Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Deirdre Kelleghan from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

Deirdre Kelleghan

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Deirdre Kelleghan
Being a self-employed artist is probably the most difficult job really. You need to be highly motivated in the tasks you set for yourself. You need to be able to work on your inspirations and be totally focused on your targets. If your painting does not work first time you need to be able to learn from your experience and use what worked in another piece. Your ability to have confidence in your journey exploring your choice of subjects in paint is important. As regards doing workshops, bringing fun into the entire effort is the most important element to achieve. Your audiences will learn in a more sustainable way and produce drawings to be proud of.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Tourism & Hospitality

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At a Glance... header image

Tourism & Hospitality

Tourism and Hospitality are major players in the Irish economy. The Tourism industry as a whole now supports approximately 220,000 jobs, 148,300 of these are in accommodation and food. The Government launched a 10-year strategy to create 50,000 new jobs in the tourism industry by 2025, bringing the total number working in the tourism industry in Ireland to 250,000. According to the National Skills Bulletin 2017 certain areas involved in the tourism sector are experiencing skills shortages, particularly adequately trained chefs.

careers in tourism and hospitality
Source: Irish Tourist Industry Confederation / CSO

Hospitality covers a major part of the Tourism Industry - accommodation, as well as food and beverages services which include restaurants, bars, canteens and all kinds of catering services.

careers in tourism and hospitality

The wide-ranging potential for interesting and rewarding careers in these areas means that many young people are looking for suitable courses that will help prepare them for careers at different levels.

The competitive nature of hospitality careers means that entrants with industry-related qualifications tend to get the better jobs on offer.

Opportunities with Irish in this Sector
Tourism header image

Tourism is about the the experiences people have and the activities they participate in, when they travel.

The tourism industry includes everything from business travel, to holidays, or even visiting relatives. Companies involved in tourism can be small and large private businesses, government agencies or non-profit organisations.

The tourism industry serves people in a wide variety ways. Its main aim is to ensure that everyone has the best possible experience.

Tourism is Ireland's biggest indigenous industry. The jobs in tourism encompass a wide range of roles, qualifications and skills, and are spread geographically all around the country.

Tourism can be divided into several main areas. Each provides different services and a variety of job opportunities: 

The Travel Trade
 - This part of the tourism industry has to do with selling travel. Travel agents and tour operators are involved in promoting the idea of travel. Much of the buying and selling of travel and trips happens online now, although there are still many high-street agents such as Trailfinders, or Abbey Travel. Travellers can buy entire holiday or business packages that include transport, accommodation, meals, and various activities and entertainment. Jobs in this area include roles for Travel professionals; Travel Advisor/Consultant; Travel Representatives.

Travel Transport and Operation - People travel by road, rail, air, and sea. This aspect of the tourism industry includes Tour Operators, Airlines, Bus and Coach companies; There are job roles for Pilots; Ground handling staff; Cabin crew; Drivers; Tour Guides; Accommodation managers and assistants; Customer service and car rental agents; and Taxi drivers. 

Cultural Tourism /Tourist Attractions - Museums, Galleries; Heritage Centres - Special attractions are an important part of the tourism industry. Attractions include: museums, historical sites, parks and cultural tourism.  Job roles include Tour Guides and Leaders. People who work in this area may even specialise in areas such as environmental and cultural interpretation. 

Adventure Tourism
 - besides business travel or necessary travel, people travel in order to have great experiences. Tourists come to Ireland to go fishing on the Shannon, or windsurfing in Sligo, or hiking on the Wicklow Way. They travel to see natural attractions and to explore.  People who work in adventure tourism include  Tour operators; Tour guides; Outdoor adventure instructors and park wardens.

Events and Conferences - Special events are a significant part of tourism in Ireland. Concerts, festivals, conferences, trade shows, and exhibitions are all part of special events. Think of the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the number of tourists it brings to Ireland each year. People who work in this area plan, co-ordinate, organise, advertise and deliver events to the public.

Tourism Services are the supports provided in the industry - Tourist offices; information services; tourist shops. There are numerous job roles associated, from researchers to information advisors and advertising, marketing and PR professionals.

Accommodation and Food are also significant areas of Tourism - These are covered in our Hospitality area.

Career opportunities exist in the Tourism Sector, both in Ireland and overseas, for young people at all levels from office administration roles to junior and senior management posts. Many jobs are outdoors.  Work in the tourism industry can involve travel or being away from home for extended periods of time. Some jobs are seasonal. The high season can be very busy and is often very demanding. Seasonal employment can also lead to a high turnover rate, so it can be easy to change jobs within the different areas of the tourism industry if you like that kind of flexibility.

