How to Become a Tour Guide
Do you love visiting museums, art galleries and historic locations? Are you great at remembering facts and sharing them in an interesting, engaging way? Then a career as a tour guide could be just what you’ve been dreaming of.
Tour guides show groups of visitors around museums, castles, art galleries, and cities, sharing interesting facts and stories that both entertain and educate. The career of a tour guide is so diverse that there is ample opportunity to learn new things as well as find tour guide jobs that suit your interests.
Whether you love history, art, or science, or want to entertain visitors with ghost stories or funny tales as you guide them around the city, you can discover the ins and outs of this exciting career and see how you can become a tour guide.
What Does a Tour Guide Do?
Tour guides help tourists to make the most of their holidays by giving educational, entertaining, and interesting tours around local attractions, national parks, and places of interest. Usually hired by visitors bureaus and tour operators, they help create an unforgettable experience for tourists, bringing history to life through their performance.
There are also self-employed tour guides who offer their experience and expertise to travellers by offering walking tours, museum tours, cruises, and bus tours. Tour guides provide a valuable service to tourists, offering entertainment and education, with many adding comedic elements to their presentation.
They also answer questions from visitors and build rapport with their tour groups. Many of the walking tours are also themed, so travellers can choose from visiting historical sites or learning about haunted locations.
What Qualifications are Needed to Become a Tour Guide?
There are some tour guide job opportunities that do not require qualifications, however, there are a number of useful qualifications which can help you in your tour guide career. Having at least 5 GCSE’s at grades A*-C including maths and English can help you enrol on a Travel and Tourism course.
For example, you can enrol on the Travel and Tourism Level 2 Certificate or the Level 3 Diploma in Travel and Tourism. Being able to communicate in other languages will also be useful.
There are several online Travel and Tourism courses that are available to everyone (including the Level 2 Travel and Tourism certificate), whether you have previous qualifications which are unrelated, have a little experience, or have no previous qualifications.
These courses, as well as the online Tourism courses, are available to undertake entirely online through distance learning so you can study flexibly around your current work and family life. They offer valuable knowledge and help learners to develop key skills needed as a tour guide.
There are also sometimes opportunities to work directly with organisations in the travel industry, such as tour companies and museums. These opportunities include courses run by them as well as apprenticeships.
Some qualifications also require more qualifications such as a Bachelors or Master’s degree in history, depending on the site and depth of knowledge their tour guides require.
What Is Blue Badge Tour Guide Training?
The most common way to become a qualified tour guide however, is through the badge system. There are specific training courses on which you can enrol on, and upon completion, you will be at a certain level of your guide.
There are white badge tour guides who are qualified to guide groups around specific sites. Green badge tour guides are qualified to provide walking and museum tours around a particular city, and blue badge tour guides are qualified to offer all types of tours in a larger area.
Specific tourist sites and organisations often run these courses, and you must pass an exam by the Institute of Tourist Guiding. However, if you have a tourism qualification, then you are one step closer to becoming a badge-qualified tour guide.
How Much Do Tour Guides Earn?
The average salary for a tour guide is between £18,000 and £30,000 a year, according to the National Careers Service. This varies depending on the type of tours provided, your experience, and where the tours take place.
What Skills are Needed to Become a Tour Guide?
There are several skills needed in order to be a successful tour guide. If you do not feel that you have these skills, then the online courses mentioned above can help you develop them.
It is also important to bear in mind that these are general skills that will vary depending on your specific types, and bringing your own personality to your role can make a world of difference.
Does a Tour Guide Need any Work Experience?
Work experience isn’t essential to beginning your career as a tour guide. However, having some experience of working with the public is greatly beneficial, even if it is in a shop or other seemingly unrelated environment. You can develop key skills in customer service jobs as well as in school, college, and university, such as developing good communication skills.
A great way to gain experience is by seeking out voluntary or apprenticeship opportunities. Many museums accept volunteers to guide visitors, protect exhibits, work in the gift shop or reception desk and assist in the development of specific exhibitions. This is a great way to gain valuable experience of working with visitors and tourists as well as learning and communicating interesting facts and information.
Career Prospects for Tour Guides
There are a huge number of different locations and sites available for tour guides to work in. As a guide, you can work in history museums, art museums, botanical gardens, or castles, as well as walking or bus tours such as ghost walks and comedy walks. You can also work your way up to being a tour leader, supervisor, or manager and create itineraries or sidestep into other travel and tourism roles, like working in cabin crew or as a travel agent.
Whether you want to be a full-time sightseeing tour guide in New York City or a part time tour guide in London, the tourism industry could be looking for someone just like you. You could offer an incredible experience to visitors and instil in them the passion you have for your city, museum, or attraction.
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