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.
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. They make recommendations and reservations for air transportation, hotels, car rentals and tour packages. Agents may spend extended periods of time seated at desks and viewing a computer monitor. Long hours are often necessary, and agents must sometimes assist clients on a last-minute basis.
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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: 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 some type of 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.
- Participate in an internship. Many bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in this field include internships, 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.
Step 2: 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. Agents may choose to begin their career working in an agency before pursuing entrepreneurship.
- Consider a specialization. According to the BLS, many travel agents choose a specialization within the industry. For example, some agents choose to concentrate in planning vacations for families or seniors. Specializing can help attract specific customers and help an agent stand out as a professional within a particular niche.
Step 3: 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 5 years in the field. Certification must be renewed annually.
Step 4: Continue Education
Continuing education may be required in order to renew certification, but it is 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.