How to Become a Travel Agent

You may think that in this day and age, becoming a Travel Agent is a thing of the past, but in fact, there are many opportunities to work as a Travel Agent all over the United States.

There are many people who want to take a vacation, but don’t want to work out all the details.

That’s where a Travel Agent comes in.

These talented individuals help create dream getaways for couples, families, and anyone trying to find some rest and relaxation.

Travel Agent State-specific Information

Job Description

Travel Agents are becoming less popular around the world, but there are still a lot of people who use these services to create itineraries and sell vacation packages to families and couples alike.

Some travel agents work with corporations to make travel arrangements for businesses and employees.

The type of Travel Agent that you pick is up to you, it’s possible to only help customers who want to travel to a specific part of the world, or even a specific area, like Disney Land.

The opportunities for Travel Agents are abundant and will hopefully gain momentum in the next several years.

Duties:

You may think that working as a Travel Agent means that you just book hotel rooms and tell guests what they are going to do on certain days, but that’s not all.

Here are some of the tasks of a Travel Agent:

  • Planning and selling accommodations
  • Cooperating with clients to determine their needs
  • Providing relevant information about the area, including brochures and packets
  • Dealing with travel problems
  • Attending travel seminars
  • Creating data files for each client
  • Networking with tour operators
  • Maintaining financial records

Salary

The average salary for a Travel Agent in the United States is around $40,000 a year.

Even though this number has gone down in the last several years, it’s still a great salary.

Travel Agents who work in less populated areas will likely make less money, at around $21,000 to $25,000 a year.

Those that work in areas that have a lot of travel accommodations, or with large companies who can obtain wonderful vacation packages will make closer to $60,000 a year as a Travel Agent.

With the rise in self-arrangement of travel accommodations and the use of the Internet, the need for Travel Agents has gone down in the past several years.

However, this doesn’t mean that the career is in the garbage, there are many opportunities to work as a successful Travel Agent around the country.

How to Become

Gain Education

There are two different education options when it comes to becoming a Travel Agent.

Some aspiring Travel Agents work toward a Bachelor’s degree, however, there aren’t any specific majors pertaining to Travel Agents.

Instead, people that are interested in becoming Travel Agents gain an education in areas such as:

  • Business
  • Business Administration
  • Economics
  • Hospitality

Some technical schools and community colleges also offer courses on travel planning, but this is something that isn’t available in all areas.

Another way to gain education and work as a Travel Agent is to earn a certificate.

There are many places online that offer education and training for travel agencies.

One, in particular, The Travel Institute, offers the Travel Agents Proficiency Test, which determines basic competency for Travel Agents.

This exam can cost around $100 to take, and you must be at least 21 years old to take it.

Get Experience

After taking the proficiency exam and earning a certificate, or gaining a Bachelor’s degree, it’s time to get some experience in the field.

Some things that you may want to think about when gaining experience are:

  • Whether you want to work with a travel agency or be on your own
  • Whether you want to work with corporations or for leisure
  • What area of the world you want to focus on

Once you decide all that, it’s time to start working.

Many agencies offer on the job training, which will provide you with the knowledge you need to conduct your own business.

With this kind of career, it’s important to gain on the job knowledge, because there aren’t many physical classes to take on this subject.

If you want to start your own agency or work as an independent consultant, you must look up your state’s laws in order to maintain legality.

Become Certified

Even though becoming certified is not a legal requirement for Travel Agents, it is something that is important in this community.

The reason for certification is to show clients, employers, and destinations that you are competent in the field, and will provide excellent service.

Travel Agents with at least one year of experience are eligible to enter The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate program.

Some of the areas that this program focuses on are:

  • Business ethics
  • Business writing
  • Customer service
  • Preventing credit card fraud
  • Time management
  • Selling special interest travel
  • Touring the world
  • Travel insurance

It’s possible to enroll in this program online, which costs around $450.

However, if you want printed materials, this will cost around $550.

Gaining certification as a Travel Agent makes you a professional in the field, which will help with future clients and job opportunities.

Continue Your Education

It’s always important to stay up to date with this type of career, the Travel Agent world is constantly changing.

There may be times that certain destinations or off-limits, or times when things can be uncertain, so knowing everything about this career will help you succeed.

It’s not likely that you will find a college program that pertains to Travel Agents, but there are many ways to gain more education in this field:

  • Travel consortiums
  • FAM trips (When a Travel Agent visits a destination to see what it’s like)
  • Mentoring/coaching
  • Education on the destination or niche you work in
  • Destination wedding university
  • Romance travel university

These types of programs will help you obtain information and skills in various areas.

