How do I get into hospitality and travel?

How do I get into hospitality and travel?
Our overview of how to get a job in hospitality or travel as a school leaver or graduate gives tips on work experience and the qualifications you’ll need to get onto a top graduate scheme.

You could seek to start work full-time in hospitality or travel as a school leaver with GSCEs or A levels, as a graduate or after postgraduate study. The nature of your qualifications and experience will affect which roles you will be considered for and your level of seniority and salary when you start work.

If you have a part-time job in a café or restaurant you already have a foothold in the industry that will help you when it comes to applying for jobs, whether you do so as a school leaver with A levels or as a graduate. Gaining relevant work experience is really important if you want a career in this sector, as is having a customer-focused attitude. Use our advice to find out if a career in hospitality and travel would suit you.

If you do decide you want to go to university, studying a business, hospitality or retail-related subject may be an advantage if you apply to hospitality and travel graduate training schemes later on. If your long-term goal is to be accepted onto a graduate programme in hospitality, leisure, tourism or travel, you may need a 2.1 degree – a good second-class degree, the next best result to a first – to be successful. You may also need a certain number of UCAS points, so make sure you don’t neglect your studies. Our advice on why it’s worth considering a degree in hospitality or travel has more details.

If you’re considering a career in hotel management, check out the requirements for graduate schemes in this area listed below. Being fluent in another language in addition to English is a big advantage if you aspire to hold senior hotel management roles overseas.

Hospitality and travel careers for school leavers

If you’re looking for a career where you can get on without a degree and progress to supervisory and management roles, working in hospitality or travel could be a good option for you. Many senior employees of big companies started at entry level and received training on the job that helped them progress and take on more responsibility. Some employers, such as McDonald’s, have structured their jobs and training so that you can move on from entry-level roles and study for qualifications that will develop your skills along the way.

Once you have worked in a supervisory role for six months to a year in a hospitality or travel business that is focused on customer service, you will be well placed to apply for a management training programme. You can find out more about higher apprenticeships, training programmes suitable for school leavers with A levels, and prospects for non-graduates from our advice on careers in hospitality and travel without a degree.

Hospitality and travel careers for graduates

If this industry appeals to you but you have set your heart on going to university, it’s well worth keeping your long-term goal in mind and either choosing a relevant degree course or getting a part-time job or work experience in the industry.

Postgraduate study routes into hospitality and travel careers

There are numerous hospitality, leisure and tourism postgraduate courses available both in the UK and overseas. Studying at this level could help you gain a theoretical understanding of management concepts, boost your problem-solving skills, get to grips with issues facing the hospitality industry internationally and gain practical experience of managing projects.

Hospitality and travel work experience and part-time jobs

Many students have part-time jobs in the hospitality or travel industry while they are at school, college or university. These are a great way to gain experience of the sector as well as developing employability skills that will stand you in good stead even if you ultimately decide to pursue a career in a different area.

Here are some examples of typical part-time or holiday jobs that will give you experience of working in hospitality, travel, and closely related fields such as leisure and tourism:

  • accommodation and catering: restaurants, cafés, fast-food outlets, pubs, hotels
  • tourism, travel and transport: travel agents, tourism resorts and attractions, motorway service stations
  • leisure and visitor attractions: theme parks, leisure centres, cinemas and nightclubs
  • heritage and the countryside: historic houses, countryside recreation and conservation areas
  • sport and fitness: sporting venues, sport and fitness centres

The Institute of Hospitality, the organisation that represents managers in hospitality, leisure and tourism, has previously run a scheme called HAVE that enabled you to compile evidence of the skills you’ve gained from your part-time job in the industry in a way that will help you find work in future.

The Institute of Hospitality has developed two vocational qualifications, the level 3 and level 4 diploma in hospitality and tourism management, and there are numerous other qualifications you could consider, including NVQs, SVQs, BTEC qualications, apprenticeships, HNCs and HNDs, foundation degrees, bachelor degrees and graduate apprenticeships. You can find more about bachelor degree courses in our advice on the study-based route into hospitality careers.

Search for...

Degree Explorer

The Degree Explorer helps you plan for your future! Match your interests to university subjects and explore each recommendation to find out what suits you.

Get started

Teacher or parent?

Join our mailing list to receive monthly newsletters from our TARGETcareers and Inspiring Futures teams to help you support your school leavers in their career and university decision making.