Hiring & Guide School FAQs

Is it necessary to have previous experience to be an OARS guide?

No, we hire new guides every year at a number of our operations with little to no experience. If you do not have previous experience as a river guide we will ask you to attend and complete an OARS guide school before you are considered for employment. Check out our page for new/aspiring river guides for more information.

What is the difference between starting on one-day trips vs. multi-day trips?

These two different paths each have their own advantages.

Guiding one-day rafting trips requires a set of skills focused primarily on river/people skills and paddle guiding. Guides generally become proficient in these skills quickly, creating opportunities to get paid work sooner.

Guiding multi-day trips requires on-river skills with a focus on rowing and a range of wilderness expedition skills in addition to people skills. Guides generally become proficient in a number of weeks, months, or even seasons, making the training period longer to move into paid work.

What is the difference between guides schools vs. rowing clinics/dory school?

OARS guide schools focus on the essential skills required to successfully guide a paddle raft on Class II-III one-day river trips like the Green River through Split Mountain Canyon in Utah and California’s South Fork of the American. Every year, we actively hire guide school graduates to work for OARS. If you don’t have prior whitewater guiding experience and you want to be a river guide, guide school offers successful candidates the best prospects for future employment with OARS.

Our rowing clinics/dory schools are geared toward rowing oar rafts and dories (dory school only) and offer a great opportunity to learn from our staff and practice rowing in a dynamic (scenically spectacular) environment, however, we traditionally do not hire OARS guides out of these courses. Rowing clinics and our dory schools are ideally suited for private boaters and anyone looking to develop their rowing skills.

How do I sign up for guide school?

Visit the OARS Whitewater Guide Schools page and explore your options. Once you have selected the guide school of choice, reserve early to secure your spot online or call 800-346-6277 to speak with an OARS Adventure Consultant. Depending on when you place your reservation, a deposit or full payment will be required.

Does attending OARS guide school guarantee a job with OARS?

No. Attending an OARS guide school is not just a learning opportunity but an interview for employment. We are looking for guides who are excited, hard-working, positive, team players who possess a desire to learn and grow as part of the OARS team. Each year we select guide school graduates who have excelled in the program to offer the opportunity to hire on with OARS and continue training towards paid work.

Is there financial assistance available to attend OARS guide school?

Each year OARS selects a handful of promising applicants to receive financial assistance designed to waive or reduce the cost required for guide school.

After I complete the OARS guide school, what are the next steps?

If we decide that you are a good fit for the OARS team, we will invite you to hire on as a “trainee.” During this stage of the process, you will need to continue training and honing your skills as a river guide, keeping a positive attitude, demonstrating a strong work ethic, and an enthusiasm to learn. Training includes:

  • Ride-alongs
  • Check Off Runs
  • Risk Management/Human Resource Training
  • Orientation Training
  • Attain necessary certifications

What gear is required to be a guide, and how much will it cost?

While OARS will provide you with the basic gear you need, most guides choose to purchase their own before starting to work. As an OARS employee you will have access to gear discounts of 10-50% off with various companies to purchase the required equipment. There are also used gear options found in many areas. After you have completed the guide school you will have a good idea of what equipment you will need and what type you will prefer, for this reason we recommend waiting until after you complete guide school to purchase your gear.

This is a list of personal equipment you’ll need*. Being responsible for your own gear gives you the opportunity to use what works best for you. If you do not have or can not afford any of these items OARS has equipment we can make available to employees.

Most guides choose to purchase the following before they work their first paid trip;

  • Whitewater specific PFD – $75-150 new with discount
  • Whitewater specific Helmet – $40-150 new with discount
  • River knife – $5-30
  • 2 Locking carabiners – $10 each
  • Flip line – $5-15 roughly 10-12’ of tubular webbing
  • Whistle – $5-10
  • Waterproof watch – $10+
  • Secure footwear (no flip flops). Old tennis shoes work – $0 to 200

*Different operations will require additional equipment based on trip type and location.

If I am hired, how much work can I expect?

Work varies greatly depending on the region where you are hired. See the area comparison chart for applicants below. During the interview process you will be able to ask more specific questions regarding the amount of work you might expect.

Area comparison chart.

Where will I work?

The region in which you interview is typically where you’ll be working. When you apply, list your priority of location. Your application is then sent to that region’s hiring manager for review.

OARS has several locations and there is the possibility of moving around and gaining experience in other areas after at least one season at your hiring location. If that location is not accepting new hires your application will be passed to your second choice. All new to OARS staff should expect to work at least two seasons in your original location before transferring to a new OARS outpost for full time work.

Is there any guiding work available November-March?

The guiding season at OARS is at its longest from March-November, during the U.S. spring, summer, and fall. OARS trips with winter dates are international destinations.

Do OARS guides have the opportunity to work internationally?

In support of local communities, OARS International trips are almost exclusively staffed by guides who live full-time in the area. OARS rarely sends U.S. guides to work in other countries. Working for OARS creates opportunities in many places in the Western United States, but few (if any) opportunities to work internationally

What if I do not have a certification?

Entry level guides may not have the highest level of certifications. We do want to create pathways to achieve growth and knowledge in our guides. Don’t let this limit you from applying. The hiring manager will discuss options available to you.

Can I take an online certifications course?

No. Your CPR, First aid and Swiftwater Rescue certifications need to have an in person component. Hybrid courses are ok, but the majority of time should be in person training.

Who are approved providers for certifications?

Here is a list of providers for course certifications that we are familiar with and believe do a good job. If you have a certification from a different organization, we will want to review the course to confirm the training is in alignment with our standards. 


  • NOLS Wilderness Medicine (NOLS)
  • Wilderness Medical Associates International (WMA)
  • Wilderness Medicine Training Center International (WMTC)
  • Stonehearth Open Learning Schools (SOLO)
  • Desert Mountain Medicine (DMM) 
  • Aerie Backcountry Medicine (ABM)
  • Sierra Rescue International (SRI)
  • Wilderness Medicine Outfitters (WMO)
  • Wilderness Medicine of Utah (WMU)
  • Alpine Endurance Medicine
  • Wounded Bear Medicine


  • American Red Cross
  • American Heart Association

Anaphylaxis and Epinephrine Auto-Injector

  • American Red Cross 
  • NOLS Wilderness Medicine (NOLS)
  • Desert Mountain Medicine (DMM) 
  • Wilderness Medicine Outfitters (WMO)
  • Alpine Endurance Medicine


  • Sierra Rescue International (SRI)
  • Swiftwater Safety Institute (SSI)
  • Wilderness Rescue International (WRI)
  • Rescue 3

Food Handlers by State

  • CA
  • UT
  • ID
  • OR
  • AZ

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