Education

There’s no law that states you must have some type of formal education in order to work as a Travel Agent.

However, many prospective Travel Agents have a couple of options if they do decide to seek something more.

It’s possible to earn a Bachelor’s degree in several subjects that can help anyone who wants to become a Travel Agent.

Some of the majors that are of interest include:

  • Business
  • Business Administration
  • Hospitality
  • Entrepreneurial Studies
  • Sales and Distribution

A typical Bachelor’s degree takes around four years to complete and depending on where you attend college, it may cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 to attend.

Some of the courses to focus on in a college program include:

  • Finance
  • Economic Principles
  • Geography and History
  • Foreign Language
  • Communications

It’s possible that you may be interested in another type of degree from your local college, while you should consider taking these previously mentioned courses, some other classes of importance could include:

  • Marketing
  • Business Plan Development
  • Public Finance
  • Customer Service

Anyone interested in a degree in hospitality should consider the following courses:

  • Quality Service
  • Law courses
  • Accounting

If you are interested in pursuing higher education, but you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a college degree, it’s possible to enter a Travel Agent program.

These programs are nationwide but may be under private companies, so check in your local area for cost and duration.

You will learn a lot of the same types of things you would in a college course, such as:

  • Geography Basics
  • Concepts in Business and Self Employment
  • International Travel
  • World Tours
  • Hospitality
  • Travel Agent Skills
  • Building Itineraries

After finishing a program, you will be given a certificate.

This certificate shows that you are competent in the field of travel and business and will provide future employers with the reassurance that you know what you are doing.

Certification

Just like earning a higher education, having a certification is not required when looking to work as a Travel Agent.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t become certified, though.

Many employers, as well as clients, love to see that a Travel Agent is certified.

This means that they know how the career works, and have experience doing the job correctly.

There are many types of certificates that are available, but one that most Travel Agents earn is the Certified Travel Associate certification from The Travel Institute.

This certification training program will educate you on 15 different areas so that you can know all you need to know as a Travel Agent.

There are two ways to earn this certificate, you can apply online and work through the courses on your computer, or you can apply online and receive paper materials to turn in later.

In order to be eligible for this training program you must:

  • Have at least one year of experience as a Travel Agent
  • Pass the CTA exam with at least 70%
  • Basic understanding of the retail travel industry

In order to maintain certification, you will need to earn a minimum of 10 continued-education units per year.

This doesn’t mean that you need to get back into the classroom, there are several ways to earn further education as a Travel Agent.

Continued-education credits can be fulfilled by:

  • Attending conferences and meetings
  • Getting trained on certain destinations, such as the Bahamas
  • Cruise training
  • Tour operator training
  • Attending webinars
  • Becoming a specialist in golf, honeymoons, or other types of vacations

If you have been working as a Travel Agent for many years, and are now ready to further your career, even more, there are some other certifications to consider:

Travel Agent Counselor

This certification is for those Travel Agents who are ready to manage others.

Some of the courses in this certification program are: Coaching and mentoring, Conflict management, Negotiation, Presentation Skills

Travel Industry Executive

This certification is for those who have worked as a manager and want even more from their career.

This certification provides leaders with knowledge about in-demand skills.

Some of the courses expected in this program are: Becoming an excellent leader, Coaching skills, Coping with change, Strategic leadership, Team building

Find out more information about these types of certifications from The Travel Institute or another association.

Training Duration

Since it’s really up to you whether you want to gain a certification or not, there aren’t many rules when it comes to training duration.

One important thing to remember is that you must have at least one year of experience before earning a certificate as a Travel Agent.

The program duration can be several weeks to many months, depending on how efficient you are with your studies.

Take your time and go through the courses steadily, and this will take you about four months.

If you decide that you want to work a little faster, earning a certification can take as little as 6 weeks.

Job Outlook

There are fewer Travel Agents in the world than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean that this career is going out of style quite yet.

Many people still use Travel Agents in order to make vacations more memorable and business travel more accommodating.

Even though the career is slightly less popular than before, it still looks to rise around 6 percent over the next decade.

The use of the Internet and having access to discounted travel tickets means that people aren’t using this service as much.

There are tons of people that still want someone else to do the dirty work for them, and that’s why specializing in a specific location or type of travel is best for future Travel Agents.

Should You Become a Travel Agent?

Overall Satisfaction

The thing about being a Travel Agent is that you have to be a people person if not, you won’t enjoy this career at all.

