Professional certification options range from entry-level to advanced professional. Credentials can be earned through testing or a combination of coursework and testing. Students usually learn one of the major computer reservations systems, like Sabre, Apollo, Worldspan or Amadeus GDS. They also become familiar with the tourism industry as a whole and how to communicate effectively with clients. Some schools require a high school diploma or GED. Online courses are available and often have no prerequisites, but an internship is required in some cases.
Travel Agent Certification
Students take courses that prepare them for jobs with travel agencies, airlines, cruise lines, tour companies and corporate travel departments. The following classes are typical in a travel agent certificate program:
- Introduction to the travel and tourism profession
- Introduction to hospitality
- Computer reservations systems
- Tourism sales and marketing
- Business communications
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 12% decrease in employment opportunities for travel agents from 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). The popularity of travel booking websites has slowed demand for travel agents; however, travel agents with expertise in particular destinations, types of travel or special-interest travelers still have opportunities. The mean yearly salary for travel agents was $38,750 as of May 2015, the BLS noted.
Professional Certification and Credentials
Graduates of travel agent certificate programs can take the test for the entry-level Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) credential available through The Travel Institute. The Certified Travel Associate (CTA) program is available for professionals who have at least 18 months of full-time experience in the travel industry; certification must be renewed annually. Travel professionals with at least five years of full-time experience can enroll in the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) program. Both the CTA and CTC certification programs include around 12 self-paced courses and culminate in certification exams.
Continuing Education Information
Travel professionals who graduated from certificate programs can often transfer their credits into related associate's degree programs. Travel and tourism bachelor's degrees are also available. Professional organizations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), offer continuing education and professional development courses for travel agents at any experience level (www.asta.org).
Travel Agent certification is available to prepare students to work in several environments with both business and personal clients. While the number of jobs in the field are decreasing, a specialization can help make you a stronger candidate.