With increased competition for roles in the travel and tourism industry experience alone is often not enough and you’ll need to gain some relevant qualifications to help you stand out

'You need to like people, smile a lot, be able to work under pressure and be flexible with working hours,' explains Lisa Wakefield, senior lecturer in Tourism and Spa at the University of Derby.

'You also need to be driven and enthusiastic, work on your initiative and as part of a team. My advice would be to listen and articulate your ideas clearly, make sure you plan for the worst and enjoy the rewards of working in an exciting fast moving industry,' adds Lisa.

Travel and tourism degrees

Undergraduate travel and tourism degrees can be studied as standalone qualifications or combined with other subjects. For example, travel and tourism programmes often overlap with hospitality courses or can be taken in conjunction with business-related subjects such as finance, accounting, management or human resources (HR). Travel and tourism degrees are also often combined with language courses such as French, Spanish or Italian.

Coventry University, Ulster University and the universities of Derby, Strathclyde, Sunderland and Westminster rank highly for travel and tourism programmes in university league tables. These institutions provide the following courses:

  • Coventry University - BA Tourism and Hospitality Management.
  • Ulster University - BSc International Travel and Tourism Management.
  • University of Derby - BA International Tourism Management.
  • University of Strathclyde - BA Accounting and Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA Business Enterprise and Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA Business Law and Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA French and Hospitality and Tourism, BA Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA Human Resource Management and Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA Management and Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA Marketing and Hospitality and Tourism Management, BA Spanish and Hospitality and Tourism.
  • University of Sunderland - BSc Tourism and Aviation Management, BSc Tourism Management.
  • University of Westminster - BA Tourism with Business, BA Tourism and Events Management, BA Tourism Planning and Management.

Bournemouth University, Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Birmingham and the University of Surrey also rank well for undergraduate travel and tourism degrees.

To study the BSc International Travel and Tourism Management degree at Ulster University you'll need CCC at A-level. The programme takes four years to complete full time (including a placement year) and fees for students from England, Scotland and Wales stand at £9,250 in 2020/21. In your first year you’ll study modules such as 'Contemporary Tourism' and 'Global Travel Destinations'. In year two you'll cover 'People Management' and 'Transportation Operations in Tourism'. In year three you have to choose between a 48-week professional work placement or time studying abroad. In your final year you'll learn about 'Tourism Planning, Development and Management' and 'Creating Visitor Experiences'. Graduates of the course have gone on to work for high-profile companies such as Aer Lingus, Disney and Emirates.

The BA Tourism and Events Management programme at the University of Westminster requires BBC to ABB at A-level.  The course explores the relationship between tourism, events and the wider environment and takes three years to complete full time. In year one you'll study units including 'Contemporary Issues in Tourism' and 'Principles of Event Management'. In year two you'll learn about 'Eventful cities' and 'Heritage tourism', and in your final year you'll cover 'Employability for Tourism and Events' and write a dissertation. Graduates now work for companies such as British Airways, Marriott Hotels, Visit England, TripAdvisor and the National Trust.

See what can I do with my travel and tourism degree?

Postgraduate travel and tourism courses

While not always a prerequisite to getting a travel and tourism job, a Masters could prove extremely useful. Regardless of whether your undergraduate degree is in a relevant subject or not, postgraduate study provides non-travel and tourism graduates with the opportunity to broaden their skillset, and travel and tourism graduates with the opportunity to specialise further. It can also help you stand out in an increasingly competitive field.

Several high-quality institutions offer postgraduate programmes in travel and tourism, including:

  • University of Derby - MSc International Hospitality Management, MSc Tourism Management.
  • King's College London - MA Tourism, Environment and Development.
  • Plymouth University - MSc Tourism and Hospitality Management, MSc International Hospitality Management.
  • University of Bedfordshire - MSc International Tourism Planning and Management.
  • University of Exeter - MSc International Tourism Management.
  • University of Glasgow - MSc Tourism Development and Culture, MSc Tourism, Heritage and Sustainability, MSc Management and Sustainable Tourism.
  • University of Surrey - MSc International Hospitality Management, MSc International Hotel Management, MSc International Tourism Management.

