All You Need To Know About A Tour Guide Career

You consider becoming a tour guide but are not yet entirely sure whether this would be a good career for you or not?

Great! Stick with me since I will show you everything you need to know about working as a tour guide in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much you can make as a tour guide, but we will also talk a lot about job satisfaction, working hours, duties, responsibilities, job prospects, future outlook and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section at the end of this article where I answer the most common questions about being a tour guide for you.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of whether you still want to become a tour guide or rather want to work in a different field instead.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does a Tour Guide do?

Tour guides offer guided city tours to tourists and other people who want to explore the city.

They also offer various other tours like historical tours, food tours and other things depending on their individual specializations and do everything to make their tours exciting for clients so that they give good tips and also recommend those tours to their loved ones.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Tour Guide

  • Offering city tours
  • Showing people historical facts and artifacts
  • Making sure that tour participants have a great time
  • Giving people advice about secret places in the respective city
  • Showing people major sites of a city or region
  • Exploring the city by bike, foot or electric scooters
  • Making sure that people get original food to eat
  • Planning trips and excursions
  • Outlining the tour and its major attractions at the beginning
  • Ensuring that group safety standards are met

What a Typical Day of a Tour Guide looks like?

Tour guides usually start their workday between 8 and 10 a.m.

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The first thing they do is having a look at their schedule and structuring their workday.

This also includes some organizational work like answering emails and communicating with tour participants.

After doing some promotional work, tour guides start their actual work and meet up with groups of people at major attractions of the city.

Not only will tour guides show those attractions to participants, but they will also tell them important facts about the respective buildings and persons who had been involved in the construction process.

Tour guides also give lots of background information regarding the history of popular sights and you should therefore have excellent historical and geographical knowledge of the area you want to work in as a tour guide.

After working in this client-oriented manner for many hours, most tour guides finish their workdays between 4 and 6 p.m.

Tour Guide Salary 2022

Tour Guide salary brackets 2022

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $48,000> $23.93
Top 25 %$41,000 – $45,000$20.41 – $22.48
Bottom 25 %$27,000 – $30,000$13.39 – $14.95
Bottom 10 %$19,000 – $23,000$9.43 – $11.47
Range$19,000 – $56,000$9.43 – $27.89
Average (Mean)$37,000$18.46
Median$33,000$16.42

Tour Guide salary 2022 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$19,000 – $26,000$9.43 – $12.92
Junior$24,000 – $35,000$11.88 – $17.47
Professional$33,000 – $42,000$16.43 – $20.94
Senior Professional$40,000 – $47,000$19.96 – $23.45
Expert$45,000 – $51,000$22.47 – $25.48
Top Expert$49,000 – $56,000$24.39 – $27.89

Tour Guide salary by state 2022 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$32,200$16.08
Alaska$30,900$15.43
Arizona$33,700$16.84
Arkansas$32,500$16.23
California$39,600$19.79
Colorado$34,100$17.02
Connecticut$31,800$15.89
Delaware$32,400$16.18
District of Columbia$35,600$17.78
Florida$34,900$17.42
Georgia$32,100$16.03
Guam$31,600$15.79
Hawaii$36,200$18.08
Idaho$30,100$15.03
Illinois$31,500$15.72
Indiana$33,700$16.84
Iowa$32,800$16.37
Kansas$31,200$15.58
Kentucky$29,800$14.88
Louisiana$34,900$17.43
Maine$33,700$16.84
Maryland$36,200$18.09
Massachusetts$35,500$17.73
Michigan$32,700$16.34
Minnesota$33,800$16.88
Mississippi$31,300$15.64
Missouri$29,700$14.82
Montana$33,600$16.79
Nebraska$30,800$15.38
Nevada$31,400$15.69
New Hampshire$34,700$17.34
New Jersey$35,200$17.58
New Mexico$30,900$15.42
New York$37,200$18.57
North Carolina$32,600$16.28
North Dakota$31,700$15.83
Ohio$33,900$16.94
Oklahoma$34,100$17.03
Oregon$32,500$16.22
Pennsylvania$35,100$17.54
Rhode Island$34,800$17.37
South Carolina$32,600$16.28
South Dakota$31,900$15.92
Tennessee$30,300$15.13
Texas$31,500$15.72
Utah$34,200$17.08
Vermont$33,800$16.89
Virginia$32,300$16.14
Washington$37,400$18.68
West Virginia$35,700$17.83
Wisconsin$34,500$17.23
Wyoming$31,200$15.59

Job Security of Tour Guides

Tour guides have pretty low job security since they often work self-employed and it is on them to find enough new jobs to survive.

