United States of America

Chicago (and the surrounding suburbs)
What are the basic qualifications for a guide?: 

No formal qualifications exist. The City of Chicago does not license tour guides, so individuals hiring guides in Chicago should inquire about a guide’s professional formation and experience and inquire if the guide is a CTPA Certified Tour Guide (CTG) or Candidate Guide. We also suggest that the hiring company interview the guide to ensure the individual will meet the group’s expectations, especially when hiring guides who speak other languages.

How to hire a guide?: 

You may hire a guide through direct contact, guide listing services or via the many local Destination Management Companies (DMCs), tour operators, meeting planners, transportation businesses, venues and attractions that are Associate Members of the CTPA and have copies of the latest CTPA membership directory.

Is licensing for Guides required? How is it obtained? How often must it be renewed?: 

As licensing is not required, since 1995 the Chicago Tour-Professionals Assn. has offered its members a three-part Certification Test.

This test is not a qualifications test, but a mastery test that can first be taken at least one year after giving a comprehensive Chicago highlights tour. The three parts must be completed in a specific order: written test, then the demanding oral commentary exam, then the vehicle routing section. Guides who have passed all three parts of this rigorous exam may note CTG (Certified Tour Guide) after their name.

All CTPA members have member identification cards which are issued each calendar year upon payment of annual dues. The CTPA ID card also functions as a name badge. Members who have passed the Certification test will have “CTG” after their name. A list of current CTPA CTGs appears on the CTPA website http://tourguidesofchicago.com/certified-guides.html.

Who is responsible for certification?: 

The Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Association (CTPA) is responsible for the guide certification program. CTPA coordinates study sessions, and updates and administers the test annually. CTPA also keeps records of all Certified Tour Guides and issues certification credentials.

Training by Whom? Theory & Practice.: 

In the U.S., tour guiding is often a second or third career that is pursued later in life, after successful careers—as teachers, architects, history professors, urban planners, authors—or after volunteering as an unpaid docent or Greeter for a garden or park district, church, museum or historic home or neighborhood.

Although several area colleges and universities offer degrees or certificates in hospitality and tourism related careers, none offer specific training for tour guides. For this reason, most guides learn practical guiding skills and improve their knowledge base and commentary through independent study, by working with mentors or by observing other guides.

Some individuals learn about guiding as a career and pay to take one of two U.S.-based two-week courses that are offered by ITMI or IGA. The International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) is run out of San Francisco and the International Guide Academy (IGA) is taught in the Denver area. Both institutions train and certify guides and tour managers who complete their paid courses, however the CTPA only acknowledges CTPA Certification.

Approximate fees in Euro or local currency: Full Day: 
$250 - $500 USD
Approximate fees in Euro or local currency: Half Day: 
$140 - $275 USD (4 or 5 hour minimum)
Fees decided by tourism authority, association, or guide?: 

Guides are Independent Contractors and are able to determine their fees and terms of employment. In some cases, guides may choose to work for Tour Operators/DMCs who have fixed fees for certain types of local work.

Problems faced by guides at this location: 

Only a few cities in the U.S. require guides to be licensed, so individuals in the U.S.—trained or not—may call themselves guides and accompany groups and provide commentary on tour almost anywhere. Foreign guides may do the same, even though it is illegal for them to give tours in our country unless they carry right-to-work papers.

We believe that the best professional guides have studied a great deal, and live and frequently work in their local area. Local professional tour guides know the architectural, cultural, social and political history of the city as well as the traffic patterns. Locals are familiar with the main attractions, museums, parks and local holidays. Professional local guides will provide interesting, accurate and entertaining commentary, while routing to avoid delays and include the tour inclusions that most interest the group. An out-of-towner just cannot do the job in the same way.

More Information: 

Please review the CTPA website at www.tourguidesofchicago.com for more information about membership, certification testing and our many educational lectures, tours and programs that help CTPA members stay current on all things Chicago!

Only a very few of our members have elected to post listings on guide listing services such as www.Viator.com. Please note that you will also find individuals who have no association with CTPA on guide listing services.

CTPA is a proud partner of ChooseChicago and thanks them for provision of the photos used on this site.

Entry prepared by: 
Chicago Tour-Guide Professionals Association
Disclaimer: This entry is not intended to be a comprehensive guide. Neither the WFTGA nor the Member Association is responsible for any errors, omissions or opinions expressed by the contributing author.
Updated on: 05/03/14

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