Lifeguards and Swimming Instructors


Exploring this Job

Do you want to test the waters now? If you are interested in lifeguarding, the United States Lifesaving Association offers junior lifeguard programs to students ages nine to 17. Participants learn water and beach safety and first-aid techniques, as well as build self-confidence in the water.

Another way to explore these careers is by talking to lifeguards and instructors at your local pool or beach. Ask them how they got their jobs and learned their swimming and guarding techniques. They may recommend certain programs for you to explore further. Finally, you can learn more about the work of lifeguards by reading American Lifeguard Magazine (

The Job

Lifeguards patrol beaches, lakes, swimming pools, and other water areas, to ensure safety of the patrons and management of the facility. They monitor water activities to make sure all swimmers are safe. If swimmers go too far from shore or leave the designated swimming zone, the lifeguard is responsible for signaling the swimmer back to safer waters. In some cases, the lifeguard must physically bring the swimmer back. They also watch for any roughhousing in the water, as this may cause potential danger and injury. Lifeguards who are posted at lakes and ocean beaches must be on the watch for strong currents, changing weather conditions, and dangerous animals, such as jellyfish or sharks.

Lifeguards also enforce local laws or facility regulations. They must notify patrons if they are breaking beach rules such as drinking alcoholic beverages, using glass containers, swimming with pets, or driving motorized vehicles. Swimming pools usually ban similar items; some pools also enforce certain time periods based on age.

Lifeguards keep watch from tower stations, or elevated chairs. The height is advantageous because it allows the lifeguard clear visibility of the facility, as well as keeping the station in the public's view. Whistles, mega-phones, and binoculars are helpful tools for maintaining order. Lifeguards also use equipment, such as floatation devices, ropes, poles, and small boats, during rescue attempts. Lifeguards must be well versed in CPR and other first-aid techniques—such knowledge may mean the difference between life and death with drowning victims. They not only need to be strong swimmers, but they must be levelheaded, calm, and ready to react in emergency situations.

Many lifeguards also work as swimming instructors. Instructors are hired by public pools, private swim clubs, and schools to teach proper swimming techniques. Generally teaching children or young adults, instructors show students how to swim using different strokes and breathing techniques. They also may teach students how to rescue or resuscitate swimmers during emergencies.