Choosing a Restaurant Management Degree

If you think you're cut out for restaurant management, here are tips to get you on your way.

restaurant manager greets customers

A degree in restaurant management is a good first step. Basic business skills and managerial know-how will keep your business running smoothly and ensure that your staff is happy—from the busboys to the executive chef.

Before you decide on a specific school or degree program, though, you'll want to think about the career path you'd like to pursue. Food service managers are needed in a variety of different settings, not just five-star eateries and fast food franchises. Training in restaurant management prepares you to supervise kitchens in institutional settings, too—school cafeterias, for instance—or to run a catering business. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you could consider a career in one of the currently trendy areas of food service: mobile food trucks.

Who Should Get a Degree?

If you don't have a restaurant background, a degree program can help you seek out externships or other work experience to fill out your résumé. In particular, degree programs in restaurant management will educate you in the fundamental business principles critical to operating a restaurant. Even if you already have experience in food service, a degree can help you acquire valuable managerial skills such as recordkeeping, personnel management and using business software.

Available Degree Programs

  • If you're already working in the food industry or would like to start working as soon as possible, then a certificate or associate's degree in restaurant management could be ideal. Certificate and diploma programs take around 9 months to a year to complete, while most associate's degrees take about 2 years of full-time study. Certificates and associate's degrees are offered at private culinary academies, vocational schools and community colleges.
  • For more in-depth training, you might research bachelor's degrees offered by colleges, universities and culinary schools. A bachelor's degree takes about 4 years to complete, and it may prepare you to enter the management ranks immediately upon graduation.
  • Some restaurant owners even choose to pursue a master's degree, usually an MBA in hospitality management.

The critical factor for you to consider when making your choice is your ultimate career goal. However, you'll also want to give weight to other factors such as the length of the program, how much school you can afford, whether the school has financial aid, and whether it offers classes that fit your schedule. You will also want to verify that the school or program is accredited. In the end, an informed decision will help you get the most out of your restaurant management education.