Travel agents help businesses and individuals make travel and vacation plans. Although most travel agent positions in the U.S. don't require certification, earning one or more travel agent industry certifications will ensure you have the knowledge you need as a professional travel agent and enhance your appeal to employers. Having strong travel industry credentials is particularly important given that the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates travel agent employment will only grow at a relatively anemic 10-percent pace from 2010 to 2020.
Graduate from high school or earn your GED. A high school diploma is generally the minimum educational requirement to become a travel agent. Take courses in geography, world history and world cultures to learn about different travel destinations.
Apply for entry-level positions at a travel agency, airline or related business. You need at least 18 months' professional experience to qualify for top travel industry certifications.
Enroll in a travel agent certification program. Several private organizations offer certification programs, including the Travel Institute's well-known certified travel associate and certified travel counselor designations. The CTA designation can substitute for the five years of professional experience required for International Air Transport Association accreditation with a waiver of errors and omissions insurance, which saves you having to purchase professional liability insurance coverage if you decide to become an independent travel agent.
Complete the eight core and four elective courses to complete the classwork required to earn your CTA certification. You'll study subjects including global distribution systems fares and ticketing, social media in the travel industry, geography in travel planning, listening skills, selling travel insurance, special interest travel and 21st-century tourism. Completing the CTA courses typically takes three to 12 months.
Apply for your CTA as soon as you have the required 18 months of travel industry experience. You should receive your CTA documentation within a few weeks.
Consider earning an associate degree in travel planning or travel and tourism. These programs are available at some larger community colleges.
Most states require travel agencies to be licensed, and some states require individual travel agents to have a business or professional license.
2016 Salary Information for Travel Agents
Travel agents earned a median annual salary of $36,460 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, travel agents earned a 25th percentile salary of $27,030, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $48,600, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 81,700 people were employed in the U.S. as travel agents.