People who work in the tourism industry are treated well and may even receive discounts from other companies when they travel. Working conditions in the tourism industry are as varied as the jobs themselves. People on the frontline tend to work shift work and spend a great deal of time on their feet.

Small business owners and tour operators have no set hours; they have to be prepared to work seven days a week. You must enjoy working with people as most jobs in tourism involve serving the public directly. Staff may receive tips (gratuities) for their services, and motivated and energetic people can make a good living in the tourism industry.

Fungi the dolphin has been a major tourist attraction in Kerry, in the South West of the country.

As well as being the National Tourism Development Authority in Ireland, Fáilte Ireland also has responsibility to encourage, promote and support the recruitment, training and education of people for the tourism industry. 

Fáilte Ireland works in partnership with Tourism Ireland (who promote Ireland as a holiday destination to overseas markets) and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (responsible for tourism development and marketing in Northern Ireland). They lead an extensive domestic holiday campaign via Discover Ireland, which features comprehensive information and listings for Irish accommodation, activities, events, tourist attractions and Irish holiday special offers.

Fáilte Ireland priorities include:

  • New initiatives such as ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’ and ‘Dublin Plus’, and also a new proposition for the east and south of the country
  • Business tourism and major events
  • Home holidays
  • The Gathering legacy
  • Festivals and events
  • Sales, digital and experience development.

[Check out the 'Ask the Experts' panel on this page for an overview of the sector from Fáilte Ireland]

Given the potential for interesting and rewarding careers in these sectors, many young people are looking for suitable courses that will help prepare them for careers at different levels. Because of the competitive nature of these careers, staff with industry related qualifications tend to get the better jobs. 

Getting into Tourism

Entry level jobs provide basic services and deal face-to-face with customers. Many of these jobs do not require previous experience or advanced training. Good interpersonal skills and a positive service attitude are the primary requirements.

  • Customer Service Agent - Answers questions, handles complaints, processes payments, and provides general information.
  • Ticket Agent - Quotes fares and rates for holidays/events; takes bookings/reservations, issues tickets.
  • Outdoor Activities Guide /Leader - Runs outdoor and sporting activities such as boating, fishing trips, hunting, mountaineering; hillwalking kayaking etc. 
  • Tour Guide - Leads or transports passengers, individuals or groups on local and daily tours, arranges itineraries, provides commentary on points of interest and creates positive experiences for tourists and visitors.
  • Tourism/Visitor information provider - Provides information on accommodation, restaurants, tours, local attractions and other seasonal activities or interest. 

Education and Training

The Irish higher education system has a well developed range of courses. Typical titles include:

  • Tourism Management
  • Tourism Marketing
  • Travel and Tourism

The range of courses available spans all levels from Further Education (FE / QQI) courses at Level 4-5 through to Level 6 and 7 courses with both FE Colleges and the Institutes of Technology and Level 8 Degree programmes in Hospitality Management.

A degree Hospitality Management will help you to gain practical knowledge of the industry. Topics such as accounting, business, customer service, hospitality law, marketing, hotel reservations systems and tourism geography are covered, to prepare you for most of the most popular job roles across the tourism and hospitality industry.

Most undergraduate degree programmes will include a period of work experience, varying in length from six months to one year. This work experience is seen to be a central part of courses, where the student obtains the opportunity to practice what they have learned in college or university. Employers also see great value in this work experience when considering the employment of graduates.

Given the international nature of these industries, another valuable part of any course is the study of languages. Most courses in hospitality and tourism provide access to language courses, either as core components or as options.

Joint degrees make it possible to study combinations of subjects, such as Tourism and Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, Hospitality and Marketing. The international nature of the industry means that the study of languages is a valuable part of any course. Most courses in hospitality and tourism include language courses, either as core components or as options.

In addition to the above courses, there are also more specialised courses in Tourism covering areas such as Cultural Tourism, Tourism Marketing, Tourism Planning, Museum Management, Heritage Management, Cultural Tourism and Sustainable Tourism: these are suitable for people who have an interest in employment in a specific sector of the industry.

Skills training and work based training is available throughout Ireland for those who want to enter the sector more immediately, or want to complete their training whilst employed.

