Tour guide job description: importance and how to become one

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Tour guides direct tourists and inform them about attractions such as monuments, gardens and famous buildings. They typically work with tour operators or offer freelance tour guide services. Learning what a tour guide does and how to become one can help you decide if this is the right career for you. In this article, we explain the importance of understanding what a tour guide job description is, list steps on how to become a tour guide and the benefits of pursuing this career.

What's the importance of a tour guide job description?

A tour guide job description is a statement that outlines the duties, skills and job requirements of a tour guide. It informs individuals interested in becoming tourist guides about what it takes to pursue this career. It also explains the duties that employers expect tour guides to perform. These responsibilities include the following:

  • welcoming customers to the tour

  • explaining the itinerary for each tour

  • organising itineraries based on weather forecasts and tour lengths

  • guiding tourists around sites such as museums, galleries, castles and historic houses

  • educating tourists on the significance and history of a tourist site

  • planning alternative tours in case of weather changes or abrupt cancellations at tourist sites

  • offering tourists advice on where to visit and answering their questions

  • reminding tourists to protect themselves from the sun by wearing sunscreen and carrying hats and sunglasses during hot periods

  • organising additional trips

Related: Tour operator roles: definitions and differences (plus FAQ)

How to become a tour guide

If you want to become a tour guide, consider taking the following steps:

1. Search for training opportunities

There are several training opportunities that can help you pursue a job as a tour guide. You could apply for the Level 2 Certificate or the Level 3 Diploma in Travel and Tourism. These courses take one and two years to complete, respectively. You require a minimum of two GCSEs with grades A* to D or equivalent to qualify for the Level 2 Certificate, while you require at least four GCSEs with grades A* to C or equivalent to qualify for the Level 3 Diploma.

Alternatively, you could apply for apprenticeships that teach you tour guide skills. Examples include the Level 2 Customer Service Practitioner apprenticeship and the Level 3 Cultural Learning And Participation Officer apprenticeship. To enrol in these programmes, you require five GCSEs, including maths and English language, or equivalent. If you want to attend university, consider applying for a degree in tourism management. To study for a degree, you typically require two or three A-levels at grades BBB to CCC. Completing a degree may take three or four years.

Related: Tour operator vs travel agent: an overview of both careers

2. Earn a badge

Earning a badge permits tour guides to offer tours at specific attractions. You can earn a badge by applying for training through the Institute of Tourist Guiding. This association offers the following three badges that qualify tour guides to offer specific services:

  • White badge: This badge is suitable if you want to guide tourists around sites such as museums, cathedrals, theme parks and industrial estates.

  • Green badge: Consider earning this badge if you want to work part-time or full-time guiding tourists around attractions and giving walking tours through specified city centres and countryside areas.

  • Blue badge: This badge is the most extensive, allowing you to guide tourists through various tourist attractions and metropolitan areas using multiple modes of transportation, such as walking and driving.

3. Improve your language skills

It's important for tour guides to improve their language skills. There are several languages you can choose to learn, including German, Spanish, Italian and French. Search for online courses that teach the language you want to learn or consider downloading language apps on your phone as learning tools, watching online teaching videos and listening to music in foreign languages. You can also incorporate learning into your leisure activities. For example, you can watch films and TV shows in foreign languages and turn on subtitles to help you learn.

Whenever you learn keywords you plan on using during tours in foreign languages, write them down on a list with their English translations. Refer to this list when you can't remember the translation of a certain word. If you want to improve your English, consider reading novels and taking literature classes.

Related: Best online language courses: recommendations and benefits

4. Gain work experience

Once you earn the relevant qualifications, begin your job search. Prepare your application materials, such as your CV and cover letter, and submit them to tour guide agencies. You could also volunteer with tour guide organisations to gain experience. Build relationships with your peers and superiors, as they may help you secure employment or refer you to companies looking for tour guides.

As you gain work experience, you can aim to become a regional tour manager or a supervisor. If you want to be a freelance tour guide, use these experiences to learn as much as you can about the industry and expand your network.

Related: A step-by-step guide on how to become a tour manager

5. Choose a niche

You can offer tour guide services for specific tourist attractions. For example, you may choose to exclusively offer museum tours, adventure tours or city centre tours. Identifying and selecting a niche is useful if you plan to become a freelance tour guide. A specialisation allows you to offer package services to tourists and build networks with stakeholders such as hoteliers, museum and monument managers and travel agents.

Related: How to define your target market: examples and types

6. Consider becoming a freelance tour guide

If you're interested in self-employment, consider becoming a freelance tour guide. This involves creating a freelance tour guide agency and managing all of the business aspects. Review the following tips on how to become a freelance tour guide:

  • Develop a business plan. A business plan includes your start-up costs, financial projections and target market.

  • Set SMART goals. Set professional goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

  • Build a brand. Create a brand that attracts your target audience.

  • Market your services. Use social media, websites and print media for marketing your tour guide services.

Related: Freelance work: everything you need to know about freelancing

Skills for tour guides to develop

It's important to evaluate your skills to determine whether a career as a tour guide suits you. Identify which skills are important for you to improve. This helps you develop a mindset to enhance these skills during your training. The following is a list of tour guide skills to help you determine which you possess and which you can improve:

  • Communication and presentation: Tour guides inform tourists about the history and relevance of different sites. Being a good communicator allows you to engage your audience while delivering educational information.

  • Flexibility: There may be times when tour guides can't conduct scheduled tours due to factors such as poor weather conditions. It's important for you to be flexible so that you can find alternative sites and arrange different activities.

  • Self-motivation: Working as a tour guide requires you to expand your networks and raise awareness of your tour guide services through various platforms such as social media.

  • Customer service: Tour guides provide customer service to tourists by suggesting locations for specific activities based on their budgets and interests. This requires you to exhibit your customer service skills by demonstrating your industry knowledge.

  • Time management: It's important to have time management skills to ensure that you always begin tours on time to prevent disorganising the tourists' schedules.

  • Language: Tour guides often accompany international tourists, so it's helpful to be proficient in English and one or two other languages.

  • Driving: Obtaining a driving licence is necessary if you want to give driving tours.

Related: What does it mean to self-evaluate? (With benefits and tips)

Benefits of becoming a tour guide

Here's a list of the benefits of becoming a tour guide:

  • Exposure: Offering guides to tourists allows you to visit and enjoy various attractions.

  • Expertise: The work experience you gain allows you to become an expert in history, architecture and art. You can also learn new languages.

  • Networks: Networking allows you to make friends with people from all around the world.

  • Work-life balance: Tour guides work 28 to 30 hours a week, and as jobs are seasonal, you can dedicate time to other personal and professional interests.

  • Short training time: It takes two to four years to become a tour guide, depending on the course you pursue.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles