How Can I Become a Certified Lifeguard?

Explore the career requirements for lifeguards. Get the facts about education and training requirements, certification programs and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Community Health Education & Advocacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Lifeguard?

A lifeguard oversees indoor and outdoor pools in order to ensure the safety of all swimmers, as well as individuals on the pool deck. They may work at recreation centers, schools, hotels or any other establishment where there is a pool. They must be certified to administer first aid or CPR in the event of an emergency. In addition, lifeguards enforce pool rules and schedules, such as times and areas dedicated to swimming lessons or lap swimming. They may also monitor chemical levels in the pool.

The table below provides some basic information for the lifeguard profession.

Training Required Strong swimming skills, public health & safety classes, CPR training
Key Responsibilities Observe the swimming area, enforce rules, perform first-aid/lifesaving care
Certification Lifeguard certification
Job Growth (2014-24) 7%* (for lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers)
Average Salary (2015) $21,930* (for lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Work Would I Do as a Certified Lifeguard?

As a lifeguard, you ensure the safety of swimmers at a beach, pool or other type of swimming area. Much of the time, you are alert and scanning the water for safety concerns. You enforce pool rules to keep everyone safe and healthy. When a safety issue occurs, you use your training to deliver life-saving care to victims of drowning or other medical issues.

What Education Do I Need?

You will rarely need to meet academic requirements in order to secure a position as a lifeguard. According to O*NET OnLine, about 57% of lifeguards have less than a high school diploma (www.onetonline.org). You do need to be a strong swimmer, however, so joining a swim team or practicing on your own can help build your skills. In high school, taking classes in public health and safety could give you some knowledge about working with a set of rules and regulations that keep people safe. Receiving your CPR certification from a high school course could also give you a head start in lifeguard training.

How Do I Become Certified?

Certified lifeguards must undergo training sessions to learn the life-saving skills they may need to use on the job. In a lifeguard certification course, you learn CPR, rescue and surveillance techniques and the proper way to interact with people while on the job. Many of the training courses have physical prerequisites that test your swimming ability. In the U.S., multiple nationally recognized organizations offer lifeguard training and certification, including the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org), the American Lifeguard Association (www.americanlifeguard.com), the YMCA (www.ymca.net) and the Boys Scouts of America (www.scouting.org). Check with your local chapter of these organizations for information on specific classes.

What Is the Job Outlook for the Career?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 141,670 lifeguards, ski patrol professionals and other service workers were working in the United States in 2015. The employment for those individuals is predicted to grow about as fast as the average employment growth rate during the 2014-2024 decade, at 7%. You will find employment opportunities with local government agencies, amusement parks, recreation facilities and civic organizations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might also be interested in becoming a recreation worker. In this job, you could teach group classes in a wide variety of subjects, including swimming, at recreation centers, parks or aquatic centers. Most recreation workers have a high school diploma. You might also consider getting a job as an official for water sports like swimming, diving or water polo. Depending on the sport, you would be responsible for making calls, judging performance and/or ensuring that all competitors engage in safe and fair play. Most officials need to have a high school diploma, and some sports organizations require them to complete specific training programs.

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