Excellent customer service and experience in hospitality, facilities or property management are key to a career in accommodation management

As an accommodation manager, you'll be responsible for the efficient running of your establishment so that it meets the needs of tenants, guests or residents. This includes ensuring standards of cleanliness and maintenance are upheld, budgets are controlled and any problems are quickly rectified. You must also make sure your teams of staff are well trained and managed.

Types of accommodation manager

Accommodation managers work in a variety of settings, including:

  • care homes
  • conference centres
  • halls of residence
  • health worker housing
  • hotels
  • housing associations
  • NHS hospitals
  • youth hostels.

Job titles vary depending on the sector; for example, in hotels accommodation managers may be known as housekeepers or housekeeping managers, in halls of residence they may be known as domestic bursars or hall managers, and in hospitals as domestic services or facilities managers.

Responsibilities

Accommodation managers across all sectors have similar managerial responsibilities that generally cover people and the building. Common tasks include budget control, business planning and administration.

You'll typically need to:

  • ensure the smooth running of accommodation facilities, including the safety and well-being of guests, tenants and residents
  • develop and build positive relationships with residents, tenants and guests
  • control a budget and finances, manage stock levels and order supplies
  • communicate with reception services to coordinate and plan the allocation of accommodation
  • liaise with other departments within the organisation, e.g. catering for conferences, and relevant external agencies
  • arrange repairs and maintenance of the facilities
  • inspect the accommodation to ensure that hygiene and health and safety regulations are met, carrying out risk assessments as necessary
  • supervise the work of cleaning staff and ensure standards are maintained
  • make sure adequate security for the building is provided
  • get involved in the building and refurbishment of residential accommodation.

People management is a major part of the job, and increasingly accommodation managers are required to supervise staff employed by contractors rather than in-house teams.

When managing staff, you'll need to:

  • recruit and train new staff
  • make sure staff are aware of policies and procedures
  • plan staff rotas and cover duty roster slots
  • facilitate staff development
  • deal with any HR-related issues and ensure health and safety processes are followed by all staff.

Salary

  • Salaries for a trainee and assistant accommodation managers are in the region of £18,000 to £22,000 depending on the location and size of the establishment.
  • At a senior level, salaries can range from £22,000 to in excess of £40,000, again depending on the type of establishment.

Salaries in universities and the public sector may follow a grading structure.

Benefits may include free or subsidised meals and accommodation, reduced-rate of health club membership and company pension schemes. Additional overtime payments may be available.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are usually around 37 to 40 a week, although you may be expected to work more than this. Shift work and irregular hours with early starts and late finishes are common. You may also need to work at weekends and bank holidays.

What to expect

  • If working in education, you may be on call for emergencies. Student vacation time may be busy, as many halls of residence provide accommodation and facilities for outside lets, tourists and conferences.
  • The work can be challenging, for example in hotels on changeover days and at weekends or at the start of the academic year when housing incoming students.
  • Opportunities are available throughout the country. Some organisations, particularly within the hotel and leisure sector, have opportunities to work overseas.
  • In some organisations, you may have to wear a uniform.
  • The accommodation you're responsible for may be across several sites so you'll need to travel between sites during the day.

Qualifications

Entry is possible with a degree or HND in any subject, although the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business studies
  • health and safety
  • hospitality management
  • hospitality and tourism management
  • hotel and catering
  • human resources
  • management.

Although you don't need a degree to become an accommodation manager, as relevant experience, skills and attributes are generally more important than qualifications, some of the larger hotel chains have management-training programmes where a degree is normally a requirement.

You can also become an accommodation manager via an apprenticeship, for example in hospitality management, or through training on the job. In these cases, you're likely to start at a lower level and work your way up to a management position.

A postgraduate qualification isn't required, although there are relevant courses available, for example a Postgraduate Diploma or MSc in Hospitality Management or an MBA. Search for postgraduate courses in tourism, hospitality and event management.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • strong communication skills
  • excellent customer service skills
  • the ability to motivate people, delegate tasks and work as part of a wider team
  • IT skills and familiarity with databases and spreadsheets for data analysis
  • financial planning and budget management skills
  • supervisory or leadership skills
  • the ability to remain diplomatic and pleasant, think on your feet and remain calm in a crisis
  • flexibility and adaptability with good organisational skills
  • the ability to work under pressure and to solve problems
  • attention to detail and accuracy
  • a sense of humour and plenty of energy and stamina.

Knowledge of relevant policies and procedures relevant to the role, such as contract, housing or employment law, health and safety, cleanliness practices and waste management, will put you at an advantage.

Work experience

You'll need experience, particularly in hospitality, facilities management or property management, so look for part-time or holiday work in the hotel and hospitality, housing or higher education sectors. Taking a placement year during your degree can also help you build up relevant experience and make good industry contacts.

Knowledge and experience of service departments, such as restaurant, bar, kitchen, reception and conference facilities, can be useful and will show your commitment and adaptability. Supervisory or team leader experience can demonstrate your managerial capabilities.

You could also consider work shadowing an accommodation manager at a hotel or at your university accommodation services or doing some voluntary work at a hostel.

Employers

Within the hospitality sector you can be employed by:

  • conference centres
  • cruise liners
  • holiday resorts and holiday complexes
  • hotel chains and groups
  • independent hotels
  • youth hostels and motels.

Universities employ accommodation managers to run large-scale accommodation services, including halls of residence and self-catering flats.

Accommodation managers are also employed by the NHS to manage accommodation for employees, such as nurses, as well as hotel services for patients. Private hospitals may have vacancies for facilities managers.

Other employers include residential care homes (both state funded and private), sheltered accommodation and housing association schemes or contract organisations used by the NHS and hotel chains.

Look for job vacancies at:

Large national recruitment agencies and smaller specialist agencies advertise vacancies.

Professional development

The majority of employers offer on-the-job training, particularly smaller establishments that combine this training with support for further study and continuing professional development (CPD).

However, some large hotel chains, for example, have formal training programmes for future managers. These programmes give you the chance to experience management across a range of divisions, including housekeeping, human resources and front of house, before specialising in a chosen area.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) offers a range of housing-related qualifications and short courses, including the CIH Level 4 Certificate and Level 5 Diploma in Housing. These qualifications are relevant to all housing workers and also those working in student accommodation. Full details of available courses are available at CIH Qualifications.

For those with five years' experience in the accommodation sector, the University of the Highlands and Islands offers a PDA (Professional Development Award) in Accommodation Management. This two-year distance learning course covers areas such as customer care, financial management, staff recruitment, retention and training, and food hygiene.

Managers looking to progress further into high-level management roles may take a postgraduate qualification, for example an MBA.

Short courses in health and safety, hygiene and first aid may also be useful.

Career prospects

You'll probably start you career at assistant-manager level in order to gain enough experience to progress to manager level. Once in a management role, career progression is normally to larger establishments, offering wider opportunities and often greater responsibility. It's useful to be geographically mobile so you have more options available to you.

The next career step is often to general-manager level, overseeing the management of an entire hotel, residential service or estates division. The role of a general manager is much more business focused and is concerned with profitability, strategy and planning.

Alternatively, you can use your experience and skills in business management to move sideways into a management role within a different division of your organisation or within the wider hospitality or business sector, for example human resources management or finance. You could also move into another service role such as restaurant or contract cleaning management.

If you have an entrepreneurial flair, there may be opportunities to invest in and run your own establishment, such as an independent hotel or residential flats.