Hiring & Guide School FAQs


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

No, 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 experienced guide page here.

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

These two different paths each have different advantages.
Guiding one-day rafting trips requires a set of skills focused mainly on river/people skills and paddle guiding. Guides generally become proficient in these skills more quickly, creating opportunities to work sooner.

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

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 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 recruit multiple 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 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, but we traditionally do not hire out of the rowing clinics. Rowing clinics and our dory school 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 family. Each year we select a handful of guide school graduates who are offered the opportunity to hire on with OARS and continue training to qualify to guide guests.

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. Check out our Guide School Tuition Assistance Program. Through the Pam & George Wendt Foundation, OARS also awards a limited number of fully-sponsored need-based guide school scholarships aimed at providing selected candidates the opportunity to learn the critical skills needed to land a job as a river guide.

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

If we decide that you will be 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 personalize your gear so it 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 trip;

  • Whitewater specific PFD – $75-150 new with discount
  • Whitewater specific Helmet – $40-150 new with discount
  • River knife – $5-30
  • 2 Locking xarabiners – $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 various other equipment based on trip type.

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.


Click on above image to enlarge.

Where will I work?

The area in which you interview is typically where you’ll be working. OARS has several locations and there is the possibility of moving around and gaining experience in other locations after at least one season at your hiring location. Make sure to interview with the location where you’d like to work. If that location is does not accept new hires, you should expect to work at least two seasons before transferring to a new OARS outpost.

Is there any guiding work available November-March?

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

Do OARS guides have the opportunity to work internationally?

In support of local communities, the 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.