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Hospitality, sport, leisure and tourism: career FAQs

Graduate careers in hospitality, sport, leisure and tourism: getting a job, applications, working life and salaries.

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

In the hospitality sector, 12 to 24-month management training programmes are an option for graduates wanting to get into management. For jobs outside of these programmes, the relevance of your degree and your level of experience will decide your point of entry.

In the tourism, leisure and sport sectors you are more likely to be looking for actual jobs rather than graduate programmes.

Apply to companies directly and use your contacts to get in. Join your professional body and attend industry events. Don’t focus solely on job websites and agencies. Consider starting at the bottom and working your way up, particularly for jobs in tourism. Look to other industries for relevant experience and consider further study or training.

What are the different areas of work?

Graduate jobs are available across a vast range of employer types. These include:

  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Pubs
  • Catering companies
  • Food companies
  • Leisure centres
  • Entertainment and conference venues
  • Hospitals
  • Event management companies
  • Heritage sites
  • Tour operators
  • Travel agents
  • Airlines
  • Transport authorities
  • National and regional tourism organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Sporting organisations.

Make sure to read up on your industry to find out about new areas, such as eco/sustainable tourism.

Finally, don’t forget the range of business support functions across the sector, including finance, HR and marketing jobs.

What’s involved in the application process?

Selection processes for management training programmes in the hospitality sector (and sometimes other areas) can be very intensive, involving application forms, psychometric testing, multiple types and levels of interview, assessment centres and social events. Graduates from non-related disciplines may also be considered. Competition for places can be very fierce.

Applying for tourism, leisure and sporting jobs tends to involve the submission of a CV and cover letter or an application form followed by one or more interviews. Behavioural or competence-based interviews are common in the industry so make sure you know the job and know what skills/qualities employers are looking for. Then be able to demonstrate these with examples from your past experience.

When should I apply?

Companies recruiting graduates will typically look for applications during final year, with the graduate starting work somewhere between June and September each year. The more demand for the role, the earlier the closing date is likely to be. Management training programmes in the hospitality sector, and in other areas of tourism, leisure and sport, tend to have specific closing dates between February and May each year. Some will recruit graduates on an ongoing basis. Recent graduates can also apply for these programmes. You should check with both employers and your college to find out about these management programmes, their closing dates and upcoming recruitment events. You should also watch out for ongoing management vacancies both in these organisations and in others that don’t have formal training programmes.

What qualifications and skills do I need to work in hospitality, sport, leisure and tourism?

Relevant experience is vital for getting into and progressing within the tourism and hospitality sector. Third-level diplomas or degrees are needed to access management training programmes which are seen as a fast-track to management roles. Postgraduate study can also help you progress to more senior management jobs.

Third-level qualifications and training are often needed to get into the tourism, leisure and sport sectors. The tourism industry is particularly tough to get into, so internship experience and contacts made can be really useful.

Many positions on offer require a broad range of skills and qualities. These include organisational, problem-solving, teamwork, creativity and people skills as well as the ability to show initiative, be flexible and demonstrate a high level of stamina.

What are the opportunities for professional development?

No matter what level you are employed at, you are increasingly expected to take on as much responsibility as you can handle. This means that with the right skills and attitude you can quickly move up to managerial positions.

The hospitality industry in Ireland is not one that has traditionally been seen to recognise the value of qualifications, but this has changed, particularly as global hospitality companies have come into the Irish market and as indigenous Irish companies have adopted employment and development practices similar to those of their multinational competitors. Structured management training programmes put a great emphasis on professional development; many organisations also offer a range of development courses to employees outside of these training programmes.

The industry is beginning to embrace the spirit of continuing professional development. Both employers and industry bodies now offer many short courses to help graduates develop their skills.

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

Higher salaries tend to be found on graduate management training programmes such as those in the hospitality and catering sectors, and on individual management roles for which a good level of experience is needed. Salaries for tourism, leisure and sporting roles are often lower, as graduates need to consider more entry-level roles. Managers can earn on average between €40,000 and €70,000, depending on the level of experience.

Reduced opportunities at the moment mean that you may be wise to focus on getting your foot in the door of organisations, particularly those in the tourism sector where graduate demand for jobs is always high. And remember that additional benefits such as meals and use of leisure facilities can be on offer, particularly in the hospitality sector.

What is working life like?

Flexibility is the name of the game in the hospitality, leisure, event and travel industries which tend to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You could be one of the many who prefer a varied working life rather than a structured ‘9-to-5’ job. Those who enjoy working in these areas will tell you the ‘buzz’ and excitement of the industry is hard to match.

Tourism and sporting roles can offer you slightly more structured working hours. You can also find some ‘9-to-5’ jobs in the industry, but mostly in business support areas or administrative roles.

Other benefits cited by graduates working in the industry are:

  • Good availability of jobs
  • Constant social interaction
  • Variety of work
  • Positive nature of the working environment
  • Lifetime mobility of your qualification in a worldwide market
  • Opportunities to progress quickly upwards through many organisations
  • A high level of job satisfaction.

Research has also shown that the most satisfied employees in the industry were those who had continued to a high level of educational attainment before entering the workforce.