How to Become a Travel Agent:
The Definitive Guide


If you’re passionate about traveling and working with people, learning how to help people make travel arrangements can lead to a lucrative and rewarding career.

Travel agents assist people who are planning trips and sell transportation and lodging towards different destinations.

They may also advise individuals and groups on what destination to choose and what to visit.

When assisting their clients, travel agents take into account the client’s budget and preferences.

They usually work in travel agency offices but nowadays they may also work from home because this profession includes a lot of phone calls and computer work.

Search Travel Agent Training Programs

Get information on Travel Agent Training programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Search
Search Travel Agent Training Programs

Get information on Travel Agent Training programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Listings

What Does a Travel Agent Do?

Job responsibilities vary depending on the place of employment.

During busy months travel agents may work overtime to accommodate customer’s needs.

Some travel agents specialize in selling vacation packages while others specialize in corporate travels.

Duties

Travel agents usually do the following:

  • Make travel arrangements for their clients
  • Determine their clients’ needs based on budget and preferences
  • Plan and arrange excursions, day trips, and tour packages
  • Calculate total costs
  • Book reservations for their clients
  • Give details to clients about the documentation they need
  • Advise clients about the destinations, weather conditions, and local customs
  • Access travel information through a reservation system called Global Distribution System (GDS)
  • Stay in contact with hotel managers, transport companies, and other providers of travel-related services.
  • Make alternative arrangements if any incidents occur before or during the trip

Salary

Travel agent salaries vary widely depending on the employee’s skills, education, and certifications but also on how many travel packages they sell because many travel agents are paid a fixed salary plus commission on sales.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by travel agents in the United States was $42,350 as of May 2020.

This means that half of all travel agents make less than this amount and half make more.

Salaries vary widely depending on the industry of employment, level of experience, region, and a variety of other factors.

The lowest 10 percent reportedly made less than $25,230 while the highest 10 percent made more than $73,360 annually.

The above numbers include the money travel agents earn from commissions.

The highest paying industry for this profession is Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities, a sector where travel agents were reportedly remunerated with $64,540 per year.

The biggest employer for travel agents are companies in the field of Travel Arrangements and Reservation Services.

Travel agents who worked in this sector reportedly made $46,590 per year, on average.

Some travel agents work in the field of Nondepository Credit Intermediation where the average salary for this profession was $46,430- higher than the average across all industries.

Travel agents who work companies that provide management services earned slightly more- with the average calculated at $50,460.

Salaries also vary depending on the state and the local economy.

Travel agents who work in Washington reportedly made $62,040 per year while those in New Mexico, South Dakota, North Dakota, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky make less than $40,000 per year.

The BLS reports that the top-paying metropolitan area for travel agents is San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA, where this profession was remunerated with $65,040 per year, on average.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $44,690

$23K
$30K
$44K
$54K
$69K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$43,220
Alaska$43,430
Arizona$52,010
Arkansas$45,710
California$49,330
Colorado$46,000
Connecticut- NA -
Delaware$47,220
District of Columbia$51,070
Florida$40,060
Georgia$35,550
Hawaii$44,290
Idaho$38,860
Illinois$45,250
Indiana$42,740
Iowa$42,860
Kansas$47,110
Kentucky$35,980
Louisiana$38,370
Maine$36,470
Maryland$51,620
Massachusetts$50,480
Michigan$45,880
Minnesota$48,090
Mississippi$35,530
Missouri$42,420
Montana$43,350
Nebraska$43,120
Nevada$39,240
New Hampshire$52,980
New Jersey$48,990
New Mexico$38,820
New York$44,760
North Carolina$42,550
North Dakota$36,600
Ohio$39,130
Oklahoma$36,990
Oregon$39,070
Pennsylvania$41,130
Rhode Island$40,680
South Carolina$34,360
South Dakota$40,070
Tennessee$48,120
Texas$41,660
Utah$44,130
Vermont$45,480
Virginia$47,530
Washington$55,420
West Virginia$46,360
Wisconsin$41,790
Wyoming$40,820
Guam$22,530
Puerto Rico$21,560

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Washington, where the average salary is $55,420.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Washington - $55,420
New Hampshire - $52,980
Arizona - $52,010
Maryland - $51,620
District of Columbia - $51,070
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Travel Agent

Step 1Finish High School

The first step if you want to become a travel agent is to finish high school because a high school diploma or equivalent will usually be required by your employer or post-secondary training program.

