Guides come from widely varying backgrounds, including such
diverse professions as actors, policemen, taxi drivers, barristers,
teachers, diplomats. You do not need to be academic or a history
expert to be successful, but you will need enthusiasm and an
interest in communicating and interpreting Britain to visitors of
all ages, backgrounds and cultures.
You will need to be:
- a good communicator, interested in people, and in interpreting
Britain to them.
- confident in standing up in front of a group of people, but not
necessarily an extrovert.
- fit - as you may be on your feet, responsible for as many as 50
people for up to 10 hours at a stretch.
- flexible, adaptable and able to think quickly.
If you speak any other languages fluently and with a wide relevant
vocabulary, you will improve your chances of getting on an
Institute accredited course, and work thereafter. Before being
qualified to guide in a language other than your mother tongue you
will have to pass an oral exam. If English is not your mother
tongue, and you want to guide in English you will have to pass an
English oral exam. See Languages
The Institute's qualifications correspond to National Educational
Levels 2, 3 and 4, each relating to a specific area or site as
- Level 2
covers commentary/presentation on one fixed route, which could be
in a gallery, cathedral or stately home, or perhaps an open-top
- Level 3
introduces route flexibility and the ability to work in two
contrasting environments such as a walk and on a site.
- Level 4 (Blue
Badge) requires flexibility of route and of environment (site,
walk and moving vehicle), as well as a wider geographical area, and
tour planning and management skills.
The Institute accredits courses run by external colleges and
training providers, provides or accredits examinations and makes
awards to successful candidates, including the internationally
recognised Blue Badge. The Institute is not a training provider and
does not run courses.
Few courses run regularly apart from the London Level 4 (Blue
Badge) course, which has taken place annually for over 50 years.
Outside London, courses are run when there is a demand for guides
in a particular area, usually by local and regional tourist bodies
or colleges and institutions. Owners of sites and visitor
attractions provide their own training for in-house guides.
Check to make sure that the course you are planning to do has been
accredited by the Institute. See Training
On successful completion of your course and examinations
you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification and be
eligible to apply to join the Institute.
Guiding is a very stimulating profession. It is never dull or
repetitive. You are showing people beautiful and interesting places
and sights. You are adding immense value to visitors' experience,
and are thus an unofficial ambassador for Britain. It is said….. 'a
good guide makes all the difference!'