How To Become A Lifeguard – The Requirements, Qualifications, and Process Details

Last Updated on September 15, 2021

Summer is here, and lifeguarding at a public pool, water park, or beach is an awesome summer job! We put together this guide to help you learn more about how to become a lifeguard. Read on to get started on your lifeguarding journey…

Lifeguarding is fulfilling and offers you valuable life skills you will use later in life. You will learn how to remain calm in medical emergencies, build your confidence, develop leadership skills, and work as a team with fellow lifeguards. Lifeguarding is a great summer experience for teenagers and young adults, offering you the opportunity to develop many new life skills. 

swimming pool safety

Where to Start and What You Need To Know

The process of becoming a lifeguard can appear to be overwhelming, but as long as you are prepared, know what to expect, and learn how to become a lifeguard, it should not be a complicated process

Essentially, the first step to becoming a lifeguard is to enroll in a certification course through an accredited lifeguard program. Local Red Cross, YMCA centers, and other private organizations offer lifeguard certification programs. 

Lifeguard training courses include a physical pre-test, which includes evaluating your ability to handle swimming long distances and treading water without using your arms. Once you have completed this pre-test, you will be approved to take the certification course, including classroom learning, hands-on activities and drills, an in-water test, and a written test. 

In addition to receiving a lifeguard certification, you must also pass certifications for CPR, first aid, and AED (automated external defibrillator) usage. Most lifeguard certification courses include these certifications. However, it may be necessary to seek these certifications on your own. 

Check out the list: that we have compiled of companies who are looking for lifeguards right NOW! Click Here

Basic Requirements & Qualifications to Become a Lifeguard?

Knowing the requirements and qualifications on how to become a lifeguard is just the beginning of your journey to obtaining your perfect summer job. Essentially, to become a lifeguard, you must be at least 15 years old and pass the swim test before signing up for a certification course. After you are a certified lifeguard, other requirements will depend greatly upon where you get a job and what their requirements are. 

swimming pool lifeguard

Requirements to Be a Lifeguard

General requirements to be a lifeguard include turning the age of 15 before the final day of class, passing the swim test, and completing the certification course. Requirements for passing the lifeguarding training course include: 

  • Swim 300 yards continuously 
  • Treading water without your hands for two minutes
  • Complete a timed mock rescue involving retrieving a 10-pound brick from the bottom of the pool and exiting the water with it
  • Complete CPR, first aid, and AED certifications
pool lifeguard with a swimming buoy

How to Become a Beach Lifeguard

Being a beach lifeguard requires additional safety training, skills, and abilities to ensure you are prepared to rescue in an ocean or lake. Though the requirements to become a beach lifeguard vary by employer and certification course, most require the following: 

  • Swim 550 yards in open waters in less than 10 minutes
  • Run one mile in less than 8 minutes and 30 seconds
  • Perfect open water swimmer surveillance techniques
  • Learn how to use equipment, such as paddle boards, masks, fins, snorkels, kayaks, and all-terrain vehicles
  • Understand open water conditions, such as rip tides and dangerous wildlife

The Duties of a Lifeguard

When you are learning how to become a lifeguard, you may also want to learn and understand the many duties you will be responsible for during your shift. As a lifeguard, your primary role is monitoring and supervising the people in and near the water. Your duties will vary depending on your location, but generally, most places require you to perform similar tasks. 

You will spend most of your day monitoring the area near the pool and reducing risks to everyone there. This includes asking for bathers to not run near the pool deck, stopping horseplay, and stopping any other type of misuse of the pool and equipment at the pool. You will use your whistle or megaphone to get the attention of swimmers in an attempt to get them to stop potentially dangerous behavior. 

During your time of playing hall monitor at the pool, you must also keep a keen eye out for emergencies. You must be able to quickly recognize and respond to any struggling swimmers. If there is an emergency, you will alert other members of your team who will come to help. If it is a true medical emergency, you will perform first aid, rescue breathing, CPR, or anything else to help the distressed person while waiting for emergency services to arrive.  