However, even employed tour guides have pretty poor job security since educational barriers to work in this field are pretty low and almost everyone can do this job.

Consequently, you will have to worry losing your job on a regular basis.

Future Outlook of Tour Guides

Since an increasing number of people no longer book city tours but rather rely on modern technologies to do those tours themselves, many jobs will be lost in this industry in the near future and tour guides therefore have a pretty poor future outlook.

Working Hours of Tour Guides

Tour guides usually start their workday between 8 and 10 a.m. and finish their workday between 4 and 6 p.m.

However, there are also tour guides specializing in tourist attractions that take place during the evening and you should therefore be quite flexible regarding your working hours before you decide on becoming a tour guide.

Job Satisfaction of Tour Guides

Most tour guides are not really happy with their jobs since they can’t make good money from what they are doing while they still have to work rather unpleasant hours and also have to deal with high levels of insecurity related to their jobs in general.

Promotion Opportunities of Tour Guides

Tour guides have almost no promotion opportunities at all.

While you might get a little bit more responsibility, you will still do similar things for many years or even decades without getting the chance of being promoted anytime soon and this can be really frustrating in the long run.

Career Levels of Tour Guides

  • Tour guide intern
  • Junior tour guide
  • Senior tour guide
  • Manager of a city tour firm
  • Owner of a city tour firm

Fields and Types of Tour Guides

  • Tour guide specialized in city tours
  • Tour guide focused on rural areas
  • Tour guide focused on natural attractions
  • Tour guide with expertise in historical city tours
  • Tour guide specialized in food tours
  • Tour guide focused on stadium tours
  • Tour guide specialized in party people
  • Tour guide specialized in family tours
  • Tour guide focused on retirees
  • Tour guide focused on school pupils

Educational Requirements for Tour Guides

There are no fancy formal requirements for becoming a tour guide.

In fact, everyone can work in this field since educational barriers to entry are pretty low and as long as you have decent knowledge of the city or region you live in, you can offer city tours without getting any fancy formal education.

How to become a Tour Guide

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a tour guide
  2. Work as a tour guide intern
  3. Make a good impression during your internship
  4. Connect to other tour guides
  5. Finish high school
  6. Apply for jobs as a tour guide
  7. Master the job interview
  8. Sign your labor contract
  9. Get experience and build a strong personal brand
  10. Start your own travel business

Character Traits you need as a Tour Guide

  • You should be friendly and outgoing
  • You should have a talent for handling difficult people
  • Patience helps you overcome difficult periods of your tour guide career
  • You should be a good listener
  • You should be passionate about showing people the highlights of your city
  • You should be open to critical feedback
  • Reliability helps you stay in the game in the long run
  • Authenticity helps you stay credible
  • You should be open to develop your knowledge further every day

Tour Guide Skills

Hard Skills for Tour Guides

  • Excellent knowledge of the city you live in
  • Knowledge of local and tourist attractions
  • Knowledge of historical facts
  • Knowledge of secret spots in your city
  • Ability to present valuable information to your clients
  • You should have a good memory
  • Expertise in guiding groups of people
  • Digital skills help you promote your business
  • Math skills help you stay financially successful in the long run
  • Knowledge of laws and regulations related to the tour guide industry

Soft Skills for Tour Guides

  • Empathy for tour participants who have a bad day
  • Good communication skills help you present your city in the best possible manner
  • Good time management skills help you get tours done
  • Sense of humor helps you make tours interesting
  • You should be energetic and passionate about doing city tours
  • Critical feedback should not bring you down
  • Willingness to deal with fierce competition
  • Good improvisation skills help as well
  • Understanding of when it is time to take a break

Exit Options for Tour Guides

Tour guides have pretty limited exit options.

While they can also often work as travel agents or translators, tour guides have serious trouble getting a job outside the travel industry since they are often pretty specialized and don’t learn many valuable hard skills on the job.

Tour Guide – Similar Careers

Tour Guide Career FAQs

Is working as a tour guide physically demanding?

Being a tour guide can be physically demanding since you will often have to walk many miles during your workday and this can become really exhausting in the long run, even though you will still not have to work in the same hard physical manner as roofers or other people who have to lift heavy stuff and work with their hands all day long.

Is working as a tour guide mentally demanding?

Working as a tour guide is not heavily mentally demanding.

Even though you have to use your brain to remember historical facts and also not to get lost during your city tours, you still don’t have to stress your brain as much as engineers, physicists or other people who work on complex problems all day long.

Is it dangerous to work as a tour guide?

Being a tour guide is not that risky.