Tourism Insight 
Tourism Insight is a free, online interactive educational program about the travel and tourism industry, with a focus on introducing students to career opportunities within the sector. Full details

Read: Irish Student research winners among those who presented findings at conference hosted by Global Travel and Tourism Partners here

 International Tourism

  • With a qualification in Tourism and Hospitality Management, jobs and managerial positions overseeing operations in various aspects of the industry are possible - reservations, maintenance, and more.
  • The multi-billion dollar cruise industry has abundant opportunities in  entertainment, recreation, food, leisure and many othyers.
  • Hotels and resorts offer abundant career opportunities in the accommodation aspect of tourism. You could hold the role of Accommodation Manager or General Manager, overseeing the overall functioning and administration of a hotel business.
New apprenticeship training opportunities are available to address the ongoing demand for Chefs (Commis Chef; Sous Chef; Chef de Partie; Executive Chef) and a Travel Professional Apprentiship will be available soon.
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Hospitality header image

The Hospitality Sector includes hotels, restaurants, bars, canteens and catering. Estimated employment in the hospitality sector in Ireland is around 158,000. There are over 16,000 enterprises in Accommodation and Food Services (AFS) alone.  Waiters and Waitreses account for over 27,000 of this number, with almost 24,000 Chefs and over 23,000 Kitchen and catering assistants.

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Fiona Stevens 
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At the core of this vitally important industry is the Hotel Sector which employs approximately 50,000 people in 850 hotels around the country. Expansion in hotel capacity in recent years has resulted in many hotels losing money in the downturn years and the Bed and Breakfast sector struggling to keep afloat, despite consistently being reported as the most memorable for visitors. 

Reports show that hotel occupancy in Dublin was higher last year than it had ever been even during the boom years, helped by the growth of business tourism from the Convention Centre in Dublin and a proliferation of events in the O2 and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, all of which have opened since the recession started.

Every hotel needs a large number of people, in a wide range of different roles in order to function properly. Career opportunities for people interested in the hotel sector are wide and varied. 

Some of the job roles include:

  • Rooms Division - Front Office Manager; Reservations Manager;  Guest Services Manager; Security Manager; - responsible for the effective management of the reception desk, reception staff and the number of bedroom sales in the hotel; safety and security of guests
  • Receptionist - Works at the front desk of a hotel, resort, etc. and is the first person a guest deals with on arrival
  • Accommodation Manager/Assistants - responsible for the cleanliness of bedrooms and all public areas of the hotel
  • Events & Leisure - Director of Events; Conference and Banqueting Managment; Event Manager;

Careers in these roles are available not only in hotels, but in B&Bs, Guesthouses, Hostels, Campsites and Holiday Villages all over Ireland. In addition to these roles are the managerial roles that keep the business side of things running including:

  • General Manager/Group General Manager
  • Duty Manager
  • Sales and Marketing Manager
  • Human Resource Manager
[Detailed information on individual occupations is available from the 'Sample Careers' panel on this page]

The Hospitality industry has expanded beyond the traditional areas of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. Catering services are now provided at a wide range of additional facilities from food halls within supermarkets, to the nursing home sector and institutional catering to sporting events - all have expanded the employment opportunities in hospitality.

Food and Beverage

The Food and Beverage sector covers all types of establishments supplying food and drinks, from hotels and restaurants, to pubs, clubs and venues. This sector attracts people who like to work with people, creating and serving meals, making cocktails, designing menus etc. These occupations require excellent social skills as people are working closely with each other and with the public.

Careers in the Food and Beverages area include:

  • Chef
  • Commis Chef - entry level role of a chef – prepares dishes to be cooked, general kitchen work
  • Restaurant Manager
  • Waiter
  • Sommelier - Wine expert
  • Bar Staff
  • Bar Manager

Getting into the Hospitality Sector 

The range of courses available spans all levels from Further Education (FET/PLC) courses at Level 4-5 through to Level 6 and 7 courses with both FE Colleges and the Institutes of Technology and Level 8 Degree programmes in Hospitality Management. 

Check out the Course Search tools available here to help you with finding the right course.

Private courses include the Professional Three Month Certificate Cookery Course run by Dublin Cookery School which is widely recognised as a credible and practical route to acquiring the expertise and skills needed to pursue a career in the food industry.

New apprenticeship training opportunities are also available to address the ongoing demand for Chefs (Commis Chef; Sous Chef; Chef dePartie; Executive Chef) and Tourism.

Joint degrees make it possible to study combinations of subjects, such as Tourism and Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, Hospitality and Marketing. The international nature of the industry means that the study of languages is a valuable part of any course. Most courses in hospitality and tourism include language courses, either as core components or as options.

The Apprentice Chef Programme - this is a great way for second level students to gain experience and learn valuable skills for working in the industry. It involves not only learning how to cook dishes but also about the value of sourcing locally produced food which is healthy and nutritious. Students are mentored by some of the best chefs in the industry and compete in a ‘Cook-off’ in the Institute of Technology Tralee.
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