What to expect from a hospitality or travel degree

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.

Subject options in hospitality and travel

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
  • tourism management
  • hospitality management
  • airline and airport management

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.

What should I study at A level if I want to study hospitality or travel?

Language skills may be an asset if you wish to work for an international hotel group or in an overseas role, and an A level in food technology may stand you in good stead if your future career involves overseeing catering arrangements. 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 asks for AAB for applicants to its international hospitality management programme, while other institutions typically accept slightly lower grades. You are also likely to need five GCSE passes, including maths and English.

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 could I do as a hospitality management graduate?

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 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 could I do as a travel and tourism graduate?

Graduates are well placed to go on to work in travel consultancy, tour operations, marketing, visitor attractions management, hospitality provision or 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.

What do hospitality and travel graduates go on to do?

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) analysed what 2013 graduates of hospitality, leisure, tourism and transport courses were doing six months after finishing their degrees, and this is the snapshot they came up with:

  • Almost a quarter who were in employment in the UK were working as marketing, PR and sales professionals, with over half of graduates in this type of work employed as conference and exhibition managers and organisers.
  • 61% were working full time, while 15% were working part time and 3% were working overseas. Just under 8% were unemployed.
  • Only 3.4% had gone on to further study.
  • The UK average salary for these graduates was between £15,095 and £19,545.

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.

Join

Take the careers quiz

Want career ideas in a hurry? Got stuck thinking about what to study at university?
The Spartan careers quiz is a quick way to come up with ideas that might suit you.

Take the careers quiz


Teachers and parents

Planning to discuss careers or university with teenagers? Get up to speed on their options and employability prospects with our help.

Explore options

Sign up for careers alerts and access to our careers publications

Sign up Sign in