Travel Agents work hard to make their clients happy, and that’s what many of them feel makes this job satisfying.

Even though the work can be hard, and often stressful, Travel Agents find this career to be fulfilling and more flexible than careers in other fields.

People who are highly organized and willing to work hard for others are the ones who will do the best in this career.

Average Salary

The average salary for a Travel Agent is around $40,000 a year.

Travel Agents have a more difficult time than they used to find clients, but that doesn’t mean this career is down in the dumps.

Being a Travel Agent can be lucrative for those who work in largely populated areas or in specific niches, these Travel Agents can make more than $60,000 a year.

However, this isn’t to be expected when just starting out in this field.

If you are a new Travel Agent or working by yourself, it’s possible that to begin you will make around $20,000 in this field per year.

Job Growth Outlook

If you are thinking about becoming a Travel Agent, but are worried about the future of this career, don’t stress!

It seems that this career will likely rise around 6 percent within the next ten years.

Although this is not a lot compared to other fields, it is still good considering the rise in technology over the last several decades.

Travel Agents who work in a specific niche or at a specific location will likely find more job opportunities due to necessity.

Most Travel Agents who work for large agencies should also be able to find jobs much easier.

If you are expecting to step into the travel agency scene by becoming your own agent, it may be more difficult to find clients.

Education Duration

There are a couple of different options that you can choose from when deciding to become a Travel Agent.

First, you can just apply to a travel agency and learn from on the job experience.

This takes no time at all.

Or, you can earn a Bachelor’s degree in something like business or business administration.

A Bachelor’s degree typically takes around four years to finish.

It’s possible to gain a certificate through some programs for Travel Agents, and these can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to finish.

Personal Skills Needed

It’s important to have a personable impression and bold personality in this career field.

Some of the other important traits that a Travel Agent should possess include:

  • Listening abilities
  • Great speaking abilities
  • Observant
  • Analytical skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Think of original ideas
  • Time-management skills
  • Math skills
  • Knowledge of traveling and the destination
  • High levels of professionalism
  • Honesty and integrity

Hiring a Travel Agent is a huge decision for many people, so having the knowledge and understanding of this career field will help you go a long way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average salary of a Travel Agent?

Salary for Travel Agents can vary, depending on many factors.

For Travel Agents with a lot of experience, and who work for large agencies or have many clients, it’s possible to make over $60,000 a year.

For the average Travel Agent, pay looks more like $40,000 a year.

When just starting out in this career, however, expect to get paid around $20,000 to $25,000 a year depending on where you work.

Some of the other factors that can change your salary are the population of the area where you work, as well as the socio-economic status of that location.

If you live in an area that has residents with a lot of money and time, they will likely need a Travel Agent much more than a more low-income area.

How long does it take to become a Travel Agent?

If you don’t want to earn a degree in order to work as a Travel Agent, then it doesn’t take much time at all.

Most Travel Agents have to be at least 21 years of age to become certified, but many Travel Agents start out when they finish high school.

However, for those that want to earn a degree, a Bachelor’s in business or another hospitality type major will do just the thing.

This can take around four years to finish but will also open many more doors for a Travel Agent than just a certificate or no degree at all.

What does a Travel Agent do?

A Travel Agent helps people who want to take vacations or travel for business.

They will set up flights, hotel rooms, as well as itineraries for the vacationers.

This makes it possible for everyone to enjoy themselves and not have to worry about accommodations.

A Travel Agent must also keep up with sales, attractions, and prices of all accommodations up to date.

Some Travel Agents work in specific niches, such as corporations, where they work for companies to set up business travel and even conferences and awards shows.

What is the demand for Travel Agents?

There isn’t as much demand for this career as there used to be, but that doesn’t mean that you should brush off becoming a Travel Agent.

This career is expected to grow around 6 percent in the next ten years, which will boost travel and vacation attractions across the globe.

There shouldn’t be a problem finding a career as a Travel Agent, especially when working with popular agencies or well-known vacation spots.

Technology has made it easier for vacationers to book their own accommodations, but many still don’t want to put up with all the hassle, which is perfect for Travel Agents.

How much does it cost to become a Travel Agent?

If you want to earn a Bachelor’s degree in order to become a Travel Agent, then it will cost you around $30,000.

However, there are certificate programs online that cost around $500.

Some trade schools and community colleges may even offer some type of Travel Agent program, at around $1,500 to $5,000 depending on the facility.

It’s possible to begin working right out of high school, which means it may cost nothing to become a Travel Agent.