Travel Agent Career Overview

Travel agents are professionals who help individuals plan their travel arrangements in the most optimal way possible. While anybody can make arrangements for traveling, regular individuals will soon discover that not only is the process extremely tasking, but it can also be virtually impossible to get the most out of a trip with specific knowledge to optimize various elements of the journey.

This is where travel agents come in.

However, candidates must acquire relevant planning, organization, and research skills in a travel agent’s day-to-day activities to begin such a career.

The guide below introduces candidates to the various elements involved in the field and shows the steps needed to launch a travel agent career. We also explore, among other things, the duties and responsibilities of a travel agent, specialty areas, licensure and certification requirements, salary projections, and career outlook.

What Do Travel Agents Do?

Travel agents help people maximize their traveling experience. Apart from trying to eliminate the stress of having to plan each step of their trip by themselves, people look to travel agents to ensure they can get the best out of wherever they are headed.

This may encompass getting benefits such as discounts on accommodation and tourist spots, identifying the best places to suit distinct personalities, and escaping tourist traps to focus on more hidden gems within specific locations.

Travel agents can also advise on safety issues concerning several locations and suggest better alternatives. They can also recommend steps to ensure straightforward and successful visa applications.

Travel Agent’s Work Environment

Travel agents are typically found working with host agencies. Those who choose this kind of work environment will enjoy several benefits, including access to a host of tools and resources provided by their host agency.

These may include marketing resources, software for planning, ticketing systems, and existing partnerships with various hotels and travel companies worldwide.

On the other hand, it is also possible for a travel agent to work alone in a self-employed work environment. Currently, the ratio of self-employed travel agents to those who work with host agencies is 7:1.

Travel agents typically spend most of their day sitting and working on their phones or computers. While these professionals may work full-time or part-time, most choose to work full-time.

How to Become a Travel Agent

The following are the general steps needed to become a travel agent.

Step 1: Basic Requirements

Typically, anyone looking to start a career as a travel agent must have some form of knowledge regarding the travel industry. It is also common to find aspiring travel agents who are very enthusiastic about traveling themselves.

The most common basic educational requirement is a high school diploma or GED. This will make securing admission into a training program a lot easier.

Step 2: Education & Training

Most candidates enroll in academic programs offered by colleges and technical schools for their training. These institutions typically offer some form of tourism, hospitality, travel, or business management program with possible concentrations for travel agents.

Through this, they will learn key topics such as a comprehensive introduction to the travel industry, air and ground transportation, marketing techniques, destination and international geography, and travel agency operations.

Individuals who go through this route will also earn valuable associate’s or bachelor’s degrees, making securing job placement and finding clients easier.

Step 3: Certification

Travel agents are not expected to obtain licensure or become certified. However, doing so offers several career benefits, so most choose to become certified.

The Travel Institute is one of the most prominent organizations offering certification for travel agents nationwide. The Institute offers credentials at various levels, including the Certified Travel Associate (CTA), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), and Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE) credentials.

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is another notable organization that offers verified travel advisor programs and credentials for skills verification. Other notable options include the Cruise Lines International Association and the International Association of Travel Advisors.


All travel agents must be adept at the primary duty of the profession, which is to make detailed and personalized travel arrangements for interested clients. However, it is also common to see professionals in this field choose a specific area of specialization.

The most popular options in this regard include:

  • Leisure Travel Agents — specialists in planning leisure trips to various locations worldwide.

  • Corporate Travel Agents — specialists in making travel arrangements for businesses.

  • Luxury Travel — specialists in luxurious trips across the world.

  • Adventure Travel — specialists in planning high-adrenaline trips for thrill seekers.

There are also specialists in planning cruise trips and destination travel.

Travel Agent Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed the annual average salary for travel agents to be around $47,410 as of May 2023. This figure, highlighted by the bureau, concerned those at the middle point of professional earners.

Those among the lowest 10% took home an annual average salary of around $30,580, while those among the highest-paid top 10% took home an annual average salary of at least $69,640.

Travel agents who worked in arrangement and reservation services took home the highest annual average among other possible disciplines in the field.

Some factors influencing a travel agent’s annual average salary include commission structure, host agency, experience level, professional credentials, and specific locations within regions and cities.

Job and Career Outlook

The same dataset the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed also shows that the job outlook for travel agents within the next decade is quite favorable. The field is projected to grow by around 3% from 2022 to 2032, leading to about 8,600 new openings for travel agents annually.

Some of the reasons highlighted for this projection include replacing workers who move to different fields or exit the labor force and the increasing requirements for a travel agent’s expertise in making travel recommendations for a personalized experience.

The Bureau also noted that growth in the industry may be limited due to the continual availability of online resources to research vacation spots and book personal trips.