If you’re intrigued by the idea of a career in hotel and restaurant management, you’ve probably considered getting a hospitality degree, but a four-year college education typically costs about $20,000. To pay for your degree, you can take advantage of a variety of financial aid resources, including federal student loans, Pell grants, work-study programs, scholarships and tax credits. If you do well in school and graduate on time, there are programs that subsidize most or all of your loans so that you only have to pay back the principle without interest.

Utilizing Financial Resources

Student debt can be a serious burden, but by planning ahead and making use of various student debt payment resources, you can keep your payments manageable and become debt-free as quickly as possible. Since you’re going to be working in the hospitality industry, it makes sense to use your four years in a hotel and restaurant management program to get experience in the industry. Working as a server in a restaurant, a receptionist in a hotel, a cook or dishwasher in a kitchen or a bartender in a restaurant or bar gives you valuable experience and a reliable paycheck while you’re in school.

These businesses are often very understanding about student schedules, but you should still expect to work long, hard hours when you’re on the schedule. The hotel and restaurant business is a profession with irregular, late-night hours, and when you’re a manager, you will have twice the expectations placed on you to perform well under stress. To get started with your education, your first step should be to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form online, and at the end of the application, you’ll be able to specify the schools to which you want your application sent. The financial aid departments of these colleges will prepare the grants and loans for which you’re eligible, and when you enroll in the hospitality program, your financial aid will be available in your account.

Starting Out in the Hospitality Industry

Depending on how much money you currently make, federal student aid could cover all your tuition, books and living expenses, or it could cover only part of your education. Federal loans are based on financial need, so if you don’t qualify for any of these loans, you most likely aren’t having a problem paying for college in the first place. You also have the opportunity to apply for work-study programs through FAFSA, but you might find it more worthwhile simply to work in a restaurant or bar making $20 to $30 an hour.

The experience you gain from working as a waiter, bartender or cook will be absolutely necessary when you begin looking for work as a manager. A hospitality degree is valuable to employers, but if you graduate at a traditional age of around 22, you may still have to spend several years working your way up to management. However, with a management degree, you’ll be qualified for top-level positions that aren’t available to mid-level managers without an education, such as the general manager of a large hotel or restaurant chain.

The hospitality business is a thriving industry, and with management skills, you can make upwards of six figures per year. If you have the ambition to move up the ladder in this occupation, consider getting a hospitality degree.