A career as a travel agent is a good choice for someone with travel experience and excellent customer service skills. Job growth in the field has been declining, but completion of a training program and optional certification can help increase an aspiring travel agent's competitiveness in the job market.
Travel agents help groups and individuals plan and book trips and vacations. They typically learn their skills on the job and generally don't face any licensing or credentialing requirements. For those who desire formal instruction, several schools and organizations offer travel agent training. After receiving training, travel agents can earn voluntary certifications by passing credentialing exams.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Training||On-the-job training is typical, but optional formal travel agent training programs are offered by vocational schools, community colleges and community adult education centers|
|Other Requirements||Three levels of voluntary certification are available through The Travel Institute|
|Projected Job Outlook*||-26% (2019-2029)|
|Median Salary*||$42,350 annually (2020)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Travel Agent Credentialing
Once travel agents have experience in the travel industry, they are eligible to become certified through The Travel Institute, an organization that has been credentialing travel agents since 1964 (www.thetravelinstitute.com). If travel agents feel they need help preparing for certification, the organization also offers test preparation programs. There are three available levels of certification:
Certified Travel Associate (CTA)
A potential CTA must have 18 months of work experience in the travel industry before he or she may take the CTA exam. The corresponding test preparation program covers customer service, business writing, sales and interpersonal communication.
Certified Travel Counselor (CTC)
Travel agents who would like to become travel agency owners or travel agency managers may opt to earn the CTC designation. Before taking the certification exam, potential CTCs must have five years of full-time experience in the travel industry and have earned the CTA designation. In addition to passing the certification exam, they must write a white paper of 2,000-3,000 words. The CTC preparation program covers management techniques, financial planning, negotiation strategies and risk management.
Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE)
To earn the CTIE designation, travel industry professionals must submit proof of five years of full-time experience, write a 2,000- to 3,000-word white paper and hold both the CTA and CTC designations. The test preparation program for the CTIE credential covers topics that serve business-to-business travel professionals, such as risk management.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
From 2019-2029, employment opportunities for travel agents are predicted to decrease by 26%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This decline in demand is attributable to travelers' access to the Internet to research vacation options and obtain their tickets online. Those specializing in specific travel destinations and/or certain groups of travelers may have the best job prospects. Travel agents earned a median annual salary of $42,350 as of May 2020, per BLS reports.
To summarize, a travel agent normally receives their training on the job, though optional formal training programs are available through vocational schools and community colleges. This training covers the business, research and customer service components of the position. Travel agents can also obtain voluntary certification to increase their job prospects.