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A travel agent works in an agency office or in self-employment. She typically coordinates travel activities for individuals or groups, including arranging transportation, entertainment and lodging. Travel agents must meet certain qualifications to get their jobs, and they earned a median annual salary of $31,870 per year as of May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Travel agent jobs don't typically require more than a high school diploma. However, educational opportunities enhance a candidate's background, making you more qualified for a position. Community colleges offer programs in hospitality and tourism. You can also get a broader business or marketing degree to learn how to operate a business, and take classes in travel and tourism to better prepare you in this area.
According to the bureau, many states require that travel agents get a license to sell travel services. Regardless, you can often complete certification courses at community colleges or at travel institutes. Some institutes offer multiple levels of certification based on career experience. Entry-level travel planners may complete more basic training, while more experienced agents often have access to advanced certificates and courses. Agencies also commonly offer on-the-job training to help develop less experienced planners.
Successful agents usually possess certain office skills. You normally have to be well-organized. Agents keep track of files on each prospect and client. They also maintain information on various airlines, hotels and transportation companies. Computer skills are necessary as well, as many agencies keep customers and contacts in databases. A strong commitment to detail is also necessary to ensure accuracy when ordering airline or entertainment tickets and arranging transportation for clients.
Business and marketing skills are important qualities for travel agents as well. The agent is essentially a salesperson pitching travel planning services. Contacting prospects and maintaining communication with existing clients are common requirements. Effective sales agents understand prospect needs and use benefits of the services to make sales. An adventurous spirit and understanding of benefits of traveling to different parts of the country or world are key as well.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.