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. Here are some examples of hospitality and travel graduate schemes plus the criteria for applying, to help you make informed choices about your next step.

These schemes are offered by employers that are among the top ten most popular graduate recruiters in hospitality, leisure and tourism, as listed in The Guardian UK 300 2016/17. For details of requirements relating to visas or permission to work, check the employer websites.

  • Hilton Worldwide. The Elevator graduate programme lasts for eighteen months and at the end of it, if you perform well, you could be promoted to your first management role. It should prepare you to take on a hotel general manager role within five to eight years of starting the programme. You need a BA degree, although internal candidates with a minimum of two years' experience are also recruited onto the programme.  and you need to speak English plus one other European language fluently. You must be willing to move to different cities and countries.
  • Marriott International. The Voyage global leadership development programme is open to those who have graduated from a university or hotel school within the last year and are proficient in English.
  • Merlin Entertainments. The Accelerate graduate programme consists of four six-month placements based at locations around the world, and the ultimate goal is to become either general manager of an attraction or marketing director of a brand. You’ll need a 2.1 degree to apply.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). If you want to apply to the IHG future leaders programme you’ll need a bachelors degree or equivalent, fluency in English and at least one other European or international language, and at least one year’s relevant experience, which can include internships or work experience.
  • TUI. TUI Group’s graduate programme offers a range of different routes, each of which has different requirements. For the international graduate leadership programme, you need a 2.1 from a university or business school, ideally in business administration, international management or economics. You should also have one other language in addition to business-level English and at least three months of international and six months of commercial work experience. For the graduate leadership programme, you need at least 300 UCAS points (120 UCAS points under the new tariff) from three A levels and a 2.1 degree; if you’re applying for the finance graduate programme, your degree should be in a relevant subject. For the IT graduate programme, you’ll need a 2.1 in a business or IT degree as well as 280 UCAS points (112 points under the new tariff) from three A levels. For the TUIfly training programme you’ll need a degree in aviation or tourism management and a good grounding in maths and physics, and any work experience will be an advantage, especially if it is international.

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. You can find out more about hospitality and travel postgraduate courses and funding via

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, runs a scheme called HAVE that enables 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. You can find out about the scheme via the Institute of Hospitality website.

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.

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