Although you will be in public quite often and may also be at greater risk of getting involved in traffic accidents compared to the average person out there, you will still not be at the same high risk as police officers or garbage collectors who have to fear getting involved in serious accidents or incidents at work on a daily basis.

How long do tour guides stay in their jobs?

Tour guides stay in their jobs for many years.

While many of them are not fully happy with what they are doing for a living, they often still get trapped in this industry since it is pretty hard for tour guides to find a job in a different field due to a lack of hard skills.

Is it easy for tour guides to find a new job?

Since an increasing number of people want to explore cities on their own and use modern technologies to do so instead of booking tour guides, many tour guides have a hard time finding enough new jobs to make a living from what they are doing in the long run.

Is it hard to switch from being a tour guide to another field of work?

Since tour guides are pretty specialized and don’t learn many valuable hard skills, they also have a hard time finding a job outside the travel industry and often have to work in this field for quite a long time even though they often wish quitting their jobs and doing something else.

Do tour guides have a high social status?

Tour guides have a rather low social status.

While good tour guides can make many people happy, tour guides still have much lower social standing compared to dentists or nurse practitioners.

Can you help out your family and friends as a tour guide?

While you can help out many tourists, you will not be able to do much good for your loved ones.

While other people like carpenters can install and fix many things around the home and financial analysts can show you how to invest your money properly, tour guides will not be able to do any of that in a profound manner and the amount of value you can provide to your family and friends will therefore be rather low.

Can tour guides work remotely?

Tour guides are not able to work remotely since they have to meet up with tour participants and do their tours in person.

Thus, while many other people like accountants are able to work from home, you as a tour guide will be far less flexible to manage your professional and private life at the same time.

Moreover, you will also have to spend more time and money on commuting issues.

Is it easy to find a partner as a tour guide?

Since tour guides have pretty low social standing and also don’t make lots of money while they still have to work rather exotic hours and have to deal with lots of insecurity related to their jobs, tour guides often have a hard time in the dating market when it comes to finding a partner for a long-term relationship since they are just not considered good providers.

Do tour guides have to work on weekends?

Tour guides often have to work on weekends.

In fact, many tourists make city trips during the weekends and you as a tour guide will have to work during Saturdays or even Sundays if you want to make a living from what you are doing.

Do tour guides have to work on holidays?

Tour guides sometimes also have to work on holidays.

While most of your friends will be able to spend those days with their loved ones, you as a tour guide will have to work and this can become really annoying and frustrating in the long run.

Do tour guides have to work at nighttime?

Tour guides sometimes also have to work in the evening or at nighttime.

In fact, depending on the tours you offer, you should be pretty flexible regarding your schedule and things will also often change without prior notice and you will have to adapt to those changes somehow.

Do you have to travel as a tour guide?

Since you will mainly show the city you live in to tourists, you will not be away from home for business trips and will rather be able to spend your leisure at home with your loved ones.

Are tour guide pensions good?

Tour guides receive pretty poor pensions since they don’t make good money during their active careers and are therefore also not able to save enough money for retirement.

Are tour guide salaries going up?

Tour guide salaries have not been going up significantly over the past years and due to overall decreasing demand for tour guide services, many tour guides will lose their jobs in the near future and wages in this industry will stay pretty low.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a tour guide?

While you can do good for many tourists and make sure that they have a great time, you will still not have the same high social impact as teachers or professors who can really change the lives of people in the long run.

How long does it take to become a tour guide?

Since you don’t have to get fancy education, you can become a tour guide right after finishing high school and can start making money from a rather young age as long as you have decent knowledge of the sights and the history of the city you live and want to work in.

Is it difficult to become a tour guide?

Since educational barriers to entry are pretty low, it is pretty easy to become a tour guide.

However, becoming and staying successful as a tour guide is much harder and most tour guides really struggle to make a living from what they are doing.

Do you need to be smart to work as a tour guide?

You don’t need to be smart for succeeding as a tour guide.

What’s much more important is that you are empathetic for the needs and wishes of your tour participants and that you are also passionate about leading those tours in general.

Do tour guides have a good work-life balance?

Tour guides have pretty poor work-life balance since they often have to work during weekends, holidays and sometimes also at nighttime and often don’t have enough time to spend with their families while they are still not able to make good money.

Do tour guides have to work many extra hours?

Tour guides often have to work extra hours since they have to be quite flexible regarding their schedule and always have to adapt to the needs and preferences of their clients.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a tour guide?

The more knowledge you get of the city you want to work in, the more value you can provide as a tour guide and the higher your chances of finding a job in this field.

