How To Become a Swim Instructor

Updated June 30, 2023

For someone to learn or advance in their swimming skills, they require a qualified instructor to guide them. Swim instructors teach the right techniques to help you improve your swimming ability. They also monitor your activities when swimming to ensure you are safe from injury or drowning.

In this article, we review what a swim instructor is, their responsibilities, necessary qualifications and skills for the position, and their average salary.

Key takeaways:

  • Swim instructors teach children and adults how to swim effectively.

  • While a college degree isn't necessary to become a swim instructor, the job does require a certain amount of training to gain licenses and certification.

  • Swim instructors possess a variety of transferable skills, such as communication, writing, emergency response and lifesaving.

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What is a swim instructor?

Swim instructors are also referred to as swimming teachers. They assist both adults and children in developing the right swimming techniques. They coach advanced swimmers and swim teams to help them boost their abilities to higher levels. They are trained in rescue skills, survival and aquatic safety to instruct and ensure water safety for the swimmers. Swim instructors have the ability to swim at least 25 meters in a swimming stroke.

They are expected to assess and record each student's performance and help in case of an emergency while swimming. As a swim instructor, you are required to be enthusiastic and patient to motivate your students to accomplish their goals. You also should communicate effectively with other people to instruct and answer students' questions.

Related: How To write a lifeguard job description.

What does a swim instructor do?

Swimming instructors work in aquatic centers, public pools, educational departments and at holiday camps. One may also provide private services from their residential homes. Their day-to-day duties include:

  • Working collaboratively with aquatics staff and learners to ensure a positive and efficient learning environment

  • Implementing water safety instructional and swimming programs

  • Preparing and delivering skill-focused lessons and technical guidance based on the client's abilities

  • Assessing learners' progress and adjusting their learning programs accordingly

  • Monitoring learners and all swimmers when swimming to prevent injuries and accidents

  • Maintaining cleanliness in the locker rooms, the swimming pool and its area

  • Receiving and responding to concerns and questions from the learners and other patrons, then resolving or referring them to the appropriate senior staff

  • Maintaining and inspecting swimming pool equipment to ensure its functionality

  • Ensuring the equipment is available and placed properly in the pool area and recommending repair when needed

  • Developing water mobility and familiarization in people of all ages

  • Supervising sessions of group swimming and public swimming pools

  • Attending mandatory swimming organizations meetings and training sessions

  • Performing any other duties as assigned by the supervisors

How to become a swim instructor

To become a swim instructor, you are required to complete a program such as AUSTSWIM and attain licensing. The training will consist of 16-20 hours of an online component, supervised work experience and in-person training. You should be 16 years old or above, with outstanding swimming ability and a high level of physical fitness. Requirements for becoming a swim instructor include:

1. Earn a swim instruction certification

There are a lot of organizations helping swimmers gain certification to teach. One of them is the American Red Cross, which offers testing and swim instructor training. The certificate acquired depends on your ability as an individual and how you successfully pass the courses given. The American Red Cross also offers CPR classes to all swim instructor trainees.

American Red Cross Training

American Red Cross Training services help people to safely enjoy water activities in a wide range of ways with a focus on key areas such as:

  • Water safety at natural bodies, public pools, homes and more, including Chain of Drowning Survival and Circle of Drowning prevention

  • Hydrodynamics including laws of levers, why some things float, swimming efficiency and movement creation and resistance in the water

  • How to teach skills such as diving and its fundamentals, aquatic fitness, water rescue and stroke mechanics for competitive strokes, starts, headfirst entries and turns

The certifications offered are valid for life upon meeting the set requirements, such as:

  • Term and duration of training: The swim instructor should teach or co-teach a minimum of one course in a certification period which is two years.

  • Supplementary test: You should complete the assessment of recertification within 90 days before your certificate expires.

  • Course updates: The swim instructor is also required to complete updates periodically in case the course is revised.

