Careers in hospitality and travel without a degree

Careers in hospitality and travel without a degree
Find out about apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and entry-level jobs in hospitality and travel, and pick up tips on how to succeed in your career without a degree.

If you’re looking for a career where you can get on without a degree, the hospitality and travel industries are wide open to those with the right attitude and commitment. If you’ve got stamina, can offer great customer service and want the buzz of a busy working environment, you’re likely to thrive and progress. Many senior executives in areas such as tourism and restaurant management started their careers at entry level, received training on the job and moved on to more responsible roles as they gained experience; the same could be true for you.

However, if you’re not a practical, hands-on sort of person who likes dealing with people on a regular basis, this might not be the most obvious career choice for you. Read our advice on whether a career in hospitality and travel would suit you to assess your options.

Hospitality and travel apprenticeships and school leaver programmes

This is an industry in which both graduate schemes and higher-level apprenticeships are less widely available than in some other career areas such as finance or retail. As a result, these kinds of structured programmes are likely to be highly competitive.

Here are some examples of higher apprenticeships and training programmes open to non-graduates run by big hospitality and travel employers:

  • Candidates aged over 18 can apply for Ten out of Ten, a 25-month training programme offered by 10 luxury properties in the south of England, which could be followed by a six-month placement. Candidates work their way through five departments of the hotels in which they are placed: kitchen and maintenance; food and beverage service; marketing, reservations and events; reception, concierge and accounts; and housekeeping and spa.
  • People 1st and the Institute of Hospitality have worked together to launch a level 4 higher apprenticeship in hospitality management. This is intended to bridge the gap between supervisory skills gained at an early stage of your career in hospitality and the strategic management skills required to work at a senior level.
  • The Center Parcs ASPIRE leadership development programme supports managers and potential managers and offers a range of levels of training and qualifications, including the CMI Level 5 Certificate in Management and Leadership. It is intended to support team members with the potential to progress from team member to supervisor level and on to management positions.
  • TUI Travel runs a school leaver programme for candidates with A levels. This structured two-year programme involves on-the-job training in commercial areas such as product planning and trading.

Some employers have structured their jobs and training so it is possible to progress from entry-level roles and gain qualifications along the way, or to join at a higher level if you already have the experience and qualifications needed. For example, it is possible to join McDonald’s as a crew member and progress to supervisory and management roles. This could lead to you being considered for McDonald’s foundation degree in managing business operations, which is awarded by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Check the level of apprenticeships

When you are researching apprenticeships in hospitality and travel, check the level of qualifications on offer carefully and use our advice on questions to ask about school leaver programmes and apprenticeships to find a scheme at the right level for you. You may find that there are more intermediate and advanced apprenticeships on offer than higher apprenticeships suitable for school leavers with A levels. Our guide to school leaver programmes and apprenticeships explains the different levels.

Entry-level jobs in hospitality and travel

There are plenty of entry-level jobs in hospitality and travel, for example waiting and bar staff roles, all offering the chance to gain experience and a foothold in the industry. This, in turn, puts you in a good position to apply for supervisory roles and ultimately management positions.

Language skills and experience of overseas travel may also be helpful, depending on the role you’re applying for and the area you want to work in. Read our advice on whether a career in hospitality and travel would suit you to find out about the skills employers in this area look for, in particular customer service, teamwork and communication. Our guidance on what you could get out of doing a hospitality or travel degree will help you decide if the university route might be right for you.

If you want to progress from an entry-level role in hospitality or travel and you’re not on a structured training programme, you’re going to need to convince your employer that you can be trusted with greater responsibility and are worth investing in. Developing the customer service skills valued by recruiters in this area will help you stand out.

Many employers in hospitality and travel are small businesses, which can offer good opportunities for school leavers seeking their first jobs. You could then find yourself in a strong position to move on to a larger employer some years down the line to develop your skills and experience further. Read our advice on types of jobs and employers in hospitality and travel to find out more about your options.

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