Understanding the FGASA field guide qualifications
Updated: Oct 4
BY: Annie DuPre, FGASA NQF2 and Apprentice Trails Guide
Annie, Bushwise Writer and Apprentice Field Guide, examines the FGASA qualifications for field guiding and how Bushwise jump-starts your training.
If you’re planning to join a Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, you might be asking yourself: how will this certification help me in my career journey?
The truth is, there are many opportunities available for field guides, conservationists, and nature enthusiasts. But how do you get to that point, and what qualifications do you need to succeed?
The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a concise overview to help you understand the kinds of field guide qualifications you could earn and where they might take you in your professional development.
What qualifications can I earn through the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course?
In our flagship course, the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, you will have the opportunity to earn the following, nationally recognised certificates:
You will also begin your theory study towards FGASA NQF4 Field Guide, but before you can qualify for this level, you must have practical experience working as a guide (more information on this below).
What are the relevant organisations in South Africa for guiding?
FGASA: FGASA is the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. They set the standard for the guiding industry. Training providers, like Bushwise, are FGASA-accredited to train field guides. They provide the qualifications and certifications necessary for you to be recognised as a field guide, at whichever level you reach (see next section for details).
CATHSSETA: This is the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority in South Africa. They issue the NQF (National Qualifications Framework) associated with your level of certification, which then allows you to work in that industry at that level. Once you have qualified as a guide and sent FGASA all of your documentation, FGASA will then register your qualification with CATHSSETA, and CATHSSETA will send you your certification.
National Department of Tourism: To guide in your area of interest, you must take your CATHSSETA certificate and register with the National Department of Tourism.
There are additional bodies, such as SASSETA and the Department of Motor Vehicles, that are also important depending on the kind of guiding and type of qualification you pursue.
Where can these qualifications take me?
This is definitely the biggest question, and in a sense rather difficult to answer – because truly, it’s up to you! Here’s a snapshot of the FGASA field guide qualification progression:
As you can see, there are quite a few requirements to progress along the FGASA qualification levels. This ensures that guides are kept to a high and rigorous standard.
If you choose to become a trails guide, there are further requirements you must complete at each stage in the progression. We will have a future post devoted entirely to trails guide qualifications, as that’s a lot of information on its own!
What happens once I’ve qualified as a field guide?
Once you’ve received your FGASA NQF2 certification, there are many options for your career trajectory. Depending on your interests this might mean full-time guiding, lodge management, field work, conservation research, volunteer management, lecturer, trainer, or even mentor or specialist guide. If you’re interested in the guiding path, you will begin by being an Apprentice Guide at a lodge. You will be able to log the required days of work towards your NQF4 qualification, and can eventually study, write the exams, and be evaluated. It is typically in the interest of the lodges to upskill their guides and help you get to the next level in the FGASA qualifications chain.
As a South African citizen or resident, you can use your qualifications to work here. It is important to note that you will need a work permit or permanent residence to guide in South Africa if you are an international candidate.
What’s the deal with the Professional Driving Permit (PrDp)?
You cannot guide in an open vehicle with guests unless you have a PrDp – it’s as simple as that! The PrDp is issued by a Driving Licence Testing Centre and is valid for a period of two years. To get a PrDp, you must be 21 years old and have a valid driving licence for the type of vehicle in question.
During the Bushwise Professional Field Guide course, your trainers will assist you in the process of getting your PrDp. For international students, this includes getting your South African driver’s licence.
You can still attend a Bushwise course before you turn 21, as many students do. Our FGASA Field Guiding and Conservation Careers Internship is a great way to jump-start your guiding career, while you await your 21st birthday. You will still go through all the necessary training to become a field guide, other than the driving process.
Why should I do my FGASA training with Bushwise?
Completing a FGASA-accredited training course is one of the best ways to become a field guide, and Bushwise is committed to helping its students navigate the qualifications process easily.
One of the great things about studying with Bushwise Field Guides is the placement opportunities you will have upon completing the course. The head trainer evaluates students throughout the course to determine the best placement for them. This is a 6-month placement, which allows you to get the essential experience to progress in the industry.
Bushwise is proud to have had 100% employment success since 2012 for their South African students. Placement locations include prestigious lodges and reserves, such as Kapama Private Game Reserve, Sibuya Game Reserve, Africa on Foot, Thanda Portfolio, Greenfire Game Lodge, and Siyafunda.
This is all to say – Bushwise will be with you every step of the way as you pursue your new wildlife career. While it might seem intimidating at first, you’re supported by a network of professionals that fully understand the industry and will guide you through every step of the process.
This might be overwhelming, but Bushwise is here to help you with the certification and qualifications process when becoming a field guide. Are you ready to start your journey? Apply today!