door is to start working at a hotel while you earn your degree. It is possible to earn a hotel management degree online while working full-time; sometimes, preferable. After graduating, your prior work experience in the hotel industry will help you as you pursue hotel management opportunities, whether it’s an opening with your current employer or with a competitor.
Increasing Your Skill Set
Are you interested in a job as a hotel manager, event planner, or another career in the hospitality industry? These are just some of the skills you’ll need:
Clear and concise communication is a vital skill for hotel and lodging managers. Focus on listening to issues and problem-solving to find resolutions to customer complaints. A professional manager will remain calm and collected, even if insulted or treated rudely. Practice professional ways to be a leader on a team, how to remember names and greeting strangers with a warm smile. Effective communication skills can really set you apart from other management prospects.
Focus on the little things. Don’t overlook any aspect of the hotel. If you are a procrastinator, now is the time to shift your mindset and get on top of your schedule. As a manager, you should set the tone and not be scattered. From keeping track of a detailed budget to noticing the good work done by your co-workers and staff, you will have a lot on your plate to track and oversee.
Being good with money is important in this job because upper management (or the hotel owner) will trust you with rates, charges, and expenses. You need to be quick with math skills and have a good mind for numbers because customers will often need to know costs or savings on the spot. A great relationship with vendors and guests also helps in this regard as the subject of costs and money, in general, is an area ripe for tension and misunderstanding.
To become a top employee and manager, you need to be driven, focused, and loyal. Work hard and never ask an employee to do a task you aren’t willing to do yourself. Learn from the bottom up and you will have more respect as a leader. You’ll have earned those stripes. And speaking of earning, earn a relevant degree and you add in a lot of technical knowledge that helps you keep up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.
5 Steps to Become a Hotel Manager
1. Gain Hospitality Experience
Experience in the hospitality industry is essential for developing the knowledge and background you need to excel as a hotel manager. Many hospitality companies require a successful management candidate to have at least five years of on-the-job hospitality experience. Larger and more extensive properties will usually require their hotel managers to have even more experience.
What kind of experience qualifies? Working in a hotel is best. After all, it's difficult to manage people and create an efficient operation if you don't understand what your employees do and how their jobs help create a good guest experience. Hospitality experience might include working jobs such as a housekeeper, a front desk clerk, a reservations agent, or a concierge. Some hotels have one or more assistant managers. This position can be a direct stepping stone to the head manager's role. Experience in the food and beverage sector or in the sales and marketing department of a hotel can also be valuable, but most hotels require at least a few years of direct hotel experience.
You don't have to wait until you graduate from college or even high school to start gaining your hoteling experience. You can work at many hotel positions after school or during summer breaks from school. You might even consider a summer internship. Although intern positions are generally low-paid or unpaid, you'll be able to get additional experience to boost your resume and, more importantly, your understanding of how a hotel operates.
2. Earn a Degree
Although there are no specific education requirements to become a hotel manager, a bachelor's degree, preferably in hospitality or resort management, is desirable to most employers. This is especially true of larger hotel chains or luxury resorts. In addition, a four-year degree and sometimes a graduate degree is generally a requirement for advancement into senior hotel management, such as managing operations for several hotel properties.
Johnson & Wales University offers a four-year degree program in hospitality management. This program prepares students for rewarding careers in hospitality and offers students to customize their degree with specializations in Food and Beverage, Hotels and Resorts, and Sustainable Tourism.
3. Participate in an Apprenticeship Program
An excellent way to gain the hoteling experience you need to move up the ranks—perhaps eventually into hotel management—is to take advantage of one of the many apprenticeship programs offered by major hotel chains. These programs usually require a four-year degree and expose you to a variety of hotel operations, such as front desk, food and beverage, IT, guest relations, and sales and marketing. Many programs, which last around six months, offer you an opportunity to work multiple areas within a hotel, so you can gain more varied experience. Some programs, such as the one with International Hotel Group, also offer apprenticeship positions in the corporate office. One of the exciting aspects of these programs with international chains is that many of the positions are located overseas.
A few of the best of these programs include the ones sponsored by Hilton Hotels, International Hotel Group (IHG), and Marriott. Unlike internships, which generally offer low or no pay in exchange for experience, hotel apprenticeships allow you to earn a decent wage while you learn. You are generally paid the same as other people at the hotel working in comparable jobs. Many positions also offer benefits. However, in most cases, you'll need to cover your travel and moving expenses if you opt to take an apprenticeship in another part of the world.
4. Work Your Way Up
A position as a hotel manager is very rarely someone's first hotel job. Most people earn the position of hotel manager by working their way up through the hotel staff ranks. This can be done in several ways. You can work up through the operations career path (usually preferable), the food and beverage career path, or the hotel sales and marketing career path. All three of these options allow you to learn about a variety of hotel functions and jobs and give you a better appreciation for what each job at the property entails and how they interact with one another.
The operations function in a hotel focuses on guest rooms, managing and hiring staff, budgeting, housekeeping, and front desk operations. The food and beverage side of a hotel property, as the name implies, focuses on the hotel's restaurants, bars, and catering. Sales and marketing are involved in the promotion of the hotel to offer everything from events to a good night’s sleep.
It doesn't hurt to do a little traveling, also. The more you sample the guest experience at various hotel properties, the more you'll be able to discern good service from mediocre service and see what works and what methods and policies could stand to be changed.
5. Earn Certifications
Certifications can help jump-start your career journey. These programs are designed to give people without a lot of hoteling experience a good overview of what happens in a hotel and various hotel functions. You can take a certification program before starting a degree program to see if this career is something you'd like to pursue. You can use it to augment your degree in another field, or you can layer a certification program with a degree in hospitality to give it extra "punch."
Johnson & Wales University offers an undergraduate Food Compliance micro-certificate and a one-year graduate Hospitality certificate. Both programs are offered exclusively online, so you can schedule your coursework around your other life demands, like family, work, and civic responsibilities.
The Food Compliance micro-certificate is offered to applicants with at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Students in our micro-certificate explore food safety and environmental sanitation through a management lens. Upon completion, students are prepared to serve as a leader in food compliance in a variety of areas in the hospitality industry.
The Hospitality certification program is designed for people who already have a four-year degree in another field but want to learn more about the hospitality industry. If you decide to pursue a graduate degree in hospitality, every credit hour of this certification program can be applied toward your graduate degree. What you'll learn in this program includes franchising and licensing in the hospitality industry, leadership in management training, developing strategies for building brand-loyal guests, and ethical tactics for mitigating operational challenges within the hospitality industry.
If you’re interested in becoming a hotel manager, earn your bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from JWU. We also have a number of other hospitality degree programs to choose from. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].