Being a lifeguard means you will have other duties to perform throughout the day. This means you will not be spending all eight hours of your shift poolside. Other responsibilities you may have to perform while working include: 

  • Cleaning bathrooms
  • Cleaning the deck and chairs
  • Picking up trash from the ground
  • Treating minor cuts and scrapes
  • Test the pool’s chemicals
  • Clean the pool
  • Clean up the facility at the end of the day
lifeguard doing first aid

The Different Types of Lifeguards and Certifications

Before deciding you want to become a lifeguard, you must first understand the different certifications available. The type of certification you receive depends upon where you want to work as a lifeguard and the facility’s requirements to be a lifeguard. The different kinds of lifeguard certifications include: 

  • Extreme shallow water lifeguard (3-feet or less)
  • Shallow water lifeguard (5-feet deep or less)
  • Deep water lifeguard (over 5 feet deep)
  • Waterfront lifeguarding (for beaches, lakes, and ponds)
  • Oceanfront (surf) lifeguarding

The certification program you sign up for will depend greatly upon where you want to work and the type of lifeguard you want to be. Organizations such as the American Red Cross, local YMCAs, Ellis and Associates, and International Surf Lifesaving Association offer different lifeguarding certification programs. 

How to Get Lifeguard Certified

There are several steps you will need to take to become a certified lifeguard. The first step is deciding which certification you want to receive. To know which training course you need, call the location where you want to apply for a job and ask about which certifications they accept. Once you know which certification program you want, you will call the training organization offering that program to schedule the swim test. Once you pass the swim test, you are ready to start the lifeguard certification course. 

pool lifeguard monitoring the swimming area

What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Lifeguard?

Being a lifeguard may seem like a glamorous job, and for the most part, it can feel that way. There are pros and cons with any job, and you must weigh those out to determine if lifeguarding is the best summer job for you. When learning how to become a lifeguard, take a moment to weigh the pros and cons. Here is a look at the benefits of becoming a lifeguard and some drawbacks. 

Benefits to Being a Lifeguard

Though not an easy job, there are several benefits to being a lifeguard:

  • The pay is good
  • It’s a casual environment
  • You can make great friends
  • You can take a break in the pool
  • You gain customer service experience
  • You learn how to remain calm in emergencies
  • You learn valuable life-saving skills
  • You spend your summer outside

Drawbacks to Being a Lifeguard

Though there are drawbacks, these cons associated with being a lifeguard are generally outweighed by the benefits. Some drawbacks include: 

  • It can get hot outside
  • You get yelled at by swimmers
  • You may feel like a babysitter
  • You have to clean the pool and area

How does lifeguard training work?

The process involved in getting lifeguard certified requires training, including classroom instruction, discussions, and hands-on skill scenarios. During your training, you will learn how to identify and prevent land-based emergencies and activate the emergency action plan for your facility. Additionally, you receive training on avoiding distractions and how to alert swimmers they are doing something wrong. 

Technical training to be a lifeguard includes:

  • Performing CPR
  • Using an AED
  • Handling the different pieces of lifesaving equipment
  • Providing first aid and emergency care

Lifeguard training teaches you how to recognize water emergencies and how to properly remove victims from the water. 

Passing the certification course requires you to demonstrate an understanding of all these skills. Your instructor may seem strict, but they are working to ensure you receive the best training possible to become a lifeguard. If you feel confused, do not be afraid to ask questions of your instructor and fellow students. 

lifeguard with a megaphone

What to Expect in Lifeguard Training

Lifeguard training can take you up to 30 hours to complete, and you must attend all classes and demonstrate you can perform the skills taught efficiently and without supervision. Some training courses allow you a few attempts to complete the scenarios, and the instructor will offer feedback after each one.

You must also pass the written test before being issued your lifeguard certification. Some courses take the test in sections, while others give the entire test on the last day of the course. 

Where to Find Lifeguarding Classes and Training Programs

There are many nationally recognized lifeguard certification programs available. The best place to start when searching for lifeguard classes and programs is to call your local Red Cross or YMCA for courses. Other nationally recognized programs are available through Starfish Aquatics Institute, StarGuard, Ellis and Associates, International Surf Lifesaving Association, and NASCO

Contact the facility you plan to apply to and inquire about which lifeguard certifications they accept. Once you have that information, you know which company to go through for your training. 

