Becoming a Travel Agent: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a travel agent. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in travel planning. View article »

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  • 0:04 Should I Become a…
  • 0:57 Earn a Certificate or…
  • 1:54 Gain Work Experience
  • 2:36 Consider Certification
  • 3:10 Continue Education

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Travel Agent?

Travel agents assist customers in sorting through various deals and packages to find the best travel arrangements available. They are well-versed in a variety of destinations and know about local customs, attractions, travel requirements, and currencies. Agents may spend extended periods of time seated at desks and working with a computer, from which they make recommendations and reservations for air transportation, hotels, car rentals, and tour packages. Long hours are often necessary, and agents must sometimes assist clients on a last-minute basis.

Degree Level Certificate or college degree preferred by employers
Degree Field Travel planning, travel, or tourism
Licensure and Certification Business license may be required; voluntary certifications available
Key Skills Beyond having a strong interest in travel, they should have good attention to detail, organization, salesmanship, and customer service skills.
Salary $35,660 is the median annual wage for travel agents (May 2015)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earn a Certificate or College Degree

While a degree isn't always required, the BLS reports that most employers prefer to hire individuals who have formal training in travel or tourism. Courses in a travel or tourism program teach students how to arrange lodging, recreational activities, and transportation for traditional trips, as well as for conventions and casino trips. Students may enroll in certificate or associate's degree programs that take anywhere from six weeks to two years to complete. For individuals wishing to advance their careers, bachelor's and master's degrees are also offered in travel, tourism, business administration, or hospitality.

Many bachelor's and master's degree programs in this field provide students with the opportunity to participate in an internship, which may be completed in a travel agency office. Interning in a travel agency can provide an aspiring travel agent with first-hand experience in the industry while working alongside professionals.

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Gain Work Experience

Travel agents have the option to work for travel agencies or to pursue self-employment. Agents who choose to start their own businesses will need to market and promote their businesses in order to attract clientele, whereas an agent working for an agency will have that agency's clients available to them. Some agents may first gain experience working in an agency before opening their own.

According to the BLS, many travel agents choose a specialization within the industry. For example, some agents choose to concentrate in planning family vacations, senior travel, or corporate trips. Choosing a specialization can help an agent stand out as a professional within a particular niche and attract specific customers.

Consider Certification

Professional travel agents may choose to pursue voluntary certification to stand out in the field. The Travel Institute offers several levels of certification to travel agents depending on experience. The Certified Travel Associate (CTA) credential can be earned through taking specialized courses, passing an examination, and gaining 18 months of work experience in the field. The Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) credential requires earning the CTA credential, passing an exam, and working a minimum of five years in the field. Certification must be renewed annually.

Continue Education

Continuing education may be required in order to renew certification, but it's extremely important for travel agents. As technology continues to evolve, so do the systems used for booking reservations. In addition, the plethora of travel information available on the Internet provides steep competition for travel agents, making it necessary to stay abreast of as much travel information as possible.

Remember that many travel agents usually have formal training in travel and tourism, work for a travel agency or start their own, and often choose a specialization.

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