Hospitality and tourism degree courses and career paths

Why do a degree in hospitality or travel?
Find out about the subjects covered by hospitality and travel degrees, what A levels you need, what you’ll learn and how study can help your career.

What are the advantages of starting a career in hospitality or travel as a graduate with a relevant degree, rather than as a school leaver? We’ve put together an overview of what you could expect to gain from various specialist degrees in this area, along with tips on entry requirements.

Degrees in this area tend to be highly vocational and often include placements, so they typically have strong connections to the industry. The work experience you’ll gain on a hospitality or travel degree course will make you more employable even if you decide to pursue a different career path after you graduate.

Types of hospitality and tourism degrees

There’s a broad range of undergraduate courses in this area, covering different combinations of travel, hospitality and leisure. Some popular combinations are as follows:

  • tourism and leisure degrees
  • tourism management degrees
  • hospitality management degrees
  • airline and airport management degrees

When you are researching your degree options, check out the university’s links with industry. Do major employers make campus visits, offer placements or recruit graduates of the course? This information may be readily available on the university’s website.

Hospitality degree requirements

Language skills may be an asset if you wish to work for an international hotel group or in an overseas role, and you may find that business, economics or geography A levels are useful. However, courses are usually open to applicants with any combination of A levels.

Grade requirements vary. The University of Surrey previously asked for AAB for applicants to its international hospitality management programme, while other institutions typically accepted slightly lower grades. You are also likely to need at least grade C/4 in GCSE maths and English language, or equivalent.

What will I learn on a hospitality management degree course?

If you study for a hospitality degree you’re likely to learn how to manage a range of hospitality businesses and should graduate with the skills to run your own hotel or pub, or work for a large organisation in an area such as human resources or customer services. Hospitality degrees typically combine industry placements with learning about finance, marketing, management theory, human resources, food science and nutrition.

What jobs can I do with a hospitality degree?

Here are some examples of the kinds of job you may be considered for as a hospitality management graduate:

  • HR manager at a high-profile restaurant
  • Floor manager at a private members’ club. Floor managers typically meet and greet customers and liaise with other staff to ensure that customers’ needs are met. Private members’ clubs typically offer food and drink and sometimes accommodation too, and are used by members, who often share a background in politics, the media or another particular area of interest, for socialising and networking.
  • UK corporate communications manager for an international hotel brand

What will I learn on a travel and tourism degree course?

Travel is usually covered alongside tourism, with an emphasis on management. If you study for a travel and tourism degree, you’re likely to cover issues to do with business processes, systems and problem solving, as well as financial decision making and economic, environmental and social issues related to tourism. Your degree course may include a year on placement, possibly in a tourist destination overseas. You can also study a foreign language as part of some degrees.

What jobs can I do with a travel and tourism degree?

Graduates are well placed to go on to work in:

  • travel consultancy
  • tour operations
  • marketing
  • visitor attractions management
  • hospitality provision
  • events programming.

Some set up their own businesses. Travel and tourism degree courses help graduates develop strong business and communication skills that open up the option of employment in other areas.

Do I need a hospitality or travel degree to get onto a graduate scheme?

Generally speaking, graduate schemes in these areas are open to graduates from all degree backgrounds and many do not specify that you need a 2.1. (A 2.1 is a good second-class degree – the next best result you can achieve after a first.) However, having a relevant degree may be an advantage, and will help you to signal your commitment to the industry. If you’ve studied for a relevant degree, chances are you’ll have gained substantial work experience in the industry as part of your course, and this will also help you to get hired.

Other degree subjects that hospitality and travel employers may favour include business administration, international management and economics. If you don’t have a relevant degree, it’s really important to have some work experience in the area you are applying for. You could also consider studying for a relevant postgraduate qualification. Our advice on how to get into hospitality and travel will help you decide what steps to take to improve your chances.

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