If you’re interested in becoming a travel agent, there are several certification programs and classes you can consider for your new career path. These online programs offer a variety of instruction that cover such topics as geography, vacation packages, cruises and group travel, and computerized reservation systems.
American Society of Travel Agents
Before signing up for a full travel agent school course or program, you can take an introductory course to becoming a travel agent through the American Society of Travel Agents. This introductory course, which costs just $25, provides information on the overall travel agency industry, as well as specific information you need before you start on the path to your new career and sign up for a full-course program.
Travel Leaders of Tomorrow
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has its own recommended travel agent school that’s available online. Travel Leaders of Tomorrow offers two different programs. The benefits of this program are that it’s directly affiliated with the ASTA, and they’ve partnered with a variety of travel providers like Delta, Hyatt, Hertz, and more.
Travel Agent Training Virtual Campus Program
The Travel Leaders of Tomorrow virtual campus course is designed to get students to participate in a small group with other prospective travel agents. The program consists of:
- Self-paced studies
- Weekly virtual study groups
- Discussion forum
- Interactive online sessions
- Group presentations
- Guest faculty
Payment is required only once you’ve applied and been accepted to the program. The course consists of four modules at about $450 each, bringing the total to around $1,800. Course materials are an additional fee of $250, which covers two textbooks, two workbooks, and the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) testing fee.
On average, students take about 18 to 20 weeks to complete the program, as each module takes an average of four to five weeks.
Independent Learner Program
Those who prefer independent learning will be interested in the cheaper alternative here. This self-paced program takes you through 27 quick-learn lessons. The price is just under $500 and includes six months’ access to the lessons. Textbooks and TAP fee are $250, and delivery is only available to U.S. addresses.
The Travel Institute
The Travel Institute has been around for over 50 years and offers training for some of the most popular travel agent certifications. The certifications include:
- Certified Travel Associate (CTA): Good for front-line agents and offers 15 areas of study, including itinerary planning and customer-focused selling
- Certified Travel Counselor (CTC): Geared towards travel management and has 10 areas of study, including management development and coaching/mentoring
- Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE): Meant for travel executives and offers 10 areas of study designed to develop executives and foster emotional intelligence
Students have 24/7 access to the program, on-demand learning through the Premium membership level, and access to the entry-level TRIP Kit training that is built around college-level textbooks and workbooks.
If you plan to specialize in one geographic region, they offer destination specialist programs as well. Areas include:
- North America
- Northern Europe
- Southern Europe
- St. Lucia
Length and Cost of Program
Once you enroll in the CTA program, you have 12 months to complete it. You have to take a standardized CTA exam, and must have 12 months industry experience before receiving your CTA certificate. Once you receive your CTA, you are required to take Continuing Education Units each year to maintain your certification.
The online program option is about $400, while a print edition is around $100 more, plus shipping. Tuition includes materials and testing fees.
Travel Agent Training Center
The Travel Agent Training Center, or TATC, is offered through AAA Insurance. You can purchase individual modules or an entire package. The TATC has options to learn computer reservation systems and Cruise School too.
When you sign up for this program, you get access to the online “Training Center,” and the course is a combination of correspondence courses and online training. Materials include books, workbooks, and travel brochures. In the Training Center, you’ll find all the necessary materials for completing assignments.
These are self-paced modules, and students get access to the Training Center for six months. If you need additional time, you can extend for a nominal fee. There are no set class times, which means you can work around your own schedule and view recorded training sessions when it is most convenient.
AAA says the average student who studies five hours per week will complete the course in 20 weeks. More aggressive studies of 20 hours per week will enable you to complete the course in approximately five weeks.
TATC is currently revamping their curriculum, modules, and pricing, so email them for the most up-to-date information on costs and new enrollment dates.
Becoming a Travel Agent
There are no unified requirements to become a travel agent, nor any national board exams that you must pass. The TAP exam mentioned herein is recognized in the travel industry as a basic competency test. While it’s easier to break into the field, you may also face higher competition. What you can do to set yourself apart is to demonstrate your expertise gained while completing an online certification program, or complete a traditional university degree that includes tourism and travel agent components.