The MSc Tourism, Heritage and Sustainability programme at the University of Glasgow takes one year to complete full time. Graduates typically need a 2:1 honours degree in social sciences, humanities, business studies or geography. Core modules include 'Heritage, Management and Context' and 'Tourism and Regional Development'. Graduates work for tour companies, heritage attractions, museums and local hotel groups. You could also work in local government teams and planning bodies. Tuition fees for UK and European Union (EU) students in 2020/21 are £8,500.

At the University of Derby you'll need a 2:2 or above to get onto their MSc Tourism Management course. This one-year programme includes core units such as 'Challenging the Tourist Consumption', 'Sustainable Tourism Development', 'Strategic Directions' and 'Independent Scholarship'. Graduates have gone on to work for tourism organisations, airlines, tour operators, travel agencies, NGOs and four-star hotels.

'While many travel and tourism organisations hire based on a can do attitude there is a significant demand for management skills and customer service skills across the sector,' explains Lisa.

'A university degree gives candidates an understanding of the changing patterns in the tourism industry for a sustainable future as well as excellent communication skills and a high standard of spoken and written English,' adds Lisa.

Search postgraduate courses in tourism.

Travel and tourism apprenticeships

If university isn't for you, an apprenticeship in travel and tourism may be a good alternative. This route enables you to earn a wage while gaining relevant qualifications. Travel and tourism apprenticeships cover a variety of roles including:

  • cabin crew (Level 3)
  • travel consultant (Level 3)
  • travel services (Level 2/3).

The current minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.90 per hour. However, most employers will pay their apprentices more than this. On completion of your apprenticeship annual salaries could potentially rise to £25,000 to £30,000.

TUI (formally Thomson), Virgin Holidays and STA Travel all offer travel apprenticeship schemes.

TUI offers several programmes, including the four-year Management Degree Apprenticeship, the two-year Retail Apprenticeship and the seasonal JCA Apprentice Activity Instructor scheme, which results in an activity leadership apprenticeship.

Virgin Holidays offer a two-year Retail Travel Apprenticeship, which provides you with two qualifications on completion - a Level 2 customer service award and a Level 3 qualification in retail travel consultancy.

STA Travel's two-year scheme offers apprentices’ a Level 2 and 3 Diploma in travel and tourism. You'll work 37 hours a week and train to become a qualified travel expert.

Discover how to apply for an apprenticeship.

Professional qualifications

Awarded by the Confederation of Tourism & Hospitality (CTH) and the Institute of Hospitality, professional qualifications can be either an alternative or a complement to university study.

The CTH offers numerous management programmes in travel and tourism, at Level 3 (foundation level), Levels 4, 5 and 6 (undergraduate level), and Level 7 (postgraduate level). These are aimed at aspiring managers, with each programme specifically geared towards a particular learning outcome. Options include:

  • Foundation Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality (Level 3)
  • Diploma in Hospitality Management (Level 4)
  • Diploma in Tourism Management (Level 4)
  • Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management (Level 5)
  • Advanced Diploma in Tourism Management (Level 5)
  • Professional Diploma in Tourism and Hospitality Management (Level 6)
  • Executive Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management (Level 7).

The CTH also offers Professional Skills Programmes that are shorter and focused on developing specific attributes. Options include:

  • Certificate in Hospitality Practice (Level 3/4)
  • Certificate in VA-Earth (Level 2)
  • Certificate in the Sabre System (Level 2)
  • Certificate in Workplace Assessment (Level 3)
  • Team Leadership (Level 3).

The Institute of Hospitality, meanwhile, offers Management Qualifications for those working in the tourism sector in the UK or abroad, at introductory, intermediate and advanced level. These include:

  • Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management (Level 3)
  • Diploma in Advanced Hospitality and Tourism Management (Level 4)
  • Certificate in Management for International Hospitality and Tourism
  • Diploma in Management for International Hospitality and Tourism
  • Specialist Diplomas for International Hospitality and Tourism
  • Advanced Diploma in Management for International Hospitality and Tourism.

Find out more at professional qualifications.

Find out more

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