Travel Agent: How to Start a Career in Travel and Tourism

Sep 14, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a travel agent. Get a quick view of the requirements, including details about degree programs and job duties, to see if this career is right for you.

Training to become a travel agent varies, but travel experience can help any candidate, as well as experience or training in the tourism industry. Travel agents can find employment in agencies or in tourism-related industries, but jobs are expected to decline. Some formal training may make a candidate more attractive to employers.

Essential Information

Travel agents plan trips for their clients. Employers typically prefer applicants who have completed some college coursework. While the employment outlook for travel agents isn't favorable, they may work in related professions or other industries.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; some college training preferred by employers
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -6% decline for travel agents
Average Salary (2018)* $42,720

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Gain Travel Knowledge

Prospective travel agents may benefit from being experienced travelers who are knowledgeable about popular destinations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, experience within a city or foreign country may be an asset because it can help clients make travel decisions ( Those with experience may be able to better answer questions on customs, weather, politics and exchange rates.

Step 2: Complete High School

A high school diploma is a requirement for most travel agency jobs. Classes in geography, history and foreign language may provide students with background information for travel destinations. Many high schools offer foreign language clubs that provide students with cultural events pertaining to the language or countries of origin. Some high schools offer travel clubs that organize trips for large student groups, which may provide students with experience in travel planning and budgeting.

Step 3: Consider Degree Programs

The BLS indicates that employers favor individuals with some travel-related training. Aspiring travel agents may look to vocational schools, community colleges and universities that offer certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree programs in travel, hospitality or related fields. These programs include coursework in U.S. and world geography, hospitality law and principles of tourism. Courses in specific types of tourism, such as ecotourism, may be offered.

In addition to tourism and hospitality-based courses, curricula may include coursework in marketing, customer service and computer skills. Some programs offer internships with major tourism industries that can be beneficiary to prospective travel agents.

Step 4: Find Work

The BLS estimated that employment for travel agents will decrease 6 percent for the decade 2018-2028. These workers earned $42,720 as an average annual wage in May 2018. Travel agents may look for work with travel arrangement and reservation services businesses, corporate travel departments and insurance carriers. Aside from planning and booking trips, these professionals may provide information on transportation, food and other services for travel destinations.

Other travel-based professions, such as lodging managers and tour guides, may better job outlook predictions. Individuals knowledgeable about popular destinations or with previous tourism industry experience will have better opportunities at finding work. Duties may include answering lodging inquiries phones, presenting site information and advising travelers on places to see.

Step 5: Consider Career Options

While many travel agents begin their careers working for companies in travel arrangement and reservation services, they may move on to companies outside the industry that pay more. Large companies and organizations may hire travel coordinators to plan trips and arrange items, such as flights and accommodations. Individuals who remain with a travel agency may advance to management positions.

Knowledge of foreign countries, cultures and languages may be all that's needed to work as a travel agent, but, because jobs are expected to be scarce for travel agents, college courses or a degree in tourism or a related field could be helpful. There are many tourism-related industries where a travel agent may find their experience useful, such as with retreats, hotels, and private businesses needing travel coordinators.

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