How Much Do Raft Guide Jobs Pay


Raft guide jobs provide a thrilling and exciting way to make money while spending time outdoors. By becoming a raft guide, you will be able to experience some of the most beautiful rivers in the world while earning a decent amount of money.

This article will provide an overview of the average pay scale of raft guide jobs. We will then discuss the key factors that influence how much you can make as a raft guide:

What is a Raft Guide?

A raft guide is an experienced outdoors professional who leads recreational trips down whitewater rivers, on lakes, and in other sheltered water areas. Raft guides are responsible for all aspects of the trip including leading the group, navigating the river, setting up camp, and teaching safe camping and paddling practices.

Most raft guides work for commercial companies that provide equipment and guiding services to individuals or groups. Although most guides work full-time seasonally during peak adventure times such as spring and summer months, part-time positions are sometimes available.

In order to become a raft guide you must have excellent knowledge of the river environment and the skills necessary to successfully manage a trip. Paddling instruction experience is highly beneficial. Good physical conditions are required including swimming ability with knowledge of first aid techniques preferred. Certification standards vary by region but typically include American Canoe Association (ACA) certification or other training certs appropriate to national or state standards.

Job duties may include:

  • Leading groups on aquatic activities such as climbing or feed hikes;
  • Prepping and transporting equipment;
  • Maintaining participants’ safety at all times;
  • Engaging with clients in an enthusiastic manner;
  • Providing educational information about local ecology, wildlife, history etc.;
  • Providing first aid when necessary;
  • Helping with food preparation; and
  • Participating in wilderness clean up efforts.

What are the Requirements?

If you love the outdoors and have a passion for helping others while they embark on their own rafting adventure, becoming a raft guide could be the perfect career choice. Raft guiding is a physically demanding job that requires hard work, attention to detail and customer service expertise.

Before becoming a qualified raft guide, individuals must meet certain qualifications as set forth by organizations such as The American Canoe Association (ACA) and Professional Paddlesports Association (PPOA). Depending on your chosen employer, qualifications may include:

  • Having current first aid, CPR and wilderness first responder certifications
  • Being at least 18 years of age (some companies may require 21)
  • Having experience in swift water rescue techniques
  • Completing coursework in safety techniques and protocol
  • Being prepared to demonstrate paddling techniques
  • Passing drug and background screenings as required by employers
  • Passing physical examinations given by employers prior to being hired for river trips.

Salary Information

Rowing a whitewater raft is a thrilling job that brings its fair share of rewards monetarily as well as psychologically. Depending on the organization, place of business, and experience, raft guide jobs can pay anywhere from $10 to $30 an hour. Those working full-time, during the peak season, can even earn up to $5,000 a month.

In this section, we will provide salary information for raft guide jobs:

Average Salary

Raft guides typically earn an hourly wage based on their experience, certifications, and other factors. The hourly rate for a beginner is usually around $12 an hour and can increase to double or more for experienced guides. Most raft guide jobs also include tips from customers, which can significantly increase the overall amount of money earned. Additionally, some raft guide companies also offer salary packages that may include benefits like transportation, meals and lodging.

In terms of total compensation (including hourly wages, overtime pay, tips and earned benefits), the Average Raft Guide salary in the United States is estimated at $34k per year. However, individual salaries vary greatly depending on levels of experience and other local markets within the job market.

  • For instance, while raft guides in smaller areas may make closer to $12/hourly wage pay scale than an experienced guide in a tourism-driven city may make up to double – over $20/hourly wage pay scale. These differences would create notable variances when considering average yearly salary outlooks between different parts of the country or industry.
  • Ultimately though, with additional certifications and experience you can expect further wages growth potential as you become more knowledgeable in this field.

Salary by Location

Raft guides play an integral role in keeping river-goers safe as they venture out into nature’s wildest places. Guide jobs vary by location and experience levels, but most will make anywhere from $15 to $25 per hour, with some making well above that depending on their level of training and certifications.

Salaries vary greatly depending on the size of the company, the number of years an employee has been working with them, and which region they are based in. Raft guides in Colorado tend to make more than other states due to the abundance of natural rivers and lakes. Entry-level raft guides typically make between $15-$18 dollars per hour working for small- to mid-sized companies while those with prior experience may earn up to $25/hour.

Other key factors include safety knowledge and skills that can raise wages even further; whitewater rescue certifications as well as swift water rescue technician certification can increase an applicant’s qualifications dramatically. Experienced river pros may be able to negotiate even higher wages based on custom job requests from clients or increased demand for a particular skill set rather than the national rate for raft guide pay levels.

