Get This Job: Wilderness Guide

Guides get paid to make people's vacations. Here's how you can join their ranks

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wilderness guide
Fishing guides find the goods. Photo by: Matt JonesMatt Jones/Tandem

They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Too good to be true, right? Probably—unless you’re a wilderness guide. These life hackers get paid to show others how to do the things they love most, be it rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, or fly fishing.

Regardless of your chosen expertise, you’ll need patience, people skills, and a mastery of the craft. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme—starting guides often earn less than $100 per day—but enterprising folks can turn passion into profit.

Why I Love My Job

Charity Rutter, 46/R&R Fly Fishing/Townsend, TN

By age 29, Charity Rutter’s stressful advertising job had fast-tracked her to a type of thyroid disease that doesn’t usually appear until middle age. Now, she spends her days along the trout streams of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, teaching anglers to cast, set hooks, and read the water.

“I don’t think there is a more spiritual place in the world than standing in a river,” Rutter says.

Point taken, but to make a living as a guide, you’ve got to be a bit of a backcountry badass: Rutter can predict when and where a fish will hit a fly before it happens.

A successful self-employed guide also needs business acumen and customer service skills.

“You should have to be a waiter or waitress for at least six months before they even try to be a guide,” Rutter says. “So much of being a guide is in the way you take care of people.”

Pay Highly variable Prerequisites Outdoor expertise, patience Perks Do what you love all day Problems Bad weather, bad tippers Prospects no stats available