A Complete Guide to Travel Agent Schools [+Comparison Chart]
Travel agent schools are one of many travel agent training, education, and professional development opportunities. With so many choices, the decision can be mind-boggling.
Never fear. HAR's (Host Agency Reviews') goal is to de-boggle your mind. We'll help you decide if a travel school seems right for you, give you a list of questions to ask before you take the plunge, and help you decide which is best for you.
⭐️ HAR Article Highlights: ⭐️
- Travel Agent School Preamble
- A Comparison Chart of Travel Schools
- Is a Travel Agent School Right for Me?
- How Do I Pick the Right Travel Agent School for Me?
- Alternatives to Travel Schools
Travel Agent School Preamble
Going to a travel agent school is not a requirement to enter the industry. In fact, no specific schooling is required. No diploma, no certification or professional certificate, no degree, no fancy letters after your name. Nada. You don't need any of it. This is something to consider if you're in it primarily for credentials.
If/ when you pick a travel agent school, the most important consideration is the quality of the education and how that education impacts the expansion of your industry knowledge, and how that knowledge equips you succeed as a working travel agent.
One of the challenges of choosing a travel school is that there is no standardization or quality control. Not really. There's no organization that comes out and says, "Hey, you know, in order to be a credible travel agent school, you need to hit all these marks." What this means is that you are the one that needs to assess whether or not a travel agents school meets your educational needs.
Sound overwhelming? We're here to help.
Travel Agent Schools: Infographic + Comparison Chart
I released a few messenger pigeons to update info on travel agent school programs. Below is an infographic that offers of comparison of travel agent schools plus tools to help you decide if travel agent school is best for you and (if so) to help you decide which one fits your needs.
Before I launch in, it's important to note that the comparison chart only includes programs that are travel agent-specific. I didn’t include hospitality, tourism, or events management majors because I really think that those areas of study—though some skills would be applicable—are a different beast entirely.
Here’s the info our messenger pigeons had in tow 🐦🐧. As it turns out, messenger pigeons have impeccable infographic-creating capabilities:
You may think it's weird to start out with the infographic, but it will give you an idea of what's out there. Next up? Deciding if a travel agent school is what you need and (if so) which is best for you.
Is a Travel Agent School Right for Me?
Here's a few things to help you determine whether or not a travel agent school is a good decision for you. (You can think of it as an unfailable quiz!):
1. are you totally new to the industry?
If you're really working from ground zero, a travel agent school is great way to help you get your bearings. Not only that, but if you do your due diligence and choose a great travel agent school, you stand to save some time by getting all the basic industry info you need in one place (rather than trying to cobble together your own education).
2. Do you want to earn a general degree or professional certificate?
If you want to earn an Associate's degree or a professional certificate then a travel agent school could be a great option for you. If you're in the market for a general degree, you'll want to be sure the travel school you choose is accredited.
If you're in the market for a general degree, you'll want to be sure the travel school you choose is accredited
How can you tell if a school is accredited?
- Check out our travel agent school comparison chart, which indicates if a travel agent school is accredited. Don't see your school of choice on our chart? Drop me an email at Hello@HostAgencyReviews.Com so I can add the school to our chart!
- Check on the travel agent school's website to see if they're accredited. (You can usually find this in the About [School] section . . . they'll want to brag about their accreditation, so it will be there if they have one!)
If you're looking to earn a professional certificate, you won't need to pick an accredited school, but you'll want to choose a program that's industry-recognized (more on that later).
3. Does the idea of a structured program & Peer Support motivate you?
A travel agent school can also be a good option if you find If you thrive off of the structured support of a set program—a syllabus, class schedule, homework, evaluation, deadlines, quizzes, etc. Each travel agent school will be structured differently, so if there are some aspects of the school structure that are important to you, make sure that the travel school fits the bill for you.
Most of the travel agent schools are online, but this isn't necessarily at the expense of tight-knit peer communities. One way to evaluate a travel school is to check and see if they have active online groups of alums. You can also ask programs how much contact students have with one another during the course (we'll get more into the nitty gritty of evaluating schools soon.)