Can tour guides work part-time?

Tour guides are able to work part-time as well as full-time.

However, most tour guides are not able to make a living from a part-time job in this industry and therefore have to work full-time to be able to pay their bills.

Do tour guides work indoors or outdoors?

Tour guides work indoors as well as outdoors.

Thus, you should not be afraid of spending time outdoors during periods of bad weather.

If this was the case, you would be far better of becoming a financial controller or working in a different office job where you can work indoors all day long.

What does the workplace of a tour guide look like?

Tour guides visit major sights of a city and you will also often lead a group of tourists.

Hence, you will be surrounded by many people all day long and should therefore be an outgoing and friendly person to stay content and successful with what you are doing in the long run.

Do you have to look good for working as a tour guide?

You don’t need to look good for working as a tour guide.

However, you can still use your looks to get more tips if you are attractive and smart enough to use your looks to your advantage.

Is a tour guide career beneficial for your private life?

Since you will often have to work on weekends and also have to work rather exotic hours while you are still not able to make good money from what you are doing, being a tour guide cannot be considered beneficial for your private life when taking all relevant factors into account.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a tour guide?

You don’t need a college degree for becoming a tour guide.

What’s much more important than looking good on paper is that you have excellent knowledge of the city you live in and that you are also passionate about leading groups of people.

Thus, instead of having to spend many years on education, you can start your tour guide career at a pretty young age right after finishing school.

Do you need to be certified to work as a tour guide?

You don’t need to be certified to work as a tour guide.

What’s much more important is that you are client-focused and that you are authentic so that tour participants really get the vibe of the city and recommend your services.

How much does it cost to become a tour guide?

Since you don’t have to get a degree for working as a tour guide, you can become a tour guide at almost zero cost while many other people have to spend ungodly amounts of money on college education before they are able to work in their dream jobs.

Is being a tour guide a good career?

Since you will have to work rather exotic hours while you have to deal with lots of insecurity related to your job and also don’t make good money, being a tour guide is not considered a good career by the majority of the general public.

Is it easy to start your own business as a tour guide?

It is pretty easy to start your own business as a tour guide since you don’t have to spend lots of money on upfront investments but can rather start your own business as a one-man or one-woman show and scale once you get enough new clients.

Can tour guides teach themselves?

Tour guides can teach themselves all they need to know to succeed and don’t need to pay for fancy courses, seminars or college education.

Do tour guides make good money?

Most tour guides are not able to make good money from what they are doing.

Instead, many tour guides even struggle to make a basic living from their jobs and are not able to afford any luxury.

Is it ever too late to become a tour guide?

It is never too late to become a tour guide.

Since you don’t need to get fancy education and don’t have to work in a hard physical manner, you can become a tour guide at almost every age and the older you get, the more interesting stories you may be able to tell tour participants.

Do tour guides have to quit their careers early?

Most tour guides don’t have to quit their careers early since they don’t have to work in a hard physical manner and are not at great risk of suffering from serious health problems related to their jobs.

What is the hardest thing about working as a tour guide?

The hardest part about working as a tour guide is that you will work with many different people and if tourist groups are pretty diverse, it will be almost impossible for you to make everyone happy and will you will have to deal with lots of critical feedback.

Can you provide for your family by working as a tour guide?

Since tour guides make pretty poor money, they often have a hard time providing for their families since their salaries will often not be enough to feed a family and spouses of tour guides will often have to work as well and may neglect the kids in the long run.

Will tour guides suffer from old-age poverty?

Since most tour guides don’t make good money from what they are doing, many of them also suffer from old-age poverty since they are not able to save and invest enough money during their active careers and are no longer able to pay rent and other basic expenses once they retire.

Can tour guides retire early?

Most tour guides are not able to retire early since they don’t make good money from their jobs and therefore have to work until they reach official retirement age and sometimes even longer to be able to cover their expenses.

Do tour guides get a fixed or variable salary?

The income of tour guides greatly depends on the number of tours and the number of clients they have and tour guides therefore have to deal with huge income swings over time and will also have a hard time planning their financial future in a solid manner.

Can you get rich as a tour guide?

It is impossible to get rich as an employed tour guide.

If your goal is to make really good money, you should start your own business in the travel industry or rather become an investment banker or risk manager instead.

Do tour guides need a second job?

Many tour guides are not able to make a living from what they are doing and need to work a second job to be able to pay their bills, especially in expensive regions where rents and other living costs are high and a tour guide salary would not be enough to make a living.

Do you get continuous training as a tour guide?

Tour guides don’t get continuous training.

