How do I get a job in hospitality, leisure and tourism?

Discover everything you need to know to start a graduate career in hospitality, leisure and tourism, from how to find work experience to the salary you could earn in a graduate role.

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The hospitality, leisure and tourism industry covers areas ranging from accommodation and food services to health and fitness, entertainment, and bars, clubs and pubs. Whatever area you choose, there are plenty of roles to choose from, along with management opportunities.

As a result of lockdowns and financial difficulties faced by this sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s likely to be difficult to gain work experience or a position in hospitality, leisure and tourism. However, as our advice for filling a coronavirus-shaped gap on your CV emphasises, recruiters won’t look unfavourably on your applications in future as a result of this. This article also gives some suggestions for how you might make the most of what you did do during the pandemic on your CV.

How can I get a graduate job in hospitality, leisure and tourism?

There are many routes into careers in hospitality and you don’t always need qualifications to start. You might start with on-the-job training, undertaking a graduate scheme or taking a postgraduate qualification to boost your career opportunities. Small employers tend to have fewer formal schemes but you might have more opportunities for early responsibility.

Employers accept a variety of applications. Some prefer application forms, whether paper or online, because they are guaranteed to include all the information they need to assess your application. Others like to receive a CV and covering letter, because this lets your personality shine through better.

Each organisation has its own recruitment process ranging from a single interview to a complex series of interviews and assessments. Prepare for interviews by researching the organisation and the role, and do your best to impress on the day. You can also practise for psychometric tests.

What skills and qualifications do I need?

You don’t necessarily need a degree, but gaining a relevant qualification in hospitality, leisure and tourism will prove your commitment to recruiters and might enable you to start off on a higher rung of the career ladder. Qualifications range from foundation degrees and national diplomas to undergraduate and masters degrees, with modern apprenticeships aimed at non-graduates offering on-the-job training towards a vocational qualification. It is also possible to gain chartered status through the relevant professional bodies.

Employers in hospitality, leisure and tourism will also be looking for an array of ‘soft’ skills, including:

What are the different areas of work?

The hospitality business is a worldwide industry, with many different working environments. When travel is possible again, you may be able to take advantage of opportunities to spend time working abroad. It helps to know what the possibilities are when you're looking for a job – you just need to decide what appeals to you. Here are some of the career paths you could choose:

What are the salaries like in hospitality, leisure and tourism?

Graduate starting salaries greatly vary in the hospitality industry but career progression is often rapid and can bring with it an increase in earnings. As your career develops, your salary is likely to reflect the type of establishment you work for and your experience. The general manager of a small, budget hotel might earn £20,000 a year, whereas a manager at a large five-star hotel could receive up to £90,000. A junior manager at a health club might be paid between £18,000 and £28,000, while a leisure club manager could earn up to £50,000, and restaurant managers can earn anything from £19,000 to £60,000 a year.

Do I need work experience?

Work experience helps you to get a taste of the industry and to decide which area is best for you. It impresses employers and shows that you are committed to the sector. You can improve your career prospects by getting experience while still studying, either in the evenings, at weekends or during the holidays. Getting experience in any part of the business early on in your career provides an ideal grounding for your future. Whether you decide to go into management, set up your own business or take another path, mastering the basics can help you along the way.

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