Aquatic Teaching Foundation Unit

This is the basic swimming instructor training. The Aquatic Teaching Foundation Unit covers all the fundamentals of swimming safety. Any other training and certification above it are designed around your level of dedication and education.

2. Consider advanced Instruction

These certifications require from 16 to 36 hours of instruction. They empower the instructors to train both adults and kids.

  1. Gain experience as a swimming instructor

Once you complete your training and get your certifications, you should join a swimming organization to earn the required experience. You can volunteer in a swimming organization to improve your skills and advance your swim instructor skills for the future.

4. Consider an insurance policy

An instructor's and students' insurance policy is essential when offering private swim instructions. You should make your credentials and certifications available to students to build their trust in you.

Skills for a swim instructor

Below are the most important hard and soft skills required for a swim instructor.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Hard Skills

Hard skills include abilities that can be learned and are easy to quantify, such as:

  • Lifesaving: A lifeguard is a rescuer and a supervisor of safety for swimmers and other participants of water sports. Swim instructors are required to be skilled in lifeguard techniques, and sometimes they are even required to have a lifeguard certificate to practice. Lifeguard techniques help instructors reduce injuries or potential deaths in the swimming areas. Swim instructors also teach basic lifeguard techniques to their students.

  • Customer service: Customer service is the act of caring for customer's needs by delivering and offering high-quality service before, during and after their requirements are fulfilled. Swim instructors are required to be polite and professional during their day-to-day activities. Developing and maintaining a good relationship with your students could cultivate loyalty from the students and attract more others.

  • Safety procedures: A safety procedure is a well-structured method of performing a task to avoid injury or accident. When an activity such as swimming or diving is done in the wrong way, it can lead to serious injury or even drowning. Swim instructors are expected to have a good understanding of the safety procedures for performing all activities in the swimming area to avoid injuries.

  • Emergency response: This is the ability to immediately respond to an urgent and unexpected situation. There may arise an emergency in a swimming area where a student may drown, thus requiring immediate care. As a swim instructor, you are required to be skilled in first aid services to help contain injuries and prevent fatalities in an emergency. Also, driving skills, the ability to operate emergency alarms and the knowledge of safety protocols to follow in case of an emergency are essential.

  • Training packages: As a swim instructor, expect to have students of all ages, from children to adults coming for training. You need to teach them based on their age as some skills taught to adults cannot be done by a 2-year-old child. It's important to create a swimming curriculum appropriate for children, people with special needs and adults.

Soft Skills

Soft skills refer to the attributes of an individual which enhance their interaction with other people, such as:

  • **Communication:** Communication is the ability to share your ideas and feelings with others efficiently. A swim instructor position involves a lot of communication between you, the learners and the supervisors. You need excellent communication skills to pass on the instructions effectively. Efficient communication creates a friendly environment for learning. You also require non-verbal communication skills to write reports to supervisors on the progress of your learners.

  • Positive relationship: This is the ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with people. You need to be skilled in creating good relationships with your students and supervisors for efficiency and openness in the workplace. Interact with students playfully during lessons to make them feel free to inquire anything from you and trigger them to perform to their level best.

  • Patience: This is the ability to tolerate delay or suffering without getting upset. As a swim instructor, you meet many people with unique abilities. You are required to understand all students' abilities and have the patience to explain concepts in various for everyone to understand. You might even be required to work with each student individually to ensure no swimmer is excluded.

  • Positive attitude skills: Positive attitude is always being optimistic about yourself, interactions and situations. You are required to remain hopeful as the instructor for your students to understand and your methods to work. Controlling your language to motivate your clients and show them possibilities even in hard situations can promote better relationships.

Read More: 7 Tips for Improving Communication Skills

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Swim instructor salary

Most swim instructors work for education companies and non-profit organizations. Based on location, swim instructors in Maine, Vermont and Washington are the best paid. Swim instructors earn an average of $11.95 per hour, which translates to $24,852 per year.

Related: How much does a Swim Instructor make in the United States?

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