Getting a graduate job in leisure, sport and tourism

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
October, 2016

Find out what skills, qualifications and work experience you'll need to get started in the leisure, sport and tourism sector

Many jobs don't require any degree, and most people who work in leisure or travel agency management have climbed the ladder with a lower-level qualification. However, a degree means that you can apply for entry onto a graduate management scheme at some of the larger leisure companies.

Most companies in the sector recruit graduates of any degree subject, but a degree in business or languages could be an advantage for some jobs. In many cases, relevant work experience - and an interest in specific sport or leisure activities relating to the company that you're applying to - can be of equal importance.

You don't need a degree to become a sports coach, but you will need sport-specific Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Level 2-3 in coaching. However, a relevant degree is required for some roles, such as sports and exercise psychologist or sports physiotherapist.

For information on entry requirements and relevant qualifications, see job profiles.

What skills do employers want?

You'll need to show:

  • a customer-focused approach;
  • commercial awareness;
  • communication skills;
  • enthusiasm;
  • flexibility;
  • language skills;
  • organisational skills;
  • teamwork.

Where can I get work experience?

Work experience is vital and can be gained in a number of ways. For example, you could take a work placement as part of your degree, work part time while at university or during the summer, or do some related voluntary work.

Large leisure companies offer placements; for example, Parkwood Leisure and Expedia provide global internships. Some tourism-related degrees also include an optional work placement year.

Sports Coach UK recommends that assisting a coach is a good way to get started. You can find your nearest sports club through County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) in England. You could consider one of its 'First Steps into Coaching' workshops.

The Hospitality Adding Value for Employability (HAVE) scheme is delivered by the Institute of Hospitality, and helps university students to develop skills and understand how to demonstrate them to prospective employers.

Kings Recruit offers placements and voluntary opportunities in sports management, coaching, holiday camps and cruise ships, while Challenger Sports is one of a number of organisations that provides soccer coaching camps in the USA and Canada. They recruit people from the UK who are looking to pursue a career in coaching.

Voluntary work opportunities are advertised through Do-it, where you could find yourself gaining experience helping with outdoor pursuits, fundraising, sports coaching, activity management and more.

To find work placements and internships in the leisure, sport and tourism sector, search for work experience.

How do I find a graduate job in the sector?

Some of the larger companies in this sector offer graduate training schemes. Such organisations include Merlin Entertainments, Better, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), British Airways, Thomson and Parkwood Leisure. Application details can be found on company websites.

Large leisure employers, such as Parkwood Leisure, offer both leisure centre management roles and head office functions, such as finance, sales and marketing, commercial and procurement, HR, and business development. Travel agencies don't usually fast-track graduates into travel agency management, but do offer graduate schemes in head office roles.

For many other companies in this sector, you can apply for related positions through their websites. However, it's worth noting that employers may prefer to recruit people with several years' experience.

As the vast majority of organisations in the sector are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), less formal ways of finding and applying for jobs - such as speculative applications - can be effective.

Jobs and internships are also advertised through organisations such as:

To find graduate jobs in the sector, search graduate jobs in leisure, sport and tourism.