Why You Don't Need a Degree to Be Successful in the Hospitality Industry
Applying for jobs when you don’t have a high school diploma or college degree can be a difficult slog, especially during a bad economy.
But when hiring picks up, as it has in the U.S. over the last few years, it’s harder for employers to find enough candidates. Many employers realize that they need to broaden their recruiting efforts and consider more people who don’t have extensive formal education but who still have the potential to be great employees.
That’s good news for job candidates, particularly in the hospitality industry, which offers plentiful opportunities for people without degrees to launch a career.
At the moment, the labor market is especially favorable to the 7.2 percent of the workforce without a high school diploma. The New York Times reports that the unemployment rate for this group was 5.1 percent in July, not far above the 3.9-percent unemployment rate for the labor force as a whole. That’s very close to the rate that economists think of as full employment, meaning that just about anyone who’s looking for a job can find one.
For comparison, nine years ago the unemployment rate for those who didn’t finish high school was 15.6 percent. The dramatic improvement is thanks to the continuing economic expansion; the economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent from April to June, and job seekers are reaping the gains.
For those who want to seize the moment and find a new job, hospitality is a promising field. Hotels and resorts need lots of entry-level team members to operate, and entry-level jobs often don’t require a diploma or degree.
In fact, employers who are looking for people to answer phones, work in housekeeping or repairs, or deliver room service may not care if prospective hires hold a degree.
What matters most for most hospitality jobs is that candidates are able to be helpful and friendly around guests and to work harmoniously with the rest of the staff. These abilities depend on personality and social skills, which don’t have to be learned in school. Candidates may have developed “soft skills” on their own or through life experiences outside of a classroom.
Hospitality jobs also tend to offer on-the-job training, which can be a boon for candidates without educational credentials. Training means that employers don’t have to rely on team members’ previous education as a measure of what they can accomplish—after all, new employees will get to expand their knowledge when they begin work. This allows employers to focus on other aspects of candidates’ applications, such as a positive attitude and professionalism. And training puts candidates without degrees on the same footing as those with more formal schooling. Since everyone is going to begin learning the same skills on their first day at work, no one has a head start over any other new employee.
Another advantage of pursuing a hospitality career is that hospitality organizations promote from within, so taking an entry-level job in hospitality is not a dead end. An AHLA survey found that 80 percent of hotel industry employees earning the minimum wage are eligible for promotion within a year and that 100 percent are eligible within two years.
Thus, someone who lacks educational credentials can prove they’re capable at an entry-level position and then quickly move up to a role with greater responsibility and better pay.