Certified Travel Counselor Education Requirements and Career Info

Travel counselors and agents with at least five years of experience can receive certification as evidence of their skills and abilities. Certification may help ensure job security as travel booking is increasingly completed through the Internet.

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Travel Counselor Education Requirements

Travel counselors, agents and consultants should have at least a high school degree or its equivalent. While some counselors may begin careers directly, employers prefer candidates with formal training. Travel agent training programs are available through many trade, technical and community schools. They can often be completed in one year or less, and may result in a certificate or diploma. Those holding a bachelor's or master's degree in hospitality and tourism can also find work as travel counselors. Aspiring agents may wish to work as a reservation clerk or receptionist in a travel agency to gain knowledge about the business. They should also pursue opportunities to develop computer and organizational skills.

Career Information

Though a small percentage is self-employed, the majority of travel counselors work for travel agencies and reservation services, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Agents often work more than 40 hours a week, and can expect to be exceptionally busy during peak travel periods. They can also expect a great deal of interaction with customers and travel outlets (such as cruise lines and airlines) while promoting, planning and booking sales. According to the BLS, employment for travel counselors is expected to increase by 10 percent in the period of 2010-2020. Experience and certification can help ensure that counselors currently working will retain their employment. The average annual salary for travel counselors was $36,970 as of May 2012 (www.bls.gov).

Certification and Licensure

Though it is not necessary to be certified to work in a travel agency, many states require travel counselors to be registered. Furthermore, certification loans professional credibility and may improve employment options. Travel counselors can become certified through courses offered by the Travel Institute or the International Airline Transport Association. These courses can be completed at home or through one of the institute's learning centers.

Programs generally take 9-12 months to complete; students must take the certification exams within 18 months of enrolling. Three skill areas are covered over ten courses: business development, professional development and contemporary issues. Certified travel professionals are expected to register with their state of residence for professional acknowledgement, and then earn continuing education credits each year to maintain certification.

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