How to Earn a Travel Agent Certification
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- Travel agents assist individuals, groups, and businesses with their travel arrangements.
- Certification is available in a variety of travel sectors — cruises, airlines, and more.
- Although travel agent certification is not required, it may lead to career growth.
- Travel agents have desired communication, organization, sales, and negotiation skills.
Travel agents sell travel products from a variety of vendors, including airlines, hotels and resorts, and cruise lines.
They assist travelers with their travel arrangements and vacation planning. This assistance may include booking transportation on airplanes, trains, cruise ships, and/or rental cars and making hotel and lodging reservations. They also arrange ground transportation, tours, meal reservations, and activities.
For travel agents, perks of the job can include learning about destinations, working from home, and travel. As of May 2021, there are around 37,190 travel agents in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Obtaining one or more travel agent certifications is how some people grow in their careers.
Travel agent certification is a document presented to travel agents after they complete a training program that includes courses and, oftentimes, at least one exam.
Travel agents — from beginners to seasoned travel executives — can be certified in a variety of travel sectors, including airlines, business travel, cruise lines, and more. A travel agent certification is separate from destination- or vendor-specific training certification.
Getting travel agent certification can help you network, achieve career advancement, and gain valuable, highly transferable skills in sales, customer service, marketing, problem-solving, negotiating, and communication.
Travel agents with one or more certifications may be more competitive when job hunting, attract more clients, make more money, advance in their careers, and own their own travel agencies.
Travel agent certification is not the same as a travel agent certificate or license. While a license is not required to be a travel agent, some U.S. states require travel agencies or home-based travel agents to be licensed. Some U.S. states require travel agents to get a registration number.
What Are the Requirements for a Travel Agent Certification?
- High school or GED diploma.
- Completion of coursework and, in most cases, passing one or more exams. Certification typically takes 6-18 months to complete.
- Some certification programs may require travel agents to be members of their organization.
- Some certification programs may require 12 months or more of experience in the travel industry.
- Computer skills may be helpful since travel agents do most of their work on the computer.
- Customer service or sales experience may be beneficial.
- The ability to speak more than one language may also be helpful.
- An understanding of destinations and experience traveling, cruising, and making itineraries are also helpful.
- In addition to travel agent certification, some travel agents also earn an associate degree or bachelor's degree in business, business administration, economics, hospitality management, international business, liberal arts, tourism, or travel. However, this is not required.
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What Skills Will I Learn With a Travel Agent Certification?
The skills travel agents learn are transferable to many careers, including hospitality and marketing. The skills travel agents learn as they pursue travel agent certification include:
- Communication and negotiation
- Computer skills, including computer reservation systems
- Customer service
- Sales and marketing
- Strategic business planning
Is a Travel Agent Certification Worth It?
Some travel agents choose to receive on-the-job training instead of a certification. However, many decide to get one or more certifications offered by schools, industry associations, destinations, and vendors.
Getting your travel agent certification can be a great way to learn about destinations, gain highly transferable skills, network, and build a client base. Many clients prefer to work with a certified travel agent. Travel agent certification may be helpful for travel agents who wish to start their own companies.
While most consumers can easily book their own travel, employment for travel agents is projected to grow 5% from 2020-2030, according to the BLS. About 7,500 openings for travel agents are projected annually, on average, over the decade, according to the BLS.
Examples of certification programs include:
- American Society of Travel Advisors' (ASTA) verified travel advisor (VTA)
- Airlines Reporting Corporation's (ARC) specialist training and certification
- Cruise Lines International Association's five certification programs, including the certified cruise counsellor program
- Global Business Travel Association's global travel professional certification
- International Air Transport Association's foundation in travel and tourism diploma
- The Travel Institute's certified travel associate (CTA).
What Jobs Can I Get With a Travel Agent Certification?
After completing their certification, travel agents pursue many jobs, including
- Cruise travel agent: They specialize in booking cruise vacations. Some agents further specialize in river cruises or particular cruise lines.
- Corporate travel agent: These agents arrange business and conference travel for business professionals and companies.
- Leisure travel agent: They sell vacation packages to individuals, families, and groups. Some travel agents may focus on certain regions, destinations, or travel niches like adventure travel, family travel, honeymoons, and luxury travel.
How Much Money Can I Make With a Travel Agent Certification?
Travel agents make a median annual salary of $42,350, as of May 2020, according to the BLS. This wage data includes money earned from commissions. Some travel agents who work at larger travel agencies may earn commissions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Agent Certification
How do you become a certified travel agent?
Travel agents can become certified by taking one or more certification programs offered at universities, colleges, technical schools, vocational schools, and travel associations, institutes, and organizations.
For travel agent certification programs, you will typically be required to complete coursework. And, for most certification programs, you will be required to pass one or more exams. Some travel agent certification programs require that you present documented professional experience.
How much does a travel agent certification cost?
The cost of a travel agent certification program varies.
For example, it costs $399-$729 to enroll in the American Society of Travel Advisors' VTA program. ARC specialist training and certification and The Travel Institute's CTA programs each cost $550.
Travel agent certification programs require recertification through continuing education. The price varies from free for ARC's continuing education course to $179 for ASTA's VTA recertification continuing education program.
Travel agents may also register for The Travel Institute's Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test, a two-hour, proctored exam offered at the conclusion of many certification programs. The TAP test contains 100 multiple-choice questions on geography, selling skills, and travel products. The TAP exam is $95.
Can I be a travel agent with no experience?
Yes, you can be a travel agent with no experience. In general, there are no educational requirements to become a travel agent.
Having prior experience in customer service and/or sales may make aspiring travel agents more competitive in the job market even without certification. Whether travel agents work for an established travel agency, are a franchisee, or work independently under a host agency, most travel agents are offered on-the-job training and support at the start of their careers.
Travel agent certification may help boost your knowledge, skill set, connections, and client base. Mastering the skills to provide quality travel products, outstanding travel expertise, and exemplary travel planning may help travel agents increase their salaries and have a sustainable career.