Step 2Finish Post-Secondary Training

Travel Agent programs are available at many community colleges, trade schools with classes focusing mostly on:

  • Reservation systems
  • Regulations regarding international travel
  • Marketing

Step 3Become Certified

Although not all states require travel agents to be certified, you may need a business license before being allowed to sell travel packages.

Becoming certified by The Travel Institute or the International Air Transportation Association can help improve your employment and earning prospects.


Education Requirements

There there are no formal education requirements for travel agents but it’s best to finish a post-secondary training program in order to improve your employment prospects in this highly competitive field.

Training programs are available at many technical schools and community colleges and can last between a few months and a few years depending on the type of credential/degree you are seeking.

Many certification programs are also available online giving you the opportunity to learn at your own pace, from the comfort of your home.

Ashworth College-Online Travel Agent Training Program

A training option that offers you the opportunity to learn from anywhere, this online certification program offered by Ashworth College gives you access to online reservation software simulations, online libraries and labs, and many other perks.

The curriculum covers a variety of topics, such as:

  • Geography
  • North American Aviation and Airports
  • International Travel
  • Cruising
  • World Tours
  • The Hospitality Industry
  • Meetings and Marketing
  • Building an Itinerary
  • and more

The program costs $699 if paid in full or $899 if paid in monthly installments.

Community College of Baltimore County – Travel Agent Training, Continuing Education Certificate

This online training program covers all the important topics you need to know before starting a career in the travel industry.

Students learn about:

  • Hotels and Resorts
  • Airline Industry
  • Ground Transportation
  • Cruises
  • Tours
  • International and Domestic Travel
  • Reservations and Pricing
  • Specialty Travel
  • and more

The International Air Transportation Association (IATA)

IATA offers different types of travel and tourism training for all professional levels: from entry-level travel agents to senior management.

All courses lead to an internationally recognized IATA accreditation.

Two of the courses offered by IATA are BSP Essentials for Travel Agents (e-learning) and Geography and Travel Planning (e-learning).

The BSP Essential Course costs $399 and covers a lot of information about the Billing and Settlement Plan.

The Geography and Travel Planning course costs $100 and teaches students how to plan travel itineraries, read maps, use city and airport codes, sell travel packages, and help them understand different modes of transport.

Video About The Career


Certification Requirements

Although this is not a requirement, becoming certified by the International Air Transportation Association will give you an internationally recognized credential.

You can also improve your employment prospects by taking the Travel Agent Proficiency Test administered by The Travel Institute.

The Institute offers different levels of certification:

  • Certified Travel Associate
  • Certified Travel Counselor
  • Certified Travel Industry Executive

You need 12 months of industry experience before becoming a Certified Travel Associate.

With an online full payment plan you will need to pay $450- this includes access to online materials and testing fees.

If you want to purchase the classes in print, this will cost you $550.

You will need a minimum of 5 years of experience in the industry before applying for the Certified Travel Counselor credential.

Course materials and exam fees for this certification level sum up to $550.

After gaining 5 years of experience in the field you can also become a Certified Industry Executive if you pass an exam.

The program materials and testing fees sum up to $550.

There are also other credentialing institutions, such as the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) who offer certification for specific fields or types of travel services.

CLIA also offers four levels of certification:

  • Certified
  • Accredited
  • Master
  • Elite Cruise Counselor

It is important to mention that some states may require a business license if you want to sell travel services so it’s best to check the requirements that are applicable in your area before starting a career in this field.

Employers also offer on-the-job training on the computer software that is used within the travel industry.

Average Training Program Duration: 0-6 Months

Popular Degree Programs

Search Travel Agent Training Programs

Get information on Travel Agent Training programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Listings

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for travel agents will be declining 26 percent from 2019 to 2029.

This decline will be caused mostly by the fact that many travelers choose to book their trips using the Internet.

However, some people prefer to use the services of a travel agent that helps them filter through the multitude of information and options that are available.

Travel agents who are certified and experienced are expected to have the best job prospects.

