How to Become a Certified Lifeguard: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified lifeguard. Research the education, career requirements, job duties, and experience needed for starting a career in lifesaving. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Certified Lifeguard?

Lifeguards supervise activities at pools, beaches, and water parks to ensure that swimmers are safe. They protect swimmers and beach-goers from dangerous water conditions, instruct them to follow swimming rules, and perform life-saving techniques when necessary. When lifeguards work outside, they are exposed to various types of weather. This work is physically demanding, depending on the situations that occur during a work shift.

Many lifeguards have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Certification programs are available to verify that prospective lifeguards are strong swimmers, as well as trained in CPR and first aid. In January 2016, reported a median annual income for lifeguards of $25,025.

Career Requirements

Training Lifeguard training program; first-aid training
Certification Lifeguard, CPR, first aid, and automated external defibrillator (AED) certifications typically required
Experience Some experience is necessary
Key Skills Excellent swimmer; make good decisions; focused attention to surroundings and swimmers; know how to use AED or hard paddles, life rings, and first aid kits
Salary $25,025 (2016 median salary)

Sources: O*Net Online, job postings (September 2012),

To be a certified lifeguard, you'll need to complete a lifeguard training program and first-aid training. You'll also need lifeguard, CPR, first aid and automated external defibrillator (AED) certifications. Some experience is necessary. You'll also need to be an excellent swimmer, make good decisions, have the ability to focus your attention to surroundings and swimmers, and know how to use AED or hard paddles, life rings and first aid kits.

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Steps to Become a Certified Lifeguard

Let's find out what steps have to be taken to become a certified lifeguard.

Step 1: Learn to Swim

Swimming is an essential part of being a lifeguard, and taking lessons is one way for you to become comfortable in the water. As you progress in your swim lessons, you'll learn about the different swimming strokes, breathing techniques, and water safety. Swimming lessons are available for children of all ages.

Join a Swim Team

Participating on a swim enables you to improve your swimming ability. Working as a lifeguard demands physical and psychological stamina, and swimming in races prepares future lifeguards for stressful situations.

Step 2: Enroll in Lifeguard Certification Training

Lifeguard certification training is available through numerous organizations and government agencies. While specific requirements vary by program, training generally covers lifeguard techniques, CPR, AED, first aid and responding to aquatic emergencies. Swimmers who go through the certification process are taught how to recognize emergency situations, prevent drowning situations and treat injuries.

At the culmination of a certification class, participants must pass a written test as well as rigorous physical exams. This includes performing CPR, retrieving bricks from the bottom of a pool, and responding to a simulated emergency. Some lifeguard certification programs, like the one offered by the American Red Cross, offer first aid and CPR/AED certification.

Get in Shape

Lifeguard training is intense, and it's important that candidates seeking certification are in shape before and during training. Certifying organizations sometimes recommend that prospective lifeguards get medical clearance before enrolling in a certification program.

Step 3: Employment and Career Advancement

Once certified, a prospective lifeguard can find employment opportunities at community pools, local parks, or recreation departments. Job duties depend on the particular environment in which a lifeguard works, but they typically include overseeing swimmers, watching for signs of danger, enforcing adherence to rules, and administering first aid. As part the job, lifeguards log incidents and write reports. A lifeguard needs certification for continued employment. Recertification keeps a lifeguard up-to-date regarding lifesaving practices. The requirements for recertification vary depending on the organization.

To become a certified lifeguard, you'll need to know how to swim and pass a lifeguard training program, including earning any required certifications.

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