4. Is a Travel School in Your Budget?
The tuition for travel agent schools listed in this article ranges from $495 to $15,900. That's quite a range. In terms of making a sound financial investment, consider these questions:
1. How much do I want to spend on a travel school?
2. Is the travel school affordable?
3. Does it seem to offer a good value?
4. Is it a good value for what it offers (for example, you might consider how much it costs per credit or contact hours, rather than focusing on the total sticker price).
5. Is it comparable in price to other training programs?
6. Can I pay in installments?
7. Can I get any scholarship, aide, loans?
One thing to factor in your decision is the income potential for a travel agent. How do you know what kind of income to expect? We have some hard data on income for new travel agents, as well as how much you can expect earnings to increase as you gain experience.
5. Do You Have Time?
Travel agent schools are a time commitment as well as a financial commitment. Like tuition, the duration of travel school programs varies significantly—from four weeks to two years. Additionally, the time you need to invest in your coursework will also vary.
Travel agent schools are a time commitment . . . Like tuition, the duration of travel school programs varies significantly—from four weeks to two years.
If you want to take the time to get your bearings the industry before you dive in, a travel school could be idea. If you want to start selling travel yesterday and are willing to learn as you go, it might not be the best fit (or you might explore a short or self-paced program.)
time to tally your score.
Yay! You finished your unfailable quiz! If you answered yes to a majority of the questions, a travel school could be a great fit and you should probably keep exploring! So keep reading!
If you answered no to a majority of these questions, you should still keep reading because, let's face it, you're really thorough and you want to ensure you not missing out on any info! But if you want to take a shortcut to explore alternatives, go here!
Make a Travel Agent School Short List
A travel school is a good option for you?! *High five!* Now the kicker is this, how do you decide what program might be best for you.
Here's a list of questions to ask of your travel agent school programs to help you narrow it down:
1. Who teaches in the program and what is their background in the industry?
I'm going to be honest here. There's a lot of training and education programs out there, and you deserve a program with someone at the helm who's invested in the travel industry. Look at their background, and gauge the industry engagement of the people who run and teach at the school.
There's a lot of training and education programs out there, and you deserve a program with someone at the helm who's invested in the travel industry
The most important quality of a travel agent school is the quality of its education, and choosing one with deep industry roots is a good indication that you'll be in good hands.
2. If you want a general degree, is the school accredited?
If you want a general degree in addition to earning a professional certificate at a travel agent school, you want (I'll go ahead and say need) to pick a school that is accredited.
Here's another thing to consider: Do any of the credits from the travel agent certificate go toward the general degree? Hopefully the answer is a resounding yes (the more credits that apply to your degree, the merrier).
3. is their certificate recognized within the industry?
Most travel agent schools result in some kind of professional certificate. If you're an independent contractor, a travel agent certificate itself is not going to give you instant access to a higher pay scale. But a good program will help you cultivate professional skills, which will translate to a higher pay scale.
If you want to become an independent contractor, you may also want to consider if a host agency accepts the certificate in lieu of the host's education program (more on that later). How would you know that if a host is willing to make this accommodation? You can post a question on their host profile on this very site!!!
4. Is their curriculum current, thorough and useful?
Evaluating the strength of a travel school's curriculum may seem hard if you have no industry experience. But I'm here to give you a few pointers on how to gauge if it's up to snuff for what you need:
- Does it cover a variety of topics? Does it go into as much depth as you need such as marketing, sales strategies, legal & regulatory topics, an industry overview, trip planning? Is there any focus on some popular niches such as destination specialty, cruise, etc (especially if it aligns with what you want to do).
- Does it focus on topics that you don't need? Okay. I'm about to say something controversial: Unless you want to be a corporate agent, you don't need a curriculum that focuses on GDS (Global Distribution System). There. I said it. You can throw flaming bags of dog poop on my porch, but I stand behind this because A.) 99% of the time, GDS is not the right tool for the job for leisure agents and B.) It's a waste of your time and money to spend so much time learning a tool you probably won't use. Do you want to be familiar with what it is? Sure. But if you're going to sell leisure, you don't need 20% of your coursework dedicated to it.
