Lifeguards and Swimming Instructors


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Most facilities require their lifeguards and instructors to have a high school diploma, or a GED equivalent. High school classes in physical education (especially swimming) and health will be helpful for this career.

Postsecondary Training

If you aspire to hold a pool or beach management position, such as pool manager or instructor supervisor or use your swimming training in a related career, then it would be wise to work toward a college degree. Consider degrees in health, recreation, physical education, or business.

Other Education or Training

The Red Cross provides a variety of training courses on first aid, CPR, and lifeguarding. The United States Lifesaving Association offers educational seminars at its annual conference. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All lifeguards and instructors must be certified to work. Depending on their skill level, lifeguards must pass a training program, from basic lifeguard training to head lifeguard to aquatic professional. The basic lifeguard course lasts approximately six days and tests swimming skills. You will need to be able to swim 500 yards (no time frame) and tread water for one minute—as well as demonstrate your physical endurance, professionalism, and skills in using lifesaving equipment and techniques, CPR, and first aid. Head lifeguard courses teach advanced techniques in injury prevention, selection and training of guards, team building, and emergency response planning. To successfully complete the program, guards must attend and participate in the course, pass a written test, and demonstrate their guarding skills in the pool.

Instructors also must obtain certification to prove their teaching and swimming skills. The American Red Cross offers the designation water safety instructor to individuals 16 years of age or older. To earn this designation, candidates must attend and participate in the course, pass a written test, and prove their skills in techniques such as shallow and deep-water diving, rescue and lifesaving techniques, and demonstrate ability in all swimming strokes.

Special Requirements

Lifeguards must pass physical tests of swimming speed and ability, involving retrieving items from deep water, carrying swimmers to shore or a pool deck, and swimming distances within a set time. They must also be at least age 16.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Lifeguards must be excellent swimmers and have experience as junior lifeguards. Swimming instructors must, of course, be strong swimmers, but also have previous teaching experience.

You should be in excellent physical condition, trustworthy, and able to exercise good judgment in serious situations. These jobs come with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Lifeguards are relied upon to keep water patrons safe and maintain order at their facility. Instructors are trusted with groups of small children who are not yet skilled at swimming.