Careers

Learn About Being a Lifeguard

What does a lifeguard do?

Lifeguards monitor pools, beaches, water parks and other aquatic areas to maintain safety at all times. They are trained in water safety and are called on to rescue swimmers who are hurt, sick or distressed. A lifeguard might also have the following duties:

  • Keep the pool, beach or other areas clean and free of debris
  • Open and close the facility to visitors
  • Conduct light administrative duties
  • Oversee swimmers, lead swim lessons and coach swim teams
  • Monitor weather reports and direct swimmers out of the area in the case of danger
  • Regularly treat the pool with the appropriate chemicals 

Average Salary

Most lifeguards work seasonally since outdoor pools and water parks tend to stay open only during the summer. Some beaches may employ lifeguards year-round. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $11.90 per hour
  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $22.85 per hour.

Lifeguard requirements

Lifeguarding requires specific skills and certifications: 

Education

There are no formal education requirements for lifeguards. Many lifeguards are in high school, working towards obtaining their high school diplomas or GEDs. Pools at colleges and universities routinely employ lifeguards who are students pursuing their bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Some beaches may employ professional lifeguards.

Training

Training is an important part of becoming a lifeguard. After offering jobs to seasonal staff, most pools will hold formal training sessions for all lifeguards. Training will include water safety, water rescue, first aid and artificial respiration. Some lifeguards receive pre-season training in pool treatment and swim lessons as well. 

Certifications

Lifeguard jobs require certain certifications. It can be helpful to obtain these before job searching so you can include them on a resume. Some pools and recreation departments sponsor certification classes before the summer season or allow employees to take classes after they are hired, but before the season begins. 

First aid and CPR certification

All lifeguards need to have valid, current certification in both first aid and CPR. Some pools require that the course be taught in-person rather than online. First aid and CPR are offered by the American Red Cross and similar organizations. 

Lifeguard certification

Many lifeguarding positions require certification through an American Red Cross Lifeguarding & Water Safety class, which results in a Lifeguarding certificate. These classes include safety and rescue techniques, CPR, first aid and automated external defibrillators (AED). Some lifeguards choose to get their first aid and CPR certification and Lifeguarding certification at the same time. These courses often require a pre-course swimming test. Participants must be at least 15 years old. 

Skills

Lifeguards need plenty of hard skills, such as swimming and CPR. They also need soft skills, such as communication, listening and leadership. Some skills are developed through training and certification, while others are gained through on-the-job experience. To be a successful lifeguard job candidate, work towards acquiring the following skills:

Swimming and physical fitness

To keep others safe, lifeguards must be excellent swimmers. They should be able to swim confidently and quickly, tread water for many minutes and dive swiftly into the pool. In emergencies, lifeguards may have to pull other individuals out of the pool, dive to reach drowning swimmers or otherwise help people in distress. 

Focused attention

Lifeguards spend most of their shifts watching the environment around them. They watch the water and the surrounding area to make sure everyone is staying safe. They should be alert and attentive at all times. A great lifeguard can spot a hazard before it becomes dangerous, such as a piece of debris near the pool. 

Communication

During moments of calm and moments of distress, lifeguards need to communicate clearly. They often give directions, such as “No running” or “The pool is closing in 15 minutes.” Lifeguards who teach swim lessons or coach swim teams communicate frequently with children, teens and parents. In an emergency, a lifeguard may need to shout for help, write an incident report or communicate clearly with an emergency response team. 

Leadership

At a pool or beach, lifeguards can oversee many people. They need to command authority and respect to maintain a safe environment. A strong leader will be able to give directions easily and keep swimmers out of harm’s way. Additionally, after working as a lifeguard for one season or more, you might be asked to lead or manage other staff members. 

Lifeguard work environment

Lifeguards work in a diverse array of environments. Some work for small pools, while others work for large aquatic centers and water parks or at beaches. However, there are a few things that any lifeguard can expect out of their work environment: 

  • Most lifeguards work outside. They may be positioned in direct sunlight for long periods of time. They will need to wear sunscreen, hats and other protective gear. 

  • It is a lifeguard’s job to monitor the pool very closely. They need to stay awake, alert and ready to jump into action should the need arise. 

  • Some lifeguards work closely with children and teens to provide swim lessons and swim team coaching. 

  • Most lifeguard jobs are seasonal. Lifeguards should be prepared to find other work during the off-season.

  • Most pools and beaches are busy on weekends, holidays and evenings. Lifeguards have flexible, variable schedules that can change according to weather, special events and staffing needs.

How to become a lifeguard

If you’d like to become a lifeguard, you can follow these steps:

1. Develop swimming skills and physical fitness.

Lifeguards need to be strong swimmers. Joining a swim or diving team can help you strengthen your skills. To efficiently and effectively keep swimmers safe, you need to be physically prepared. Some lifeguarding jobs require physical tests that will measure your swimming skills. A combination of swimming workouts and cross-training can help you get ready to apply for lifeguarding jobs. 

2. Enroll in a lifeguard certification training.

Lifeguards need to be certified. Find a class at your local American Red Cross, aquatic center or community college. 

3. Search for jobs

Look for lifeguarding jobs at local pools, waterparks, beaches, aquatic centers and recreation departments. You can also search for jobs online. As you prepare your resume and cover letter, be sure to highlight any trainings and certifications you’ve completed as well as any swim teams you’ve participated in and any other job experience you have. 

Lifeguard job description example

Park District Pool is hoping to hire a lifeguard for the coming pool season.  The pool opens on Memorial Day in May and closes on Labor Day in September. The lifeguard should have prior pool experience, the ability to work flexible shifts throughout the summer, and possess first aid, CPR and lifeguarding certifications. The ideal candidate will have excellent swimming and diving skills, reliable transportation and prior experience. Successful applicants will be considered for swim lesson positions and swim team coaching.

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