How To Become A Tour Guide

A tour guide escorts groups or individuals when they visit historical, cultural and tourist sites. You will provide historical information, anecdotes and other interesting data about industrial buildings, public places, museums, art galleries, castles and national parks. Depending on where you are assigned, you can lead walking tours, driving tours or cruises.

No matter what kind of tour group you are guiding, you need to have in-depth information about the place. You need to have a good memory as you must be able to share historical facts, dates and stories to the visitors. Even if you don’t have good memory at first, don’t despair. It is comforting to know that these can be learned inasmuch as you will be sharing most of the information repeatedly. Since you need to present these facts to the tourists in an animated and interesting manner, you also need to have excellent communication skills.

To succeed in this profession, you need to be genuinely interested in working with people. While you are going to be providing the same information to different groups, the challenge lies in giving it in an interesting and fresh manner every time. You still need to be as lively as the first time you were giving the tour even in succeeding tours. If you are guiding a particularly large group, you need to have a clear and loud voice. You must also anticipate the questions that will be asked and do the necessary research beforehand so that you can answer them.

Since you could be presenting more than one tour in a day, you need to have physical stamina and endurance, especially if you’re handling walking tours. You need to have excellent organization skills as well as possess the ability to manage your schedule efficiently. You need to know how long each segment of the tour will take so that you can still guide other groups later in the day.

Why Become A Tour Guide

There are many reasons to become a tour guide. The first is that you genuinely love history. Most of the places where you work in will have historical significance so you need to be fascinated with the subject. Another reason to become a guide is because you truly love interacting with people. You want to meet different kinds of individuals from various countries and look forward to getting to know them and talking with them. It’s also a career for those who want to speak in large groups.

On the more practical aspect, a job as a tour guide only requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. If you are looking for a career that you can go into right away, this is definitely it. Moreover, those living in tourism-heavy states like Florida, California, New York, Hawaii and Pennsylvania can also find good opportunities to work as tour guides.

Tour Guide Work Environment

Tour guides can work for tour and travel guide firms, cruise ships, hotels and visitors’ bureaus. According to the Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industries with the highest levels of employment for tour guides in May 2013 were museums, historical sites and similar institutions; travel arrangement and reservation services; other amusement and recreation industries; scenic and sightseeing transportation on land and local governments.

The report further reveals that in that year, the states with the highest level of employment in this occupation included Florida, California, New York, Hawaii and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the states with the highest concentration of jobs and location quotients for tour guides and escorts were Hawaii, Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Rhode Island.

Tour Guide Salary

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed in its Occupational Employment and Wages report in May 2013 that the mean annual wage of tour guides and escorts is $26,020 which translates to a mean hourly wage of $12.51. The lowest 10 percent received a mean annual wage of $17,110 while the highest paid received $37,550.

The report further revealed that the top-paying states for tour guides and escorts were the District of Columbia ($39,210), Wyoming ($32,600), Illinois ($30,330), California ($30,090) and New York ($30,030). Tour guides may be able to earn more if they join guide associations like the Guides Association of New York City. These kinds of associations hold various meetings and events that give tour guides opportunities to meet with possible clients.

Average Tour Guide Annual Salary


The average annual salary for tour guides is $29,180 a year. Salaries start at $18,530 a year and go up to $45,370 a year.

Average Tour Guide Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a tour guide is $14.03. Hourly wages are between $8.91 and $21.81 an hour.

Stats were based out of 46,140 employed tour guides in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Tour Guides

Top Paying Cities For Tour Guides

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Tour Guide Career Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment rate of tour guides from the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022 is 8 percent. This is slower than the average rate for all job types. The travel and tourism industry will certainly drive demand which, in turn, will also be dependent on the economy.

If the economy is doing well and people have jobs which pay well then they can afford to take vacations. The opposite is true if the economy is in a downturn and people lose jobs. More opportunities for tour guides exist in areas which are traditional hotspots for tourism.

Tour Guide Degree

The entry level educational requirement for tour guides is a high school diploma or its equivalent. The companies which hire the tour guide generally provide on-the-job training. There are some cities that require a municipal or state license before allowing the tour guide to practice his profession. These include cities like Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Before they can be issued a license, they have to pass a written test. The exam tests the applicant’s knowledge about particular locations in the city as well as its history. In addition, some places also require potential tour guides to complete a background investigation before they are given a license.

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