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What does a Travel Agent do?

Americans love to hit the road, and with a large country like ours, there's a lot to explore. Planning a trip, whether domestic or abroad, can be a daunting task, one that might require the assistance of a true expert: a travel agent.

Even though travel agent's roles have changed quite significantly in the wake of online travel services, they are still an integral part of travel, especially for complicated travel arrangements to foreign countries that require specific expertise.

Educational requirements for travel agents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers prefer to hire applicants who have received training specific to becoming a travel agent. This kind of training is typically available at either vocational schools, community colleges, adult education programs or specific programs that train travel agents.

Some programs can also be completed entirely online. During these programs, students typically take classes related to marketing and sales, geography and history, industry standards, software programs, etc. A select number of colleges also offer undergraduate or graduate degrees in travel and tourism.

Where can I find work as a travel agent and how much can I earn?

Most travel agents work in travel agencies or travel arrangement services.

The top-paying states for travel agents were Alabama, Washington, the District of Columbia, Virginia and New Hampshire. According to the BLS, the states with the highest concentration of travel agents are Hawaii, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and North Dakota. The top-paying industries are travel arrangement and reservation services, corporations and insurance carriers.

Perks and the life of a travel agent

Not surprisingly, many job-seekers go into the field of travel because they love to travel. Depending on where you work, you might be highly specialized. For instance, a number of travel agencies focus on international cruise line trips, while others have found their niche in travel for university professors to the Middle East. Either way, there might be some perks for travel agents, which can include discounted air fare and hotels.

Since the rise of online travel booking services, many travel agents have found work with these online companies. In addition, large corporations oftentimes have in-house travel departments that are in charge of arranging business travel for their executives, which is also an exciting opportunity. All travel agents need to be highly organized, motivated, should excel at research, be good at dealing with people, and be able to work well under stress. Remember the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano that has been disrupting air traffic? For travel agents, dealing with Eyjafjallajökull and making sure their customers still arrived at their destinations was just another day at the office.

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