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The best way to become a FGASA field guide

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

So you want to become a FGASA field guide. You might have read that there are a few different avenues you can follow to reach your goal. In this blog, we outline some of the most common ways to become a safari guide, and our recommendations to start your wild career!

Read time: 5 min

How do I become a FGASA field guide?

A student with Bushwise, training to become a FGASA field guide.

If you want to become a certified field guide (also called safari guide or nature guide) in southern Africa, one of the best and most well-respected ways to do this is by completing a FGASA qualification through an accredited training provider (like Bushwise). To become a FGASA guide you must pass both written (theory) and practical exams. We detail these exams further in another blog here.

There are two common ways to become a FGASA-certified field guide. The first is a full-time training program where you live and study in the bush, learning from experts and trainers who really know the material. 

The second is to self-study and write the exam in your own time, either by following an online course or reading the books and doing research on your own. 

A happy Bushwise student getting into a game viewer for the day’s activities.

While either option can get you your FGASA qualification, it’s essential that you don’t undervalue the significance of proper field experience. To be a successful field guide, you’ll need skills like 4×4 driving, track and sign, birding, first aid, PrDp, and much more. 

What does FGASA stand for?

FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. It’s a professional organisation that sets the standards for professional guiding here in southern Africa. 

Bushwise is a FGASA-accredited training provider, meaning we can provide a path for students to become a FGASA field guide. This accreditation is very important for most people looking to guide professionally in South Africa and neighbouring countries. 

Two Bushwise students looking out of a game viewer towards a sighting.

FGASA’s function is to: 

  1. Ensure the quality of nature guiding qualifications.

  2. Endorse and provide quality assurance of training providers and maintain the standards of nature guiding units.

  3. Provide quality assurance and develop qualified nature guide assessors and moderators.

  4. Enhance the credibility of field guiding and tracking in southern Africa.

  5. Encourage guides to achieve higher levels of professionalism, and thereby improve the quality of service to and safety of both local and international visitors.

  6. Keep FGASA members updated on developments in the industry.

Once you complete your FGASA qualification, FGASA assists with the process of getting your credentials uploaded to the CATHSSETA database. This step is essential to legally guide in South Africa. Additional information on this process can be found on the FGASA website here.

What does it mean to be a FGASA guide?

A white-bellied sunbird sitting on a branch. Birding is an important part of training to become a FGASA field guide.

With the FGASA name by your qualification, you’re telling future employers that your field guide education was gold standard. This is because FGASA sets the bar high when it comes to theoretical knowledge, guiding ethics, practical experience and overall well-rounded field guides. 

While there are other ways to become a safari guide, FGASA is fast becoming the most well-known and well-respected avenue in the industry.

What’s the difference between NQF2 and NQF4?

Two students, both training to become a FGASA field guide, listen to their instructor while learning about plants in the bush.

The acronyms NQF2 and NQF4 come from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). This is a national system in South Africa that recognises education levels – across all industries. In field guiding, NQF2 is used for the Apprentice Trails Guide qualification (formerly Level 1), while NQF4 is for the Field Guide qualification (one step above NQF2, formerly Level 2). At the moment, there’s no equivalent NQF level for Professional Field Guide. 

One of the common questions asked when gaining experience as a guide is: how many years experience does FGASA require  as part of your portfolio of evidence in order for you to be assessed for the FGASA Field Guide NQF4? To move up from Apprentice Field Guide (NQF2), you must log 260 days of guiding, complete the NQF4 workbooks and electives, and pass both theory and practical exams. 

Can you do FGASA online?

A safari guide wearing a hat bearing the emblem of FGASA.

You might be hesitant to jump right into a 6- or 12-month training course to become a FGASA guide. That’s okay! We completely understand – and it is possible to start your field guide career from the comfort of your own home. Bushwise offers three different online courses to get you started.

The FGASA NQF2 qualification requires a total of 400 hours – 60% practical work, 20% theoretical work and 20% self-study. Our online FGASA field guide course covers 120 of these hours. With this head start, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional in the field guiding industry.

Six field guides walking together, arms around each other, away from the camera and down the dirt track.

Once you’ve finished the online course you can sign up for our 35-day practical FGASA course to get your essential field experience, do your practical assessment and complete your certification. 

Interested in becoming a FGASA qualified field guide? Join a Bushwise course today and launch your wild career.

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