- Is it current? When is the last time the travel agent school updated their curriculum? Do they talk about current issues in travel? If you're not sure just by perusing their site, give them a holler and ask.
- Do specific areas of focus align with what you want to do? Some travel agent schools will have specific areas of study that might be optional. This may include focusing on a particular destination or niche. This is fabulous . . . unless you don't really care about that area of study. So if a program has an entire unit on, let's say, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, that's not going to be very helpful to you if you primarily want to book adventure trips to Alaska and the Arctic regions. But there's an exception . . .
- Does it prepare you to become an independent contractor or an employee? A curriculum will be very different based on whether or not you want to become an employee or an independent contractor. If you want to work for a retail location as an employee, familiarity with GDS is going to be an asset; a broad overview of cruise lines and popular destinations like Jamaica, Mexico and DR is critical. But if you're going to be an independent contractor, it's important that the area of study aligns closely with what you want to do. It might seems like choosing a niche is putting the cart before the horse, but homing in on a specialty can help you choose a travel agent school.
5. What are the program goals & do they succeed?
You have a good handle on your goals, but how do they align with the goals of a travel school? More than that, does the travel agent school achieve the goals they set out for themselves as a program? Here's a few questions to consider.
- What are the goals of the program (and does it fit with your professional goals? Is it to prepare you for the Travel Institute's TAP (Travel Agent Proficiency) test?1 Is it to eventually support you with job placement? Is it give you a broad overview? Is it to make you an expert on selling cruises? Is it to give you a broad overview of the industry?
- Does the travel school have follow-up employment services? Will they continue to support you once you're out in the world? How do they do that?
- Are their alumnae ending up where you want to end up? Are their alumnae doing the jobs (or creating the jobs) that you want to do?
- What does their data say? Beyond graduation/completion rate, how long does it take their students to get settled into the industry?
Alternatives to Travel Agent School
Maybe you've gotten this far and decided that a travel agent school is not right for you. But you don't need to throw your arms up in surrender just yet because there are other options.
What are they you ask? Read on!
1. Travel Agent Certification:
Certifications allow you to add fancy letters after your name that will (hopefully) be recognized by the travel industry. They're often provided by organizations such as travel consortia, accreditation organizations (more here on travel agent accreditation options), and travel industry membership groups such as GBTA or the Travel Institute.
A comparable example to travel agent certification might be like a CPA (certified professional accountant). You can still be an accountant without your CPA, but it helps potential clients know that you're the real deal. If you're looking for certification (in addition to/ rather than training) we have a resource for you!
2. Host Travel Agent Education Programs:
What the heck a host agency and travel consortium? At its most basic, a host agency is an umbrella organization that an independent agency (that’s you!) can align with for better commissions, supplier relations, and marketing/tech tools.
A travel consortium is a collective of host agencies, travel agencies, and/or travel advisors that join forces to combine resources in order to increase their industry footprint. This gives them more including buying potential, benefits, & commission levels.
School's Out for the Summer
Yay! Your education on travel agent schools is complete. You can now consider yourself well prepared (if not over-prepared) to decide if a travel school is for you, and (if it is), which option is your best choice.
Have you gone to a travel agent school? Let us know the good, bad and the ugly in the comments below!
⭐️ Don't Miss HAR's Travel Agent Training & Education Series! ⭐️
- Travel Agent Training and Education: This is the motherboard for all travel agent training options.
- A Guide to Host Agency and Consortia Education: Details on host and consortia education, plus a comparison chart.
- Travel Agent Certification: Want to read up on what certification options are out there? This is for you.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in Dec. 2019 and was updated and republished Jan. 25th, 2021.
- Here's a hint: If prepping for the TAP test is your primary initiative, you can get a study guide for the TAP test and take it on your own for what could be a fraction of the cost to attend a travel school. ↩