Travel Agents

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a travel agent with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Travel Agent Jobs

  • Night Auditor/Front Desk Agent - Fairfield Inn & Suites Hotels - Millbrae, CA

    Provide rooms management with a clear picture of their

  • Federal Travel Agent - Verdi Consulting Inc. - Washington, DC

    E-Gov Travel Service includes an online booking engine, travel management services, and a travel authorization and vouchering system (TAVS). The IBC

  • Travel Agent International Sales - Rollinglobe - Washington, DC

    Confirm availability and pricing in a prompt and organized manner • Leverage preferred partners to ensure the best rates and amenities for clients

See all Travel Agent jobs

What Travel Agents Do[About this section] [To Top]

Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and admission to entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips. They offer advice on destinations, plan trip itineraries, and make travel arrangements for clients.

Duties of Travel Agents

Travel agents typically do the following:

  • Arrange travel for business and vacation customers
  • Determine customers' needs and preferences, such as schedules and costs
  • Plan and arrange tour packages, excursions, and day trips
  • Find fare and schedule information
  • Calculate total travel costs
  • Book reservations for travel, hotels, rental cars, and special events, such as tours and excursions
  • Describe trips to clients and give details on required documents, such as passports and visas
  • Give advice about local weather conditions, customs, and attractions
  • Make alternative booking arrangements if changes arise before or during the trip

Travel agents sort through vast amounts of information to find the best possible trip arrangements for travelers. In addition, resorts and specialty groups use travel agents to promote vacation packages to their clients.

Travel agents also may visit destinations to get firsthand experience so that they can make recommendations to clients or colleagues. They may visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants to evaluate the comfort, cleanliness, and quality of the establishment. However, most of their time is spent talking with clients, promoting tours, and contacting airlines and hotels to make travel accommodations. Travel agents use a reservation system called a Global Distribution System (GDS) to access travel information and make reservations with travel suppliers such as airlines or hotels.

The following are examples of types of travel agents:

Leisure travel agents sell vacation packages to the general public. They are responsible for arranging trip itineraries based on clients' interests and budget. Leisure travel agents increasingly are focusing on a specific type of travel, such as adventure tours. Some may cater to a specific group of people, such as senior citizens or single people.

Corporate travel agents primarily make travel arrangements for businesses. They book travel accommodations for an organization's employees who are traveling to conduct business or attend conferences.

Work Environment for Travel Agents[About this section] [To Top]

Travel agents hold about 81,700 jobs. The largest employers of travel agents are as follows:

Travel arrangement and reservation services 79%
Self-employed workers 15

They typically work in offices, but some work remotely because much of their time is spent on the phone and the computer. In some cases, busy offices or call centers may be noisy and crowded. Agents may face stress during travel emergencies or unanticipated schedule changes.

Travel Agent Work Schedules

Most travel agents work full time. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate customers' schedule changes and last-minute needs.

How to Become a Travel Agent[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Travel Agents near you!

A high school diploma typically is required for someone to become a travel agent. However, many employers prefer additional formal training. Good communication and computer skills are essential.

Education for Travel Agents

Employers generally require candidates to have at least a high school diploma, but may prefer those who have a college degree or who have taken classes related to the travel industry. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations offer technical training or continuing education classes in professional travel planning. Classes usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel. In addition, some colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism.

Travel Agent Training

Employers in the travel industry always give some on-the-job training on the computer systems that are used in the industry. For example, a travel agent could be trained to work with a reservation system used by several airlines.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Travel Agents

A good way to demonstrate competence for high school graduates with limited experience is to take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test. The test has no eligibility requirements and is administered by The Travel Institute.

The Travel Institute also provides training and professional certification opportunities for experienced travel agents. Different levels of certification are offered, depending on a travel agent's experience. Travel agents with limited experience can become a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) after completing a series of classes and exams. For those with at least 5 years of experience, the more highly advanced Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) certification can be achieved. Both the CTA and CTC require continuing education each year to maintain certification.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers four levels of certification: Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.

Some states require agents to have a business license to sell travel services. Requirements among states vary greatly. Contact individual state licensing agencies for more information.

Other Experience for Travel Agents

Some agencies prefer travel agents with firsthand experience visiting a country. These agencies especially prefer travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers.

Important Qualities for Travel Agents

Adventurousness. Travel agencies that specialize in exotic destinations or particular types of travel, such as adventure travel or ecotourism, may prefer to hire travel agents who share these interests.

Communication skills. Travel agents must listen to customers, understand their travel needs, and offer appropriate travel advice and information.

Customer-service skills. When customers need to make last-minute changes in their travel arrangements, travel agents must be able to respond to questions and complaints in a friendly and professional manner.

Detail oriented. Travel agents must pay attention to details in order to ensure that the reservations they make match travelers' needs. They must make reservations at the correct dates, times, and locations to meet travelers' schedules.

Organizational skills. Travel agents often work on itineraries for many customers at once. Keeping client information in order and ensuring that bills and receipts are processed in a timely manner is essential.

Sales skills. Travel agents must be able to persuade clients to buy transportation, lodging, or tours. Sometimes they might need to persuade tour operators, airline staff, or others to take care of their clients' special needs. Earnings for many travel agents depend on commissions and service fees.

Travel Agent Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for travel agents is $36,460. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,890.

The median annual wages for travel agents in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Travel arrangement and reservation services $36,280

These wage data include money earned from commissions.

Most travel agents work full time. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate customers' schedule changes and last-minute needs.

Job Outlook for Travel Agents[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 12 percent over the next ten years.

The ability of travelers to use the Internet to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents. An increasing amount of travel is also expected to be booked on mobile devices.

However, the sheer number of travel and review websites can make travel planning a frustrating experience for some consumers. This may lead to an increasing number of people turning to travel agents to help filter through the options and give personal recommendations.

Job Prospects for Travel Agents

Job prospects should be best for travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers.

Some job opportunities might result from a growing number of experienced travel agents reaching retirement age.

Employment projections data for Travel Agents, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Travel agents 81,700 72,200 -12 -9,500


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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