Inbound Tour Guides


Employment Prospects


There are about 61,900 tour and travel guides employed in the United States. The major employers of tour guides are, naturally, tour companies. However, most of the major tour operators prefer experienced guides and are unlikely to take a chance on a beginner. Therefore, it may be wise to start on a smaller level.

Aspiring tour guides who are familiar with a certain city, region, or local attraction might want to apply for a job giving tours of that area or site. Industrial plants, colleges and universities, chambers of commerce, museums, historic sites, zoos, and parks may all hire guides or docents to give short, informational tours of their facilities.

Starting Out

The majority of job openings will be in large cities and areas of heavy tourist traffic, such as Disney World or Hollywood or Washington, D.C. Check with travel agencies in these cities or conduct an Internet search using keywords such as tours or tour operators, and include the name of the city in which you want to work. Trade publications are another helpful source. Once you have a list of tour companies, you might send resumes and cover letters to the ones that interest you. Your school's career services counselor or librarian may also help with your search.

Advancement Prospects

Most guides begin their careers working part time on one-day tours. Until they master the itinerary and information, they often conduct tours with experienced guides. Career advancement can take the form of leading more complicated tours or of specializing in a certain type of tour or destination. Guides who are good at their work often build up a following of repeat customers who sign up for their tours. These popular guides may then be able to move to a higher-paying tour company. Some choose to open agencies of their own.

Some tour guides may choose to work as travel guides, who plan, organize, and conduct long-distance cruises, tours, and expeditions for individuals and groups.

Some tour guides become travel writers, reporting on various destinations for the many travel-oriented magazines and newspapers, and writing books as well. Others may move into the corporate world, planning travel arrangements for company business travelers.

Tips for Entry

Volunteer at an organization where you would like to work as a tour guide. 

Gain speaking skills through courses, acting, or interacting with customers. 

Learn as much as you can about attractions or historical sites where you would like to work.

Get training in first aid and CPR to handle possible emergencies during tours.