Graduate jobs in leisure, sport and tourism

Jemma Smith, Editor
October, 2018

The leisure, sport and tourism sector offers a variety of job opportunities to graduates from all degree backgrounds. Find out which role suits you

Are you passionate about helping people make the most of their leisure time? Or perhaps you're dedicated to improving the health and fitness of the nation? Does an enthusiasm for British culture and heritage inspire you to chase a career in tourism? Or maybe you have a love of travelling and would like to introduce new destinations to the public?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar the leisure, sport and tourism sector can provide you with a rewarding career.

Fitness centre manager

Working in centres or clubs that contain gyms, swimming pools, sports courts or spas you'll market the facility and manage staff members. Working hours include regular unsocial hours, incorporating early starts, late shifts and weekend working.

A degree in business or management, sport, leisure or recreation management, leisure studies or sports science may be particularly useful.

New entrants are likely to start out as assistant or trainee managers, before working their way up to management positions. Starting salaries fall in the region of £17,000 to £21,000, but can rise to £35,000+ for those with significant experience.

Take a look at the skills you’ll need to become a fitness centre manager.

Holiday representative

Responsible for looking after groups of clients on package holidays, you'll ensure holidaymakers enjoy their break and that everything runs smoothly. You'll hold welcome meetings, handle complaints, resolve problems, manage activities and sell excursions and car hire.

While not a requirement for the job, a degree in childhood studies, hospitality/tourism management, modern languages or leisure and tourism may prove useful.

This is not a nine-to-five job. You'll often work 12 or more hours a day, six days a week so you’ll need lots of stamina and enthusiasm.

Discover what you could earn as a holiday representative.


To ensure the safety of swimmers and to carry out a rescue in an emergency you'll need specific lifeguarding qualifications.

For a career as a pool lifeguard you'll need to be recognised by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) or the Swimming Teaching Association (STA). To work as a beach lifeguard you'll need to study for the RLSS National Beach Lifeguard Qualification or the Surf Life Saving Beach Lifeguard Award.

Strong communication skills, the ability to keep calm and think quickly on your feet and excellent observational skills are what's required for the job.

Starting salaries are in the region of £13,000 to £16,000, rising to £29,000 for those in management positions.

Outdoor activities/education manager

You'll start work as a seasonal instructor at an outdoor centre before moving into a management role. Starting salaries for instructors are around £10,000, rising to £18,000 with experience. Senior instructors can earn £25,000, depending on their experience, while experienced centre managers can earn in excess of £35,000.

In this role you'll run a centre that offers facilities and classes in climbing, cycling, horse riding, mountaineering, orienteering and water sports. You'll have overall responsibility for the centre and will need to manage staff and ensure adherence to safety regulations at all times.

Outstanding leadership, team working, customer service and organisational skills are essential, as is an imaginative and innovative approach to work.

Find out what qualifications you'll need to work as an outdoor activities/education manager.

Personal trainer

Creating one-on-one fitness programmes for clients, you'll motivate and encourage them to achieve their goals. You'll instruct and advise clients using workouts, plans and classes. You'll generally work in a gym, but can take sessions outdoors or to other venues.

You'll need a Level 3 personal training qualification, ideally one accredited by an organisation such as the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) or the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).

You'll also need the ability to inspire, a friendly personality, excellent people skills, knowledge of the human body and nutrition and a love of health and fitness.

Find out more about the role of a personal trainer and read about a day in the life of a personal trainer.

PE teacher

Working in secondary schools and colleges you'll teach sport and fitness to young people. Responsibilities include preparing lessons, teaching classes, managing student behaviour, organising teaching materials, marking work, setting up sports matches and attending parent and teacher meetings.

The most common way into PE teaching is by completing Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) and gaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Starting salaries for unqualified PE teachers range from £16,250 to £30,000. Highly-experienced PE teachers can earn between £35,250 and £46,500.

Explore the different routes into teaching.

Sport and exercise psychologist

You'll work with athletes and teams involved in sport from amateur to elite level, with the aim of helping them deal psychologically with the demands of the sport, and to improve their personal development and performance.

Exercise psychologists work with the general public to increase motivation and participation in exercise, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and advising on the benefits that exercise can offer.

Starting salaries range from around £20,000 to £22,000, while those with experience can earn £27,000 to £37,000.

You will need:

  • an interest in sport
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • active listening and reflection skills
  • patience and the ability to motivate others
  • ability to work under pressure and cope with stressful situations.

Read up on the role of a sport and exercise psychologist and discover how to become a sport psychologist.

Sports coach

Helping people participating in sports to reach their full potential, you'll support professional sports people and teams, community groups and school children.

Responsibilities involve developing the participants' physical and psychological fitness and providing the best practical conditions to maximise their performance.

You will need:

  • a desire to help other people succeed
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • team-building ability
  • enthusiasm, flexibility and patience
  • organisational skills.

While academic qualifications provide a useful background, you can only become a sports coach by gaining the appropriate coaching qualification, offered by the national governing body of your chosen sport.

Take a look at what you could earn as a sports coach and learn more about sports coaching courses.

Sports development officer

While open to all graduates, a degree in health and exercise science, leisure studies, physical education, sport development or management or sports science may be especially useful for a career as a sports development officer.

You'll make sure that everybody has the chance to take part in sport by ensuring that all sections of the community are aware of available activities and where they can go to get involved.

The central aim of the job is to increase participation in sport of all kinds, but you will also address issues of health, crime and social inclusion as well.

Starting as an assistant sports development officer, you can expect a salary in the region of £18,000 to £23,000.

Discover what it's like to work as a sports development officer.

Sports therapist

Working in a specialist sports injury clinic or directly with a sports club you'll help to prevent injuries, recognise, manage and treat them should they occur and then rehabilitate the patient back to full fitness.

You'll need the capacity to work well with groups, individuals and colleagues, a flexible approach to work, a positive attitude to problem solving, excellent communication skills, and a good level of physical fitness.

Salaries if you work in a clinic start at £17,000. With experience this can rise to £28,000.

Find out what qualifications you'll need to work as a sports therapist.

Theme park manager

While you don't need a degree to become a theme park manager, qualifications in business or management, engineering, facilities management, hospitality or tourism management and marketing may be useful.

A theme park manager is responsible for every aspect of the day-to-day running of a park. Duties include managing the customer experience, strategic planning and development, monitoring health and safety, overseeing the park's finances and staff management.

You may also be known as a guest experience manager, rides and operations manager or attractions manager.

Few graduates start in management roles. As an operations manager, you can expect to achieve a starting salary of around £17,000 to £22,000.

Gain a more in depth understanding of the role of a theme park manager.

Tour manager

Sometimes known as a tour director, you'll organise and accompany groups of holidaymakers on tours to UK and overseas locations. You'll ensure travel arrangements run smoothly and provide practical support throughout the trip.

Starting salaries for tour managers in full-time employment typically range from £15,000 to £20,000, while experienced tour managers can expect to earn between £25,000 and £30,000.

An in-depth knowledge of a particular area or region is essential and language skills will be incredibly useful. You'll also need self-confidence, energy, stamina and enthusiasm and the ability to get on well with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Find out more about the role of a tour manager.

Tourism officer

Also known as a destination manager, you'll work for a range of employers, including public and private destination management organisations, public agencies or partnerships and local authorities.

Key areas of the job include marketing, visitor management and the development of tourism products, services and facilities. 

Although open to all graduates, subjects such as journalism, tourism management, business studies, European studies and marketing will be useful.

Salaries at entry level are in the region of £15,000 to £19,000, after two to five years you could earn between £21,000 and £28,000.

Learn more about the responsibilities of a tourism officer.

Tourist information centre manager

Working as a tourist information centre (TIC) manager, you'll oversee services that provide information and advice on what to see and do in a particular city, town, area or country.

The work involves booking accommodation, making reservations, selling related gifts and souvenirs, running special events and generating marketing opportunities.

You can become a TIC manager with a degree in any subject. However, the following may increase your chances:

  • archive and museum studies
  • business or management studies
  • geography
  • information technology
  • librarianship or information management.

Discover the skills you'll need to be a successful tourist information centre manager.

Travel agency manager

Working in retail travel outlets, you'll promote and sell holidays and travel related products.

Salaries for managers range between £25,000 and £30,000. Graduates start at the bottom of the scale, unless you have some relevant experience.

To be successful in this role you'll need excellent communication skills, attention to detail, strong organisational skills, IT ability and a genuine interest in travel and tourism.

Gain an insight into the role of a travel agency manager.

Find out more