Instead, it will be on them to hone their craft to stand out from the crowd so that they are able to make a living from what they are doing in the long run.

Do you get sick pay as a tour guide?

Most tour guides don’t get sick pay.

Thus, it is a wise idea to build an emergency fund during good times that you can use during bad times when you get sick and are no longer able to make money so that you are still able to pay your bills.

Do tour guides have a high level of responsibility?

Since tour guides work with many people, they have a high level of responsibility and have to make sure to operate their tours in the safest possible manner to minimize the risk of serious accidents.

Can tour guides work abroad?

Tour guides are able to work all over the world.

However, you will most likely succeed as a tour guide in the region you grew up in since you will have much more insider knowledge compared to a foreign city where you might be feeling as a guest yourself and can’t provide as much value to tour participants.

Is it stressful to work as a tour guide?

Being a tour guide is not that stressful since you don’t have to deal with lots of time pressure and can rather do your tours in a pretty relaxed manner, even though you will have to deal with difficult people from time to time.

Is it boring to work as a tour guide?

Working as a tour guide may become boring if you are not really proud of the city you live in since you will do the same things over and over again and may get really tired of it in the long run.

Is being a tour guide hard?

Being a tour guide is not hard since you don’t have to work in a hard physical manner and also don’t have to stress your brain that much but can rather spend your workday in a pretty relaxed manner.

Are tour guides at risk of burnout?

Tour guides are not at great risk of burnout or other mental problems related to their jobs since they can spend their time at work in a rather relaxed manner while people who work in leading positions in the corporate world have to deal with lots of pressure.

Is there a dress code for tour guides?

You don’t need to comply with a certain dress code as a tour guide.

Instead, you can wear whatever feels most comfortable to you as long as you don’t deter your clients with your appearance.

What kind of tour guides are paid the most?

The more experience you have in doing tour guides and the more knowledge of the region you do those tours in you have, the more value you can provide to your clients and the more money you can demand for your services.

What percentage of tour guides are women?

While around 42% of all tour guides are women, around 58% are men.

Thus, the ratio between men and women in the tour guide industry is pretty balanced.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a tour guide?

You don’t need a mentor to succeed as a tour guide.

Instead, you can teach yourself and learn everything you need on the job as long as you are passionate enough about doing those tours.

Do tour guides have a high life expectancy?

Tour guides have decent life expectancy since they don’t work in an overly risky environment and their risk of suffering from serious health problems related to their jobs is rather low.

Do tour guides suffer from sleeping problems?

Since tour guides often also work in the late evening or at nighttime, they are often not able to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern and will often suffer from sleeping problems related to their work.

What states are best for working as a tour guide?

Since tour guides make pretty poor money across states, you should choose a region where the demand for tour guide services is high while living costs are still low enough to make a living from what they are doing.

Who do tour guides work with?

Tour guides work with many different people on a daily basis and it is therefore crucial that you have great people skills and are also a friendly and outgoing person so that tour participants feel comfortable in your presence.

Is working as a tour guide cool?

Working as a tour guide is considered fairly cool by the general public.

However, you should still not choose your career according to what’s cool but should rather have a look at the hard facts instead to become happy with what you are doing for a living in the long run.

Can you start a side hustle as a tour guide?

It is relatively easy for tour guides to start a side hustle since they can just start a travel blog or a YouTube channel to make additional money on the side.

Do you have to be creative as a tour guide?

The more creative you are as a tour guide, the easier it will be for you to make your tours interesting for your clients and the easier it will also be for you to solve problems that come along the way in general.

Do tour guides suffer from being overweight?

Since tour guides walk a lot during their workdays, most tour guides burn enough calories at work and are able to stay fit instead of suffering from being overweight.

How employable are tour guides?

Since many people no longer rely on tour guides but want to explore cities on their own, tour guides are no longer that employable anymore and many of them have a hard time making a living from what they are doing.

Are tour guides happy with their jobs?

Many tour guides are not fully happy with their jobs since they are not able to make good money while they still have pretty poor work-life balance and also have to deal with lots of insecurity related to their jobs in general.

Is working as a tour guide exciting?

Being a tour guide is not really exciting since you will visit the same sights over and over again and may get really unmotivated with what you are doing in the long run.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a tour guide?

Since tour guides mainly focus on making clients happy, they will not care about our environment that much and if you really want to do good for our planet, you should rather become an environmental activist instead.

What are the pros and cons of working as a tour guide?

If you still want to become a tour guide, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a tour guide career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/917089/number-of-tour-and-travel-guides-us/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1174468/tour-operator-industry-market-size-us/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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