How to Become a Tour Guide

Look at your cubicle. Gray. Square. Unending drudgery in a box. Now, close your eyes (after you're done reading this) and imagine Hollywood movie sets, beautiful historic districts, or foreign and exotic locales teeming with vibrant and interesting people who hang on your every word. Picture this setting as your "office." Now you know what it's like to be a tour guide! We'll show you how to become a tour guide so you can enjoy working in a variety of settings, and get paid for the privilege!


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    Get inspired. Think about what kinds of tours you would like to lead. Be creative and consider settings such as gardens, wineries, sports venues, natural history museums, movie locations, government buildings, rain forests, castles, and more. Tour companies are offering more and more tour options to their guests. There are multi-general tours companies, student tour companies, adventure tours with backpacking and hiking and those with hands-on cooking classes in Italy for example.
    • Decide what interests you, then hop on Google to look for tour guide opportunities in that field. Most tour companies do not post jobs online however. They typically contact certified schools for their hiring needs.
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    Research certified schools for tour guides. A certificate is not necessary for becoming a tour guide, but it will make you stand a cut above the competition when applying for jobs. And look for a school with the highest reputation like The International Tour Management Institute Also, contact tour companies that you might want to work for and ask their opinion about the best school. You can also consider a two or four year tourism or hospitality degree as well.
    • Enroll in the program of your choice; and take classes in leadership and team building, public speaking, the tourism industry, and the ethical code that will govern your work as a tour guide. Your local toast masters is a great place to get public speaking experience and feedback.
    • While classes are typically taught on-site at schools, more schools are offering online classes. Keep in mind that taking classes on-site affords the advantage of getting hands-on experience with professionals who can advise you, as well as connections with people who know the business. You will not get the same field experience in an online course. Tour Companies look for certified candidates and know that online classes do not teach the skills they are looking for. So before you commit money to an online class, know that you might also need to attend a certified school to get hired.
    • Certification courses typically run 2 to 3 weeks and are offered multiple times a year. Consult the websites of specific programs for an idea of course starting dates. Attending class will be a full-time commitment, so if you must keep your present job and can't take time off, you may want to reconsider enrolling in a tour guide school. However, most people take vacation from their jobs to attend class.
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    Study diligently. Pass all classes successfully in order to receive your certificate from the tour guide training school you enrolled in.
    • Be aware that some companies require their tour guides to take continuing education classes on an annual basis. These may be workshops in public speaking or leadership, or classes in a secondary language that would be helpful in the relevant area. These classes may be provided by the company, or by training schools that offer continuing education courses like ITMI's annual Professional Symposium, however most school do not so look for a school with continuing professional education. Your company will be able to direct you to a school that offers such classes.
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    Apply for a job with a tour company of your choice. Highlight destination knowledge and any customer service experience you have. That study abroad to Spain you did in college...put it on your resume! The travelers French you know...put it on your resume!
    • Do a little research to find out what kind of company might be right for you. Tour guides can obtain positions in wildlife parks, amusement parks, on film sets, at historical sites, with museums, on cruise ships, and in foreign countries, so look into local and international companies to find the kind of job opportunities you seek.
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    Complete the interview process.
    • Prepare for the interview process by taking advantage of any mock interviews offered by your certified school.
    • Your tour guide certificate will look good on a resume, but the job you're applying for demands good people skills. This is your chance to demonstrate those skills. It is also the first impression your potential employer will have of you. Typical job interviewers will ask you to talk about your strengths and weaknesses, your greatest achievements, the reason you are applying for the job and why you love travel. Come prepared with answers for these questions and questions like them.
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    Educate yourself on the area in which you will be working. You will need to be familiar with the area's history, culture, landmarks, and other features of the tours you will be conducting. If you want to work as a local tour guide also connect with the regional tour guide guild. They are a wonderful resource for knowledge and networking.
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    Consider your personality carefully. While tour guides may have to know many facts about the area in which they are working, they also must be capable of communicating those facts. Tour guide candidates need to be somewhat extroverted and possess people skills. If that sounds like you, you're a tour guide in the making!


  • If you are looking for a job in a country that has an official language you do not speak, you should learn the language by signing up for a course or using language learning software.
  • Take a training course on first aid and CPR. Depending on the job you land, this may not be necessary, but as a tour guide you will need to know what to do in emergency situations. It also looks good on the resume.
  • You can get an idea of the opportunities available to you by checking out professional tour guide associations for the area where you want to be, for example: the United States Tour Operators Associations, European Federation of Tourist Guide Associations, and Field Guides Association of Southern Africa.


  • Be aware that many tour guide jobs are seasonal. This may mean you will not have consistent work in one location. However, if you don't mind travel, you can always travel back and forth between hemispheres. That way, it's always spring or summer! You can also extend the season by working for student tour companies and conduction local tours in your area. The adult tour season starts in June but the student tour season starts in February!
  • Be aware that while you may be working in a vacation spot, you are not on vacation yourself. The majority of your time will be spent working.
  • Be aware that as a tour guide you may be working long hours. Your job may be in an exciting location, but you must make sure you are capable of working a difficult schedule.

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Categories: Work World