Salary by Experience Level

One of the most common questions asked when exploring potential career options is ‘What will I get paid for this job?’ Salary can vary widely based on experience level. Below is a summary of yearly salaries at three common levels of experience:

  • Entry-level: Employees in entry-level positions typically have anywhere from one to three years of work experience, though some industries require less and others, more. Entry-Level salaries typically start between $30,000 and $50,000 per year depending on the industry and region.
  • Mid-level: Employees in mid-level positions usually have 5 to 7 years of experience and generally earn between $45,000 and $75,000 per year or more. This range may be higher or lower depending on whether an individual’s salary reflects entry-level wages, mid-level wages, or a combination of both.
  • Senior Level: Senior level employees typically have 8+ years of work experience and typically command annual salaries ranging from $60k – $90k+. Salary at this level often reflects performance bonuses that may be awarded due to reaching certain goals set by the company or employer. This can significantly increase total earnings above stated salary numbers.


If you’re looking for an adventurous career, then becoming a raft guide could be the perfect job for you. Not only do you get to take part in a thrilling activity, but raft guide jobs offer numerous benefits. From the satisfaction of taking tourists on an unforgettable journey to competitive pay rates, the rewards of being a raft guide can be very rewarding.

In this article, we will discuss the different benefits of working as a raft guide:

  • The satisfaction of taking tourists on an unforgettable journey.
  • Competitive pay rates.
  • Opportunities to work in beautiful locations.
  • Opportunities to meet new people.
  • Physical and mental challenges.
  • Opportunities to learn new skills.

Health Insurance

Employers offering raft guide jobs often provide affordable health insurance options for workers and their families. Health insurance is usually offered through a third-party provider, often with a medical savings account (MSA) or flexible spending account (FSA). The MSA typically allows employers and employees to pay for medical costs on a pre-tax basis and can include coverage for emergency services, mental health care, preventive care, and vision or dental coverage at discounted prices. Depending on the provider, long-term disability and very short term disability insurance may also be offered. Health benefits are an important part of compensation as they can help protect the financial security of individuals in the event of illness or injury.

Other benefits that raft guide employers may provide include:

  • 401(k) retirement plans with matching contributions;
  • Employer sponsored life insurance policies;
  • Paid vacation time;
  • Holidays;
  • Uniforms;
  • Recreation benefits such as discounts on outdoor gear or trips with co-workers;
  • Discounts on hotels and lodging;
  • Meals provided during shifts, and
  • Other assistance programs designed to make life easier for employees working in remote locations.

Paid Time Off

Paid time off (PTO) is an important job benefit that can help employees stay healthy and productive. It refers to vacation days, sick days, and holidays that an employer offers its employees. Paid time off can benefit both employers and their employees in several ways.

For employees, PTO serves as an incentive to work hard and allows them to take necessary time away from work when facing a personal issue or illness. By reducing the number of “presenteeism” days – when employees come into work but don’t perform to their highest ability – PTO helps ensure that workers are productive during their hours spent on the job.

From the employer’s perspective, paid time off helps make sure that their workforce is refreshed and energized when returning from leave by providing worthy vacations, much needed rest for holiday breaks or ill days in which the employee recovers without fear of lost wages or job security. Furthermore, vacation bonuses often incentivize good performance throughout the rest of the year as well as promote good employee relationships with management.

Overall, paid time off is a great job perk for both parties that should be taken advantage of whenever possible!


Bonuses are a great way to motivate employees in the workplace. They reward staff for exceptional performance and can be used to recognize long-term commitment.

Bonuses can come in a variety of forms, including cash wages, gifts, trips, stock options or other benefits. Depending on your organization’s internal policy and your goals for the employee, different types of bonuses may be offered. Additionally, bonuses can either be given on an ongoing basis (e.g., annual rewards) or as sporadic rewards upon meeting milestones or certain periods of time within the business.

No matter what type you offer your employees, bonuses show them that their contribution is valued and that their efforts are appreciated by management. This can help boost morale and create positive workplace dynamics while also providing an incentive for improved performance from staff. They are particularly advantageous when there is limited flexibility with wage increases due to budget restrictions or regulatory concerns; by offering bonuses instead of wage hikes, employers can still reward exemplary work without increasing labor costs enough to strain resources.

Job Outlook

A career as a raft guide can be a great way to see stunning scenery, get paid for keeping your fitness levels up, and be at the outdoors. In this article, we’ll be discussing the job outlook for the raft guide profession, with particular focus on earning potential, job stability, and career growth.

Demand for Raft Guides

Raft Guides are in high demand as the popularity of white water rafting continues to increase across the United States. Job descriptions for Raft Guides vary from state to state and may include anything from river rescue, boating safety and customer service skills. However, most positions require a combination of physical strength and athleticism, along with sound judgment and an aptitude for customer service.

The job outlook for Raft Guides is positive; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of guides is projected to grow much faster than average (22% between 2016–2026). Additionally, employers often seek out candidates with experience in leading groups outdoors on a regular basis, lifeguard certification and wilderness medicine certifications are desirable qualities. Companies will also look for candidates who can operate a motor boat or paddle guide in addition to a raft guide certificate provided by an accredited white water program or school.

