How to Become a Tour Guide

The first step for becoming a tour guide, is to figure out if this career is right for you. If you’re looking for the type of job where you can hide all day in a cubicle, then it probably isn't a great choice.


If however, you want a career where you get to visit exotic, historic or famous locales and have tourists hanging off of your every word, then this is what you should do for a living.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in this field. We've also included helpful general information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements

Depending on the employer, you likely won’t need post-secondary education to become a tour guide. Of course, having post-secondary education can be of substantial value, both in setting your resume ahead of the pack, and in providing you with skills, knowledge and competencies that can be applied in your work.


Classes in linguistics, leadership, team building, public speaking, hospitality and tourism will help you quite a bit.


The job of a tour guide also requires knowledge that isn’t necessarily taught in colleges or universities. This knowledge typically includes first aid and CPR training, specific knowledge of the area or establishment being toured, or subjects related to the tour such as local cultural information.


Much of this knowledge is typically either acquired through a brief training course prior to commencing the employment term, or it is acquired on the job. 




What is a Tour Guide?

Job Description


Tour guides are responsible for escorting individuals and groups of people on tours. They must find out about the groups and individuals they will be guiding in order to select points of interest and provide commentary that is appropriate for their age and interests.



What Does a Tour Guide Do?

Job Duties


Although their duties can vary, tour guides are generally responsible for the following:


• Receiving information from tour manager concerning the age, interests and other relevant information about the tourists

• Greeting tourists and describing the content and length of the tour

• Conducting tours of cities, landmarks, local points of interest, historical sites and other locations

• Providing information about the area, including facts that may be of interest to the group

• Distributing information and promotional materials to tourists

• Answering any tourist questions

• Ensuring that tourists adhere to rules and regulations of tour company and specific destinations

• Implementing emergency evacuation procedures if necessary



Who Hires Tour Guides?

Tour guides may be employed on a seasonal, full-time, part-time or volunteer basis by the following types of organizations:


• Tour operating companies

• Wildlife parks

• Amusement parks

• Museums

• Historical sites

• Cruise ships

• Self-employed






Typical Work Environment

Working Conditions: Tour guides may spend a great deal of time on their feet throughout the day, as they lead tourists to and around sites of interest. This typically involves a lot of walking, and may involve travel by other means, such as car, bus, boat, bicycle, snowmobile or various others.


Working Hours: The working hours of tour guides can vary quite a bit. They may work regular weekday working hours, depending on where they work, or they may work during evenings and weekends.



Salary Figures

The salary level for tour guides can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, such as their level of experience, where they work, the size and type of their employer, and many others:


Canada: According to Service Canada, Canadian workers in the Tour and Travel Guides occupation group earn $30,060 per year.


United States: The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual income for American workers in the Tour Guides and Escorts occupational group is $26,280 per year (2010 figures).



Skills and Traits Needed

It is important to have many of the following attributes if you are going to be successful as a tour guide.


• The ability to create a fun, friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere

• The ability to speak loudly and clearly

• A lot of patience for people who are in unfamiliar surroundings

• Being able to speak and/or understand multiple languages is considered an asset

• Must be comfortable with people from all different walks of life

• Extensive knowledge of areas of tours being guided

• The ability to respond to unexpected situations quickly and effectively

• Must be extroverted



Similar Careers

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Tour Guide, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Activity Specialist

Outdoor Adventure Guide

Recreation and Leisure Supervisor

Tourism Promoter




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a tour guide.


Occupations in Alberta:Tour Guide.” (March 29, 2015). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Tour and Travel Guides.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Content:Get paid to travel: become a tour leader.” (July 31, 2018). Wanderlust Magazine website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships Relevant for This Career

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Tour Guide can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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