If you have the first-hand experience of living in a foreign country, this can help you find employment in an agency that prefers travel agents who are specialized in specific destinations.

Employment Growth Projection: -26%

82,000
2018
60,800
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of -21,200 jobs.

Travel Agent: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Travel Agent?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for travel agents will be declining 26 percent from 2019 to 2029.

This decline will be caused mostly by the fact that many travelers choose to book their trips using the Internet.

However, some people prefer to use the services of a travel agent that helps them filter through the multitude of information and options that are available.

Travel agents who are certified and experienced are expected to have the best job prospects.

If you have the first-hand experience of living in a foreign country, this can help you find employment in an agency that prefers travel agents who are specialized in specific destinations.

When asked if they are happy with their career choice, travel agents rate their career happiness 3 out of 5 stars, which puts this profession in the bottom 32 percent of all careers, according to Career Explorer.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary reported by travel agents in the United States was $42,350 as of May 2020- which means that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.

Salaries for travel agents vary depending on a variety of factors and are heavily influenced by the number of travel services they sell.

The lowest 10 percent of all travel agents earned less than $25,230 (which is much less than the national average) while the top 10 percent made more than $73,360.

However, salaries are also determined by the region of employment and a variety of other factors.

According to BLS, Washington is the top-paying state for travel agents.

In this state, the median annual wage reported by workers in this profession is $62,040.

Other states where salaries were above $50,000 are Arizona, District of Columbia, California, and Massachusetts.

There are also places, such as South Dakota, Georgia, or Mississippi, where salaries were below $40,000 per year.

Job Growth Outlook: Low

Job Growth Outlook

If you want to start a career as a travel agent you should know that this profession is projected to decline in the future as more and more people prefer to book their vacations through dedicated websites and mobile applications.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for travel agents is projected to decline 26 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Job openings may stem from the need to replace travel agents who retire.

Education Duration: 0-6 Months

Education Duration

As mentioned above, if you are a good communicator who’s passionate about sales, traveling and enjoys working with people, you can start a career in this profession a few months after finishing college.

However, becoming certified and earning a degree in the field will surely help you improve your earning prospects and will give you an advantage over the other applicants for a travel agent position.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

To be able to perform well at your job, as a Travel Agent you will need many personal skills:

  • Good Communication Skills
  • Patience
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Good Time Management Skills
  • Organizational Abilities

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How Much Training Do I Need as a Travel Agent?

Education and certification requirements vary depending on the type of job you are targeting and the location where you want to practice.

Some states require travel agents to hold a business license and licensing requirements also vary depending on the state so it’s best to contact your state’s licensing agency to find out more on this subject.

A diploma or certificate from a trade school can help you find a job in the field and program duration varies between a few months and 2 years depending on the school and the curriculum.

Becoming certified by the Travel Institute is another way to demonstrate your skills to potential employers.

Experience requirements for certification vary between 1 year and 5 years, depending on the credential you are targeting.

Another credentialing institution is The Cruise Lines International Association.

Q. Where Can I Find Employment as a Travel Agent?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, travel agents held approximately 82,000 jobs in the United States, 72% of them working for companies that provide travel arrangements and reservation services.

The same institution reports that 17 percent of all travel agents are self-employed.

Other industries where travel agents held jobs are:

  • Nondepository credit intermediation
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Credit intermediation and related activities
  • Travel accommodation

The states with the highest employment level for travel agents are Florida, California, New York, Texas, and Illinois.

Q. How Much Does It Cost to Become a Travel Agent?

Training costs vary depending on the program you choose and the duration.

Shorter online programs are available and these are usually less expensive and offer you the opportunity of learning at your own pace, from the comfort of your home.

The Travel Institute offers certification programs that cost $450 in the online format and $550 in print.

If you want a more in-depth understanding of this field, a two-year associate’s degree program in travel and tourism can improve your employment prospects and help you advance in your career.

In-state students who are enrolled in associate’s degree programs pay between $4,000 and $5,000 per year, on average while out-of-state students pay between $8,000 and $9,000.

Four-year bachelor’s degree programs in travel and tourism are also available at some colleges and universities.


Similar Careers

Leave a Comment

Find a Program
×
Search Travel Agent Training Programs

Get information on Travel Agent Training programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Search