Travel agents are an important component in the transportation industry. They deliver customized client service by taking care of travel bookings, car rentals, hotel reservations, stopovers, etc.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 78,800 travel agents have been operating in America (as of May, 2018). If you are also interested in becoming one, this guide has all the details. However, before getting into them, let’s talk about the role of a travel agent in some depth.
What Does a Travel Agent Do?
Travel agents assist clients by making their travel, lodging, touring and vacationing arrangements for them. To start off in the field, you need either a certificate or an associate degree. Most travel agencies require aspiring agents to begin working as travel receptionists or reservation clerks before progressing to the role of travel agents.
There are no binding certification/licensing requirements for travel agents. However, many professionals attend workshops and take refresher courses from time to time to stay updated with the latest trends in the industry. If you are someone with diverse travelling experience or have interest in travel-related areas like geography or languages, then you will certainly be a good fit working for a travel agency.
But, with regard to job outlook, there is a decline of 6% in employment opportunities for travel agents between 2018 and 2028. This is primarily due to the fact that the Internet facilitates travellers by providing easy research and travel booking options. Travel agents that specialize in services for specific types of travellers and destinations will be more in demand compared to the generalists.
Steps to Become a Travel Agent in the US
To become a travel agent in the United States, here is what you need to do.
Step 1: Complete a Certificate or an Associate Degree Program in the Field
Unless otherwise specified by particular employers, earning a certificate or associate degree in travel and tourism is all the education needed to become a travel agent. In this regard, you can go for a Travel Agent Certificate which is a 1-semester program focused on the duties of a travel agent. It prepares students for entry-level employment and includes courses in the following areas.
Travel Industry Trends
Customer Service in Travel
An associate degree in Travel and Tourism is another option for people desirous of becoming travel agents. Generally lasting for about 2 years, it is a lot more comprehensive than a certificate program. In the same way, a bachelor degree in travel and tourism or a related field is also available. Different courses making up an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree include the following.
Tourism Planning and Development
International Travel and Tourism
Hospitality Information Systems
Step 2: Apply for Work and Learn on the Job
Once you have completed your studies, you can look for a job with a travel agency where you will continue to learn the tricks of the trade.
Step 3: Licensing and Continuing Education
Travel agents in the US are not bound to be licensed in most states. There are, however, different certifications made available by the Travel Institute. These are listed below.
Certified Travel Associate (CTA)
Certified Travel Counselor (CTC)
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is another body that offers professional certifications for travel agents. Once they start working, travel agents should continue to attend professional development workshops and take different short courses to stay updated about the latest happenings in their field.
How Much Does a Travel Agent Earn in the US?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, travel agents in America made $42,720 in annual mean wage in 2018. The mean income increased to $44,690 in 2019. For the same 12-month period, the median income was $38,700.
Washington was the highest-paying state for travel agents with an annual mean income of $55,420 for 2019. Next on the list was New Hampshire at $52,980. These two were followed by Arizona ($52,010), Maryland ($51,620) and District of Columbia (51,070).