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What is a Polar Guide?


Polar guides facilitate safe, sustainable, and meaningful polar travel experiences for travelers from all over the world. They work across all platforms of polar guiding, from expedition ships and yachts to outpost camps and arctic communities. Polar Guides who are certified by the PTGA are industry professionals whose competencies and practices have been assessed against rigorous industry and international (ISO) standards.

The PTGA’s assessment process allows for a thorough examination of a wide range of individual proficiencies. Importantly, the PTGA assessment process also validates a guide’s judgement and decision making in complex situations – two very important skills for a professional guide working in remote and challenging environments.

To ensure that the skills of a PTGA Polar Guide remain current, all PTGA guides must revalidate their certification every four years and show proof of continual professional development.


A qualified PTGA guide has been assessed by a programme that meets international standards.The PTGA’s qualifications are ISO-21102 compliant. This rigorous international standard defines the necessary competencies for adventure tourism leaders, and provides a benchmark for good practice and safety for all types of adventure activity across many different training programmes, qualifications and guiding operations. The PTGA is the only organisation involved in polar guiding that is ISO-21102 compliant, demonstrating the PTGA’s dedication to safety in polar tourism.

Although different activities require different competencies, there are many competencies that are common to all, such as risk management, emergency response, professional behaviour and ethics, as well as measures for the correct level of technical ability and knowledge. A PTGA-certified guide has therefore been assessed against these competencies – a factor that is beneficial not only to guides, but also to operators and all who visit the polar regions.



While the PTGA’s certification framework assesses specific skill sets relevant to polar guides, our values run deeper than what can simply be measured and tested for. As contemporary professionals, PTGA guides embrace a number of core values that are essential for responsible guiding:

  • Responsible Travel & Sustainability
  • Customer Service & Guest Experience
  • Interpretation & Education
  • Leadership & Group Management
  • Teamwork & Communication
  • Technical Competency & Safety Management

As part of our commitment to responsible and sustainable tourism, all PTGA guides contract to a professional Code of Conduct which binds them to moral and ethical standards as well as the operational requirements and guidelines of international governing bodies and trade associations.



Polar guiding cover many different skills and activity types; while some will be relevant to all guides, others are specific to those who guide specific activities. Although even the most experienced Polar Guide is not expected, and indeed is unlikely, to have the full range of skills for which the PTGA provides accreditation, there are 8 core competencies/skills that form our entry-level PTGA qualifications:

To become a qualified PTGA Polar Guide, a candidate must possess 5 of these qualifications and have logged more than 60 days of active guiding (see Qualifications Framework). A PTGA guide is thus able to competently interpret the natural and cultural environments of the polar regions, be technically competent in the activities they guide, to manage the safety of groups and their activities, is skilled in both leadership and teamwork, understands customer service and the needs of their guests, and understands sustainable tourism and the importance of conservation.

Additional skillsets are required for those who lead specific activities, operate in a specific polar region, or those who wish to become a PTGA Senior Polar Guide:

A Senior Polar Guide must have a range of these skillsets, as well as all 8 entry-level qualifications, and an extra 200 days of logged guiding work.



If you wish to become a PTGA Polar Guide you will need to:

  • develop a range of core skills that form our entry-level qualifications.
  • join PTGA
  • become qualified
  • gain guiding experience

Please refer to the PTGA Qualifications Framework Flowchart.


The individual skills that are required for each qualification are listed in each syllabus. Although the PTGA does not provide skills training, relevant skills are taught by many outdoor centres, some are covered in other external qualifications, and an increasing number of PTGA-endorsed Training and Assessment Providers can provide PTGA-specific training (please contact us for further information).


Once you have the necessary skills, there are two ways that you can be assessed:

  • through a PTGA-endorsed Training and Assessment Provider (please contact us for further information).
  • Accredited Providers are operators who provide in-house assessment of their staff using PTGA assessors. Some provide opportunities for novice guides to become qualified through their own training programme or scholarship. You will need to approach the Accredited Providers directly for further information.


To become a qualified PTGA Polar Guide you will need to gain guiding experience. There are many operators who you can approach in order to gain this experience. You will stand a greater chance of being employed if you have already developed some of the core skills detailed above.