How to Become a Tour Guide
Tour Guide Careers & Degrees

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Tour Guides work in the hospitality and recreation industries and use their interpersonal skills to lead groups of tourists or students on a sightseeing tour or similar exploration.

Tour Guides may lead and educate groups on a variety of sightseeing tours: walking, driving tour such as on a bus as well as during a cruise.

These professionals are highly educated regarding the niche they work in.

They can work for a variety of businesses and may even hire out their skills as self employed professionals.

Professional Tour Guides can work for a variety of businesses including some of the following organizations:

  • Museums
  • Hotels
  • Travel guide companies
  • Nonprofit organizations such as a local Visitor’s Bureau
  • Tour guide companies
  • Freelance and self employed

Some people have the knack for working with people and providing guidance.

These are some innate skills that someone who wants to become a Tour Guide should have or strengthen.

Candidates who want to provide walking tours for museums or geological points of interest should also be able to be on their feet for extended periods of time.

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Education Requirements to Become a Tour Guide

Candidates who want to become a Tour Guide should have the minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent in order to secure employment.

In addition, some large cities such as Washington DC and New York require candidates who want to become a Tour Guide to secure licensure.

Some possible requirements that need to be met in order to attain licensure include passing a background check and passing a licensing exam.

Candidates should have the ability to read and write proficiently in order to prepare for and take the exam.

Licensing exams can ask questions regarding a city’s history, specific places, buildings and attractions.

In addition, some Tour Guides may have the opportunity to learn about their field by receiving on the job training from their employer.

Training is provided by the company and candidates may have to continue taking training courses through their career in order to brush up on their knowledge.

A candidate should also have an understanding and be able to grasp and retain important information and historical facts in order to educate their clients.

They may have to learn a large amount of information for larger museums and be fully knowledgeable of the city they provide tours for.

Some information they have to know includes important dates, people and movements.

In addition to retaining a variety of information regarding the sites they provide tours for, potential Tour Guides need to be able to communicate all their knowledge with ease.

Tour Guide Job Description

The main objective a Tour Guide needs to accomplish is to lead a group of tourists, visitors and students on a variety of tours depending on the organization they work for.

They may create their own guide or follow one provided by their company.

Tour guides use their people skills and knowledge revolving their niche in order to provide tours for cities, museums and other points of interests, such as the Empire State Building in New York City.

Some companies require their Tour Guides to make sure all registered clients are in attendance.

They will need to verify accommodation numbers as well as promote and sell tour guide passes and tickets.

They may also arrange group activities to break the ice and have the group be active participants in the group.

During a sightseeing expedition, Tour Guides will provide educational information in an informative and fun manner.

For city tours, they will need to focus on local points of interest, local establishments, restaurants and shopping centers.

They will answer any questions guests have and provide travel advice to attendees.

Tour Guide Salary and Career Path

Tourism relies heavily on the economy’s health.

Service occupations including Tour Guides are expected to grow at 16.5% through the year 2016, a growth that is considered average when compared to other careers.

The salary and wages for a Tour Guide depends on the location of work, type of employer and whether they work as an independent freelance contractor.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups tour guides under service occupations with a national median income of approximately $23,000 per year.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$30,670
$19K
$22K
$30K
$35K
$45K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$26,230
Alaska$31,930
Arizona$31,740
Arkansas$33,930
California$35,850
Colorado$34,990
Connecticut$28,080
Delaware$27,550
District of Columbia$40,430
Florida$31,080
Georgia$28,820
Hawaii$33,680
Idaho$25,070
Illinois$35,830
Indiana$22,780
Iowa$26,850
Kansas$25,990
Kentucky$27,530
Louisiana$27,930
Maine$27,660
Maryland$31,230
Massachusetts$34,740
Michigan$25,050
Minnesota$30,010
Mississippi$22,920
Missouri$27,150
Montana$27,620
Nebraska$25,700
Nevada$29,960
New Hampshire$25,770
New Jersey$28,660
New Mexico$30,470
New York$36,830
North Carolina$27,210
Ohio$24,670
Oklahoma$28,120
Oregon$35,070
Pennsylvania$26,820
Rhode Island$29,260
South Carolina$32,190
South Dakota$25,940
Tennessee$26,720
Texas$27,670
Utah$29,200
Vermont$38,400
Virginia$25,410
Washington$40,720
West Virginia$24,300
Wisconsin$26,080
Wyoming$37,060
Guam$23,230
Puerto Rico$21,280
Virgin Islands$34,440

The top earning state in the field is Washington, where the average salary is $40,720.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Washington - $40,720
District of Columbia - $40,430
Vermont - $38,400
Wyoming - $37,060
New York - $36,830
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Tour and Travel Guides, OCC Code 39-7010, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a tour guide?

A tour guide is a person who offers assistance and guidance to people who visit a city or another place of interest.

They may also be responsible for organizing sightseeing tours that include public buildings or art galleries.

If you are a flexible and proactive person with good verbal communication abilities and presentation skills, a career as a tour guide could be the right path for you.

As a tour guide, you will also need great time-management skills, the ability to recall facts and stories and to communicate them in a compelling manner to the audience.

If you want to start a career in this field, you should be prepared to work overtime during busy periods.

QuestionHow much does a tour guide make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for tour guides was $29,630, as of May 2018.

How much a tour guide makes depends on many factors, including the city or the region, the employer and the guide’s level of experience.

Annual wages start at around $19,000 a year and can go up to more than $45,000.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a tour guide?

The education requirements depend on the employer and the city where you want to practice.

For most positions, you will need at least a high school diploma but some jobs may also require an undergraduate degree.

Internship opportunities are usually available and some employers will also provide on-the-job training for their new employees.

Most states will not require a license for tour guides but seeking certification from the National Tour Association (NTA) may help you in your career.

Taking the Certified Tour Professional exam costs $499 for NTA members.

Holding an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in tourism or hospitality can also help you start a career in this field.

An associate’s degree will cost you, on average, a total of approximately $40,000, while a four-year bachelor’s degree costs, on average, around $150,000.

QuestionWhat is the demand for tour guides?

The number of tour guide jobs available depends on the region, the number of local touristic attractions and the number of travel agencies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for tour guides is expected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a tour guide?

Although there are no strict educational requirements for tour guides, some positions may require an undergraduate or a graduate degree.

For example, if you want to start a career as a tour guide at a museum, you may need a bachelor’s degree in history, which can usually be earned in 4 years.

If you want to become certified by the National Tour Association you will need a minimum of 18 months of experience in hospitality and/or tourism or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in hospitality or tourism.

An associate’s degree in tourism can usually be earned in approximately 2 years.

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