What does a Tour Guide do?

Median Pay $25,770
Growth Rate 10%
Citation Retrieved from O*NET OnLine

A tour guide works in a variety of places such as museums, historical landmarks, cities, and other areas that are of interest to tourists. They educate a group of people on the culture and heritage of the topics on their tour. They may deliver several tours a day to different groups or may provide one, larger tour for one particular group.

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How to Become a Tour Guide

become a tour guide

A tour guide usually needs a high school diploma or the equivalent to get your foot in the door. You may also be asked for a valid driver’s license. If working with international tourists, the ability to speak another language may also be appealing to an employer. Some tour guides may need a formal education in the topics they are discussing, especially those working at museums. According to O*NET OnLine, almost 30% of the tour guides surveyed held at least a high school diploma, almost 20% held an associate’s degree, and then about 20% had earned a bachelor’s degree.

There is formal training through certification programs that can show employers that you are more qualified than other candidates. The World Federation of Tourist Guide Association (link opens in a new tab), has training programs that include courses that provide industry knowledge and travel design.

On-the-job training is often provided by experienced tour guides to ensure you know the information to discuss during the tour. The experienced tour guide may also provide additional tips on how to keep children entertained during a tour, how to navigate a large group through a tour, and where to stand and how to project your voice so everyone can hear you. They may also relay common questions participants ask and how to answer those. You need to have excellent communication skills, have patience working with the public, and be charismatic so your customers are entertained and excited about what they are learning. You should also be free of any prejudices and treat everyone equally in a pleasant and professional manner. Being able to adapt to a situation to personalize the tour for different groups is essential.

Job Description of a Tour Guide

A tour guide works in a variety of places and this dictates the sort of tour they are required to give, such as very educational and in depth tours for adults or a simpler presentation for school age children. They work for museums, landmarks, and private companies giving several tours a day.

Tour guides are expected to be able to give information that points out fact from legend while keeping customers entertained and interested. They answers any questions concerning the place visited in a clear, pleasant, and knowledgeable way. They are also expected to be prompt, responsible, and dependable so that all guided tours are run according to set schedules. They must also keep track of the number of people in the tour from beginning to end and assist with any special needs that a customer may have. Sometimes, they also need to educate their audience on proper etiquette so that they respect the landmarks, locations, and different cultures they visit.

Student Trainee (Park Guide) Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the National Park Service. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • Presents a variety of formal and informal interpretive programs from existing program outlines, most of them about the Anishinaabek culture, including guided walks, education programs, snowshoe hikes, evening programs, children’s programs, orientation talks and demonstrations to a wide variety of audiences.
  • Learns park resources by reviewing published maps, park research materials, and other documents previously prepared by park rangers and other professionals and by talking with park staff.
  • Responsible for presenting a variety of developed curriculum-based education programs to students of various ages and backgrounds using existing program outlines.
  • Work with teachers and educators to present existing onsite and offsite education programs throughout the Lakeshore and surrounding area.
  • Assist with education events including service learning projects, curriculum-based events and community programs.
  • Provide park orientation and NPS introductions to students.
  • Present accurate information appropriate for the student’s grade level.
  • Informs visitors about park facilities and resources through roving interpretation.
  • Operates a variety of audiovisual and other equipment used in connection with interpretive material, e.g., projectors, microphones, video equipment and distance learning equipment. Uses and develops interpretive props and other materials needed for programs.
  • Operates park radio, phone and computer to communicate with park staff and visitors.
  • Social Media/Marketing: Create, manage, and post content on the park’s social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Flickr.
  • Find new opportunities for engagement.

This position was posted to run 01/22/2019 until 01/31/2019 with a salary range of $14.30 to $16 per hour on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Free Teacher and Student Resources

The TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Association has a free lesson plan: Let’s take a trip (link opens in a new tab). This lesson plan helps students provide educational information about objects they bring in for a show and tell.

Related Careers to Research:

Tour Guide Video Career Transcript

Meeting new people, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for a place, and being on the go– tour guides and travel guides introduce groups and individuals to places of interest and travel experiences. Tour guides escort people on sightseeing tours, cruises, or through public buildings, art galleries, or industrial sites. They describe points of interest and respond to questions. Many tour guides research topics related to their site such as history, art, or corporate culture.

Guides often plan commentary or activities for tours for audiences of all ages. Tour guides greet and register visitors, provide printed or digital information, and often collect fees and tickets. Travel guides plan and operate long distance tours and expeditions for clients. They organize itineraries, research local attractions, and make arrangements for accommodations, dining, and access to medical care. They often lead groups to tour site locations and describe them in depth. Typically, they ensure travelers’ needs are met, pay the bills on site, and handle all paperwork. Some travel guides may fly airplanes or drive vehicles to tour sites, set up camp, and prepare meals.

Some also instruct travelers, for example teaching wilderness survival skills. Skills in public speaking and customer service are essential, as is the ability to solve problems as they come up. Guides are typically responsible for the safety of groups, and may provide first aid or handle emergencies. Education qualifications vary significantly; tour and travel guides may need to be bilingual, have relevant specialized skills, a related degree or work experience. Many employers provide on-the-job training.

Article Citations

National Center for O*NET Development. 39-7011.00. O*NET OnLine. This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. RethinkOldSchool, Inc. has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.