How to Become a Tour Guide (With Skills and Average Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A tour guide is an individual who accompanies a group of people on a tour through a specific region or facility. During the tour, they may provide interesting information about the location, the sights or aspects of the facility. Understanding the typical responsibilities of a tour guide can help you determine if this job is right for you. In this article, we discuss what a tour guide is, provide information on how to become a tour guide, list tour guide duties and skills and examine their national average salary.

What is a tour guide?

A tour guide is an individual who provides interesting information about locations, features, facilities and history relative to a locale. Tour guides may provide tours to local residents, though they typically guide tourists of varying nationalities and cultures. The type of tour a tour guide provides can vary depending on their region, knowledge, skills and expertise. Some tours may involve walking, while others can include vehicles, such as boats, buses, trains and helicopters.

The actual location or facility that the tour guide discusses can vary depending on the particular nature or attractions of the locale. A tour may involve a brewery, national park, historical location, old buildings, famous areas, mountain trails and large industrial facilities. Tour guides learn the fundamental knowledge relating to the tour's location and may discuss points of interest with the public.

Related: 16 Careers In Tourism and How to Secure These Roles

How to become a tour guide

Below, you can find the typical steps to become a tour guide:

1. Develop your skills

There are no formal requirements for becoming a tour guide, but employers may prefer candidates with excellent communication, social awareness and time-management skills. It can be a good idea to develop these skills before you apply for the role of a tour guide. Including these skills in your resume or cover letter can be an excellent way of showing your potential employer that you have the skills necessary for leading a tour. When you detail your skills in your job application, provide examples of when you used them and how they helped.

Related: 12 Cognitive Skills Examples (With Steps to Develop Them)

2. Complete a qualification

A qualification can be great for showing your employer that you're dedicated and committed to becoming a tour guide. There are a number of certificate-level qualifications you may consider, such as a Certificate IV in Guiding or a Certificate IV in Tourism (Guiding). These courses may take six months to one year to complete, depending on the training provider and the complexity of the training content. Certificates can provide you with skills specific to leading a tour group. These skills can include communication, management, time-management, organisation and safety awareness.

3. Consider a degree

A university degree, such as a bachelor's degree, is typically unnecessary when becoming a tour guide, but it may improve your chances of success when applying for a job. By completing a university degree, you can highlight to your potential employer that you're dedicated, committed and have the capacity to learn. A bachelor's degree usually takes three years to complete or four years if you complete your bachelor's with honours. The most relevant degree to the role of a tour guide is typically a Bachelor of Tourism. This degree may also provide you with the knowledge and skills to move up to more senior roles in the industry.

Related: Diploma vs Bachelor: With How to Choose Between Them

4. Gain additional tickets and licences

Depending on the tour guide position you're applying for, you may require additional tickets and licences, including vehicle licences. If you want to become a tour guide in a national park or conservation region, you may require a skipper's ticket for boating and one or more vehicle licences. These are typically unnecessary if you're becoming a tour guide in a facility, city or urban setting. Your potential employer may also request that you gain a first-aid certificate. This qualification confirms that you understand the fundamentals of performing first-aid duties, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You can expect to need this certificate for any tour guide role, with more advanced training often required for regional or isolated tours.

5. Complete background checks

Background checks are checks on your honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. As a tour guide, you may work with children or vulnerable individuals. For this reason, employers usually require a background check that confirms your eligibility to work with children. Potential employers may also conduct a police clearance check that may highlight any past criminal offences. These checks may vary between states, but they typically involve similar procedures and requirements.

6. Expand your knowledge

If you want to become a tour guide for a specific region, activity or facility, then you may choose to expand your knowledge on the subject. For example, if you want to become a tour guide in a particular city district, you can conduct your own research on the area. This can be an excellent method of proving to your potential employer that you're dedicated to the role and have the initiative to conduct your own research. It can also highlight your passion for the tour, which is usually an important aspect of gaining employment as a tour guide.

7. Apply for a tour guide position

Once you gain the necessary knowledge, qualifications and licences, you may apply for the role of a tour guide. Tour guide companies usually specialise in a specific type of tour. Some companies may offer bus tours while others only provide walking tours in city centres. It can be a good idea to research tour companies and determine which tours interest you the most. You can apply for a tour guide job using online job boards.

Tour guide responsibilities

Below, you can find some of the typical responsibilities of a tour guide:

  • organising tour schedules and routes

  • researching interesting facts and history of a particular subject

  • overseeing members of the public during the tour

  • ensuring tour members abide by local laws

  • assisting tour members with mobility constraints

  • providing details and information about specific locations, activities and structures

  • organising food, drink and supplies on longer tours

  • using vehicles to transport tour members across distances

  • creating engaging itineraries for tour members

  • arranging accommodation for tour members if necessary

  • answering tour members' questions about landmarks, historic events and facility processes

  • ensuring the tour respects the local culture and environment

Tour guide skills

Below, you can find some skills that can help you succeed as a tour guide:

  • Communication: One of your major responsibilities as a tour guide is communicating with customers. Your communication skills can help you discuss topics with clarity and accuracy.

  • Passion: Having a genuine interest in the subject and expressing enthusiasm is an important skill for guiding a tour. Your passion can help you engage with the public and provide an interesting tour.

  • Research: As a tour guide, you can expect to research the area or topic of the tour. Your research skills can help you identify reputable sources that may provide you with accurate information.

  • Public speaking: Most of your communication with tour members is in the form of public speaking. Your skills as a public speaker can help you speak clearly and confidently.

  • Time management: Your ability to manage time can be a crucial skill as a tour guide to ensure the tour commences on time and ends at an appropriate time.

  • Social Awareness: Social awareness is your ability to identify other peoples' feelings and behaviours. As a tour guide, this can help you determine the public's levels of enjoyment, which can help you alter the tour to pique their interest.

Related: Examples of Verbal Communication Strategies (With Types)

The average salary of a tour guide

The national average salary of a tour guide is $42,650 per year. Your salary as a tour guide may vary depending on several factors. Some tour guide jobs involve more responsibilities, duties and qualifications than others. These roles typically provide a higher salary than the national average. Where you gain employment as a tour guide may also affect your salary. Companies in regions with a high demand for tour guides may provide a higher salary than the national average.

If you complete a bachelor's degree in tourism or a field related to management, you may be able to gain employment as a tourism or tour guide manager. This isn't the role of a tour guide, but it does share similar responsibilities and is in the same industry. Managerial roles typically provide a higher salary than similar jobs in a non-management position. For example, the national average salary of a specialist tours manager is $75,603 per year.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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