How Do I Become a Travel Agent?

Learn what it takes to become a travel agent. Read about education requirements, job responsibilities, salary and job outlook to see if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Travel & Tourism degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Travel Agent?

Travel agents work with individuals and groups to arrange travel plans, vacations and trip itineraries. They help customers compare rates and book reservations, and they advise people on what to see and expect while traveling. Other responsibilities include but are not limited to advising about weather forecasts, informing clients about necessary travel documents and planning day trips. The following chart gives you an overview of the general requirements for this career.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent at minimum; postsecondary courses in hospitality and tourism recommended
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Customer service, communication skills, computer skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) -12%*
Median Salary (2015) $35,660*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does Being a Travel Agent Entail?

All over the world, traveling is huge business, and travel agents play a major role in keeping the industry thriving and organized. As an agent in this field, you'll assist clients in planning and organizing both personal and business trips. On a daily basis, you'll book flights and hotel stays, put together and promote vacation packages, arrange for transportation and educate clients on the destinations they're considering. As a knowledgeable professional, you'll be expected to inform clients about the culture and customs, weather, hot spots and top restaurants of different locations. For this reason, you may decide to specialize in specific areas.

A great amount of time you'll spend on the job will be in an office, in front of a computer and on the phone talking with clients and making various arrangements. However, as one of the perks with this career, you'll also spend time traveling and visiting various destinations, restaurants and hotels to gain firsthand experience to share with clients. As a travel agent, you'll often get big discounts on these trips and occasionally, they'll even be free.

What Requirements Do I Need to Fulfill to Get a Job?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a majority of the agencies you'll be able to work for prefer agents to have specialized training (www.bls.gov). You'll be able to get this training at vocational schools or community colleges. You may also find travel agent programs online or through adult education programs. While enrolled in one of these programs, you'll learn about forms and procedures, sales, marketing strategies and geography. Experience in the industry is also important, so you may work as a reservation clerk or receptionist at a travel agency while in school to increase your chances of getting a position as an agent after graduation.

If you would like a more advanced level of education, some colleges offer bachelor's or master's degree programs in tourism. Other majors which may be helpful to you include geography, world history and foreign languages. Once you begin working as a travel agent, you'll need to participate in continuing education in order to keep up with changes in the locations you promote, procedures and industry trends.

What Skills Will Help Me Be Successful?

As with any other job where service is provided, some of the key skills that can help you be more successful include organization, active listening, communication, negotiation and computer skills. In addition, it will be beneficial to your career if you're patient, outgoing, friendly and enthusiastic about the travel industry.

What Is the Job Outlook?

Although jobs are available in the field, the BLS predicted that overall growth of travel agent employment would decline by 12% between 2014 and 2024. With the rise of Internet technology and user-friendly websites that allow travelers to plan and book their own trips, travel agents were not expected to be utilized as much as they were in the past. However, travel agents may still be needed to organize more specialized or customized trips. To increase your chances of finding employment, you should complete formal training and consider specializing in specific destinations, serving a particular group of people or offering luxury travel services. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for travel agents was $35,660 in May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Administrative secretaries and assistants also need only a high school diploma. They perform duties that can include organizing files and documents, maintaining schedules and supporting an organization's staff. Information clerks are similar in role and education requirements, as their clerical duties focus on collecting and maintaining data that can range from court records and hotel reservations to government records and product orders. Finally, event planners select a site and coordinate vendor services and travel plans for professional meetings and conventions. However, these jobs generally require a bachelor's degrees.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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