Where to Find Lifeguarding Jobs

Check out the list: that we have compiled of companies who are looking for lifeguards right NOW! Click Here

Now that you are lifeguard certified (the most challenging part of the process), it is time to start looking for a job. Remember, just because you are certified does not guarantee you a job. In addition to your lifeguarding courses, it is a good idea to brush up and practice your job interviewing skills. Many locations hire lifeguards, and some of those locations include: 

  • City and county parks and recreation departments
  • Municipal and private community pools
  • Hotels and resorts
  • Recreation areas where there are bodies of water
  • Beaches and state parks, where there are lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceanfront access
  • Private communities, such as homeowners and condo associations
  • Theme parks and water parks
  • Country clubs and private clubs
  • Wet decks
  • Private parties, such as those at private homes with little kids
  • Marinas
  • YMCAs
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Cruise ships

One thing to keep in mind when deciding to become a lifeguard for the summer is that some companies and recreation departments offer lifeguard training to those who pass the swim test during the interview process. When wanting to work for a specific company or a parks and recreation department, call and ask if they provide training or if certification is needed before applying. Also, as there are many lifeguard certification companies available, ask which lifeguard certifications they accept. 

Why Lifeguarding is a Great Summer Job

Lifeguarding is the perfect summer job because you can spend your summer working outdoors, making new friends, and earning money. Though sometimes the job may seem complicated, you are sitting in a chair observing the pool most of the time. This means you get paid to suntan and get plenty of fresh air. 

Being a lifeguard may seem like the perfect summer job, but it is not the best option for some. Learn as much as you can about becoming a lifeguard, including the duties you will perform and how to get lifeguard certified before looking for a lifeguarding job. Though it may not be the perfect job for everyone, being a lifeguard can be an enriching experience as it helps you make money and learn essential life skills for future employment. 

swimming pool lifeguard at her post

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming A Lifeguard

How much does it cost to become a lifeguard?

The cost of lifeguarding certification courses depends significantly upon the organization you sign up with. On average, the classes will cost between $100 and $300 but could be more or less depending upon the organization and location. 

How long does it take to become a lifeguard?

Lifeguard certification courses take between 25 and 30 hours to complete all sections of the required training. Depending upon the organization’s training program, your course can be completed in a single week or taken over several weeks. 

How many hours do lifeguards work a day?

Lifeguards can work up to eight hours a day. Those under the age of 18 during the summer can work up to 40 hours; however, you will be restricted to only working 18 hours a week if it is during the school year.

How many laps is a 300-yard swim?

The number of laps depends significantly on the length of the pool. In a 25-yard pool, 300 yards would be six laps (back and forth), and in a 50-yard pool, it would be three laps. 

Is the lifeguard swim test hard?

As long as you are prepared and know what to expect, the swim test is not very difficult. If you are concerned about the difficulty, start practicing now to build up your swimming endurance. You can also do some weight training, running, and other activities to improve your strength and cardio.

How to become a lifeguard at the beach?

If you want to be a lifeguard lakeside, you must know how to become a beach lifeguard. Essentially it is similar to becoming a pool lifeguard, but you may also be required to swim additional lengths and perform more intensive lifesaving skills. Depending on the location, you may also need to be 18 years of age, have a high school degree or GED, and have basic EMT training. Previous lifeguarding experience may also be required.

Do I need to get my own certification? 

In most cases, you will need to get your own lifeguard certification. However, some companies will train you once you have passed the swim test and are hired. This is not common, but you should call the location you are looking to apply at and ask about their certification requirements before signing up for a course on your own.  

When do I need to get re-certified? 

Most lifeguard certification programs require recertification annually. To verify, check with the organization you are taking the certification course through. 

Do I need certification before interviewing to be a lifeguard?

In most cases, you do not need to be lifeguard certified before going on a job interview. However, when scheduling the interview, ask which certifications they accept and start looking for local courses to take.

Does lifeguard training include CPR Certification? 

To become a lifeguard, you must have current CPR, First Aid, and AED certification. Most lifeguard certification programs include these in their training, but not all do. If these certifications are not included, you will be responsible for obtaining them on your own before getting a job as a lifeguard.

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