11 Experts Reveal The Best Course/Certification to Become a Travel Agent in the US


Finding the right certification program or professional course is obviously one of the prerequisites for a successful career start. Or is it? Anyone interested in becoming a travel agent is probably wondering what the best certification opportunities are. Several industry experts have accepted the challenging task of answering this crucial question.

The Practical Experience

Most industry reps seem to agree that real-life experience in a travel agency is much more important than going for a course or pursuing a particular kind of certificate.

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According to Ridha Lanouar from American Beyond Travel, an internship in a travel agency is very beneficial for anyone pursuing professional realization in the field.

Alexander Dold from Dold World Journeys is a successful professional that doesn’t have any certificate. “I do not possess any type of travel degree or certificate and don’t really believe in them. Always thought it would be better for anyone going into travel to gain experience first hand,” Dold said.

This seems to be the general consensus among travel professionals. While professional education does establish the groundwork, the practical experience gained through actual work with clients cannot be replicated in any other way.

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The Importance of Courses for Starting a Travel Business

Anyone interested in starting their own travel business will need the background that will lead to the selection of the most effective procedures and modus operandi. A background in business can be quite beneficial, tourism industry reps and experts seem to agree.

A bachelor’s degree is the absolute minimum that will acquaint and individual with the basics of starting a business. Looking for a degree in business administration will make sense in this case, Betty O’Brien from Ask About Luxury said.

Apart from pursuing a bachelor’s degree, professionals may look at individual business-related courses. Business planning, software usage and marketing courses will be helpful, giving travel agents some competitive advantage, Festival Tours representative Ray Heckmann said.

Other Courses, Education and Qualification Options to Pursue

CTC and CTM certification is a certain opportunity for distinguishing yourself from other professionals in the field. Most of the industry experts seem to agree that pursuing such certificates is worth the time and effort when it comes to career development.

“CTC/CTM certifications will show a potential employer that you are serious about your career, but I don’t think anyone has ever hired someone in the travel industry because of these certifications. Joining professional networks … and being active in them will have just as much impact and learning potential,” Colombe McCarthy from DAI Travel said.

Finally, there are other educational materials and opportunities to learn from apart from getting certified. Subscribing for specialized travel publications, Heckmann said, is a wonderful opportunity for learning about the industry and its newest trends.

The general agreement among travel industry experts is that particular educational background is far from a prerequisite for success in the field. Real-life experience and personality happen to be much more critical factors for climbing up the professional ladder. Still, CTC and CTM certification suggests seriousness about getting established, which is why pursuing the opportunity is generally considered a good idea.

Who are the Experts?

Contributors ( in order the contribution was received)

So without further ado, let’s get into…

​What is the Best Course/Certification to Become a Travel Agent in the US?

Betty O’Brien/Ask About Luxury

Betty Obrien I have a CTA, and a BS and it works for me. I think if you are going to be an owner you need business experience, and knowledge if you are specializing in cruises all the CLIA “degrees” are well worthwhile. I recommend the Travel institute to those who ask me  

Ridha Lanouar/American Beyond Travel

Ridha Lanouar Any Business School will do. An internship in a Travel Agency will be very beneficial.    

Dennis Hubbs/DDTVL

Dennis Hubbs The CTC designation, in my opinion, through the Travel Institute, is the best certification to have.    

Jess Kalinowsky/Freinds Travel

Jess Kalinowsky On can have every certificate known to man, but if they do not have the “personality” to be a good salesperson, then all the certificates in the world will not matter. 99.99999% of clients do not have a clue about all those certifications acronyms. NEVER in my career has I been asked: do you hold a certificate of “_______” fill in the blank with any certificate acronym.

Alexander Dold/Dold world Journeys

Alexander DoldI do not possess any type of travel degree or certificate and don’t really believe in them. Always thought it would be better for anyone going into travel to gain experience first hand.    

Janet Caraker/Island Jacks

Janet Caraker I think a CTC designation is a MUST as it shows a dedication to the career as well as important education and training.      

Sherry Barbee/Vacation Fanatics Travel

Sherry Barbee As far as education all of the suppliers have great educational programs. I do not have a degree, however I believe this where you learn the sales and marketing portion of the business quicker than with out it to grow your business faster. Join a host agency for training and tons of help and access to experienced agents willing to help.

Michael Schoendorf/Idea Travel

Michael SchoendorfI only had lots of vacations and a previous job in high tech before I started. I don’t really think any schooling is necessary. I would recommend any book that teaches selling skills and many courses to be a specialist in almost any destination or resort that are on-line. Just do a search for the destination or resort you are interested in and complete the course. You might find some consortium to join but I would recommend against any company that takes more that a small percentage of what you make to get higher commissions. You can make deals directly with each supplier to sell their products and services, I did that and have hundreds that supply me with great commissions without anyone taking a cut. Cruises are a different matter as the big consortiums have far larger commissions than you could ever make dealing direct. Almost all bookings can be done on-line or over the phone. You just need access to a website supplied by the various travel suppliers and a login or booking number if you call in and have them do it. I tend to give most of my vacation business to certain destinations to one company so I earn lots of rewards. Each destination has it own best suppliers and that is the hard part. It takes time to discover them all and how to sign up with them. I have been doing this for 35 years so it is easy to forget the amount of time it takes but it is worth it.

Colombe McCarthy/DAI Travel

Colombe McCarthyCTC/CTM certifications will show a potential employer that you are serious about your career, but I don’t think anyone has ever hired someone in the travel industry because of these certifications. Joining professional networks (such as the Millenials group for young agents) and being active in them will have just as much impact and learning potential.

Ray Heckmann/Festival Tours

Ray HeckmannTravel Agent University and Recommend.com have excellent on-line courses that help you to become an expert in your particular specialization including certificates of achievement which you can download, print and feature on your web site once you have successfully completed their course. A subscription, either print edition or online edition, to travel magazines such as Agent-At-Home, Vacation Agent, Travel Weekly, Travel Agent and others is strongly recommended. It keeps you up-to-date with the industry as a whole, emerging destinations, products and travel trends. Take advantage of Travel Agent Familiarization tours, travel trade shows, travel seminars, etc. These broaden your knowledge and provide you with excellent networking opportunities. Of course, the CTC and CTM designations place you a step above others and should absolutely be pursued. Display them proudly on your business cards, print material, emails and web site. Course work in business planning, Quicken software for check writing, budgeting and reports, an e-mail program like Constant Contact, a social media presence, enthusiastic participation in local networking groups and a continuing focus and attention to detail with everything you do will put you on the road to success.

Ben Montgomery/Gala Travel Agency

Ben MontgomeryMost agents have never attended school but it is a great start to your career, less roads bumps and headaches going down the wrong trail. CTC/CTM is the way to go. Get your tool bag ready before you start your career. Look closely to the commissions offered and select the one structure that fits you and your goals.

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