Furthermore, a valid driver’s license is also usually required as Raft Guides are usually relied upon to transport others from one adventure spot to another. Most importantly though, Raft Guides must have knowledge about what it means to be safe on whitewater rivers:

  • Identifying rapids correctly;
  • Safely navigating class I-VI whitewater;
  • Utilizing safety equipment correctly;
  • Recognizing river hazards;
  • Planning ahead for potential incidents or scenarios which may arise along the way;
  • Understanding first aid techniques;
  • Awareness of safety protocol during tumultuous conditions such as rapid influxes of water due to melting snowpack or during flood season; and
  • Responding appropriately and efficiently when accidents occur on the river.

Outlook for the Future

The job outlook for a variety of industries is strong and growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the labor force is projected to reach 164.2 million by 2028, meaning more jobs will be available for workers in various sectors.

In particular, job growth in health care, information technology, business services, finance and insurance are all expected to remain strong through the end of this decade. Health care jobs are projected to increase faster than any other occupational group in the coming years, with an additional 2.4 million jobs expected by 2029—representing roughly 15 percent growth since 2019.

The BLS also forecasts increases in numerous occupations closely related to health care, including medical assistants, personal care aides and home health aides. These occupations will contribute not only to expanded access to health care but also to increased need for qualified medical professionals—including nurses—at a time when the aging of America’s population is leading many health systems and facilities to struggle with shortages in staff.

Similarly, other industries like technology will see growth as well:

  • Computer programming jobs are expected by increase 8 percent from 2019 to 2029;
  • Software developers are forecasted have 22 percent more employment opportunities;
  • Web developers’ jobs should skyrocket 40 percent over that same period;
  • Information security analysts’ demand should be met 28 percent better than it was before;
  • Network and computer system administrators’ posts should grow 6 percent;
  • Database administrators’ positions could expand ninefold from 2019-2029.

Many fields require specialized certifications or degrees, so investing time into relevant training could prove fulfilling for many individuals interested in these fields over the next 10 years.

Tips for Getting Hired

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a raft guide, it can be difficult to know where to start. There are many things to consider, from qualifications and certifications to the job market in your area and the amount of money you can expect to make.

In this article, we’ll examine the qualifications, applications and tips you’ll need to know to get hired as a raft guide and make a good wage:


Networking is an essential part of finding a job as a rafting guide. By re-connecting with existing professional contacts, getting to know other people in the industry, and attending professional meetings and events, you can significantly increase your chances of finding employment. Sales professionals recognize networking as one of the most effective ways to find new customers, and your job search will benefit from the same tactic.

Take advantage of any available online resources that allow you to reach out and make contacts with those already in the industry, such as LinkedIn or leisure industry websites. Ensure that your profile conveys the message that you’re looking for a career change; you never know who may be willing to help.

Also consider joining local or national river sports organizations and familiarizing yourself with their newsletters or websites as well as social media sites where prospective employers advertise their openings. Doing this will give you access to valuable information and opportunities such as course discounts, raft trips and competitions that can help raise your profile when applying for jobs.


Certification plays an important role in being competitive for raft guide positions. Although many employers might not technically require certifications, most will give extra consideration to job candidates with one or more professional certifications from reputable organizations. For example, a certified American Canoe Association (ACA) river guide or Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT) may have an advantage over someone without certification. Additionally, certifications can provide a seal of approval that would-be employers are looking for when considering river guides.

Professional guides typically have either ACA white-water certifications or have equivalent qualifications as recognized by their employer’s governing body. The primary goal of these programs is to ensure the safety of all boaters while also creating knowledgeable and competent river guides who are prepared to take guests through difficult sections of white water rapids.

Ultimately, getting professionally certified will significantly improve your chances of getting hired as a raft guide and you can expect to receive higher pay commensurate with your level of expertise.


Having experience in the rafting industry is highly beneficial when applying for jobs as a raft guide. Many employers look for guides who have knowledge about basic river commands, white water maneuvers and techniques, and an understanding of equipment operation principles. Working as a lifeguard or swim instructor is also beneficial; being able to swim on your own can help demonstrate your capability to handle watercraft.

Prior experience demanding physical exertion, such as kayaking or rock climbing, is also often viewed positively by employers. However, even if they don’t have any relevant experience, individuals with excellent customer service skills and enthusiasm for the outdoors can find jobs as raft guides with relative ease. Regardless of prior experience or qualifications, many employers offer their new hiring applicants some kind of on-the-job guidance or training period before they begin taking customers out on the river.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much do raft guide jobs pay?

A: Raft guide jobs pay an average of $14.00 per hour, with a range of $10.00-$20.00 per hour depending on experience and the region of the country.

Q: Do raft guide jobs offer benefits?

A: Many raft guide jobs offer benefits such as medical and dental insurance, retirement plans, paid leave, and discounts on rafting trips.

Q: What qualifications are needed to become a raft guide?

A: Most raft guide jobs require at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and certification in first aid, CPR and water safety. Experience in whitewater rafting is also beneficial.