Safety Instructor Certification and Certificate Program Summaries

Oct 20, 2019

Essential Information

The American Red Cross offers water safety instructor certification courses at many locations across the country. Students will have opportunities to learn basic water safety, as well as techniques for teaching diverse populations to swim. Courses last 1-3 days. The certification program includes a 1-day class on the fundamentals of being an American Red Cross instructor. This is followed by a 2-day course focusing on water safety. Applicants must be 16 years of age and be a reasonably skilled swimmer. The Red Cross is the only organization in the United States to provide this certification.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and state departments of natural resources are some organizations offering the same for firearm safety instruction. Classes will emphasize rifle, range and home gun safety. For admission, individuals must first complete a firearms safety course either online or in-person.

In both cases, students who go on to pursue certification must display knowledge of the subject at hand by passing a competency examination.

Water Safety Instructor Certification Programs

The American Red Cross water safety instructor program prepares students to teach others to become swimming instructors and water safety experts. There are many different aspects of water safety instruction that are covered in these classes, including:

  • Teaching to diverse populations
  • Preschool swimming
  • Teaching and evaluating child and parent aquatics
  • Basic water safety
  • American Red Cross policies and procedures

Firearms Safety Instructor Certification Programs

Firearms safety instructor certification programs train individuals to teach others about firearm safety techniques for a wide variety of guns. Certification methods vary depending on the program. State sponsored programs are sometimes more focused on general safety and hunting safety, while the NRA's programs are more grounded in personal firearm safety and use.

Although the primary focus of the coursework varies a bit from program to program, there is a lot of overlap. Besides learning about instruction methods, firearms safety instructor classes often include course topics related to teaching:

  • Handgun orientation
  • Rifles and shotgun safety
  • Home gun safety
  • Range safety
  • Hunter education

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places water safety instructors in the category for lifeguards, ski patrol and other recreational protective service workers, and it expects 7% growth in the field from 2018-2028. Self-enrichment education teachers in general can expect a much faster-than-average job growth of 12% the same decade. reported that water safety instructors certified by the American Red Cross earned $40,000 per year as of September 2019. Self-enrichment teachers earned a median salary of $38,720 in May 2018, reported the BLS.

Continuing Education

After completing all of the courses in a water safety instructor program, successfully performing the required skills and passing the final exam, individuals receive certification as an American Red Cross water safety instructor. Certified instructors are eligible to teach learn-to-swim, parent and child lessons and basic water rescue classes. They may also give water safety presentations to schools and other organizations. Individuals interested in water safety instruction may also take classes to receive certification as lifeguard instructors, swimming coaches or water fitness instructors.

Specific certification requirements for firearms safety instructors vary by state, but typically require students to complete firearms safety instructor coursework, demonstrate required skills and complete a final exam. Individuals may choose to teach general firearms safety, firearms safety for youth or work in specific areas like bowhunting, large game hunting or small game hunting safety.

Instructor training programs in water and firearms safety enable graduates to educate others on the respective topics. Programs are offered by the American Red Cross and the National Rifle Association.

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