As the industry continues to consolidate and more people turn to the Internet to make their own travel arrangements, the need for education for travel agents becomes more urgent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most travel agent jobs do not require more than a high school education, but travel agencies are increasingly seeking a college degree in addition to business and travel experience.
A certificate from a travel trade school such as the Travel Academy can be earned in about eight to 16 weeks, depending on the number of hours a student devotes to classes. Intense training through trade schools focuses on the hands-on skills needed to work in the field. A curriculum that prepares a travel agent to work in an agency includes instruction on airport codes and airport gate procedures, cruise line operations, geography, tour companies, and how to use various computer reservations systems.
While a degree from a trade school can help a travel agent land an entry-level position, a college degree can provide travel agents with a leg up on the competition for the more favorable jobs. Bachelor's degrees that travel agencies consider appropriate include business, marketing, communications or hospitality. Other degrees that could open the door to travel industry options include business administration, accounting, human resources and management.
Many travel agencies place importance on the ability to speak several languages. Travel agents who learn French or Spanish can find additional opportunities. Travel agents, both new and experienced, can start their own business by simply paying a fee to a number of large travel agencies that use independent agents. Contract agents can start immediately by using the large reservation capabilities of these companies.
Experience counts in the travel industry. Most established travel agencies require new agents to have two to five years experience. This experience can be gained from working directly for a travel provider such as a cruise line or airline, in support positions at large travel companies, and in hotels and car rental companies.
Time spent in professional development courses and training can add further credentials to help agents land a position. The National Business Travel Association offers a program for agents to earn a Certified Corporate Travel Executive designation in fewer than 30 days of classes. A two-day workshop is required to receive the Corporate Travel Expert certification,and a Global Leadership Professional designation can be earned in two years, ideal for working professionals looking for management opportunities.
The Travel Academy
National Business Travel Association
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
American Society of Travel Agents