Do you have what it takes to become a Certified Lifeguard and to take on the challenges that come with the job? Lifeguarding, whether it be working at a Water Park, Pool, Lake or Beach can be quite demanding. Training starts long before the season starts and continues regularly. Most Lifeguards are strong swimmers with a desire to help people. How Do you Become a Certified Lifeguard?
1. Decide on the type of Certification
- Professional Lifeguard Certification-Pools
- Shallow Water Attendant-Water Parks
- Waterfront-Ponds & Lakes/Surf Lifeguarding for Beach (Hardest)
2. Enroll in a Course
3. Pass Exam that includes:
- Basic Lifeguard Training
- CPR/AED for Professional Rescuer/First Aid
Whether it working at Public Park Pool or the Jersey Beach during summer vacation, there is no lack of job openings for this field of work. The age requirement can be as young as 15 depending on the State and if you got what it takes, you could have a rewarding career.
Lifeguard Job Responsibilities
As a Professional Lifeguard, your primary responsibilities are to prevent drownings and injuries at your aquatic facility. This is achieved through expert and ongoing training that is available in your area. Including:
- Monitoring activities near and in the water by the use of surveillance
- Preventing injuries by minimizing or eliminating
hazardous situations or behaviors.
- Enforcing facility rules and regulations and
educating patrons on what they are and how to use them.
- Recognizing and responding as a first responder
to all emergencies.
- Administering first aid and CPR, including
using a piece of safety equipment like a defibrillator
(AED) and, if trained, administering emergency
oxygen when needed.
- Working as a team with other lifeguards, in the facility with
staff and management who work there
Secondary Responsibilities of a Lifeguard
A Lifeguard is multi-dimensional and should be able to perform numerous tasks at the aquatic facility that he/she is employed at. The two Primary responsibility which is the most important Surveillance is the most important for the safety and health of people is paramount. Some examples of these Secondary responsibilities are:
- Testing the pool water chemistry. Pools can be closed down if the water chemistry is not right.
- Assist patrons by performing safety
orientations, administering swim tests, fitting
life jackets, and other duties.
- Cleaning the aquatic facility or performing some daily maintenance.
- Completing records and reports for inventory (chemicals or equipment)
- Performing opening duties, closing duties, or
facility safety checks and inspections. Some Park pools charge money that needs to be deposited to the bank at the end or beginning of the day.
How to be a Good Lifeguard
A professional Lifeguard must be physically, mentally, and emotionally at all times to perform their job and handle their responsibilities. These leadership qualities extend to showing a safe environment and one that is under control. They must present themselves as Positive Knowledgable and skilled in their job performance and duties. They need to be mature and reliable so there is trust between themselves and the people they in charge of protecting. Enforcing rules while being polite at the same time.
Once you pass your examination and qualify for a job as a Certified Lifeguard it’s important to:
- Stay healthy & fit
- Arrive to work on time and present yourself as a professional
- Eat and hydrate properly
- Protect yourself from sun exposure
- Always be attentive on duty
- Keep interactions with people brief
- Keep up to date with renewal licenses and exams
- Professional Lifeguard Training and Testing can be found here through the Red Cross
Before enrolling in a course try and Decide What kind of Lifeguard you want to be.
Lifeguard Certification Requirements
Decide what Certification you Want
- Professional Lifeguard Certification the most common type of certification, where you can work at pools at Parks and Hotels
- Waterfront Lifeguarding – This allows you to work on open-water areas like lakes and ponds. This does not include surf areas like the ocean. Waterpark Lifeguarding – This allows you to work at waterparks.
- Shallow Water Attendant – This allows you to work in areas where the water does not exceed four feet deep, such as kiddie pools.The kind you see at the Indoor Parks around the Country.
- Surf Lifeguarding – The most rigorous kind of lifeguarding, if you can pass this test, you can pass all the others! This certifies you to work on beachfront with surf, like the ocean. The real deal has plenty of action and danger.
Enroll in a Certification Course
After you pick a type of Lifeguard Certification then seek and enroll in a Certification Course. The American Red Cross is the most familiar one along with Ellis and Associates mentioned here in this article that has been around for years. The American Red Cross Certification is good for 2 years while the others are only good for 1 before they expire.
Depending on where you get certified and from what company, the course length can vary. As a general rule, the courses are between 15 and 30 hours. Some courses are even online! The cost of the courses can vary as well, but you’re looking at between $100 and $300 dollars.
To be certified and ready to work, you must pass three tests:
- Basic Lifeguard Training
- CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer
- First Aid- Most courses will include all three certifications as part of their test, but if not, you must get the certifications elsewhere.
Pass the Certification Exam
At the end of your certification course, you will be required to pass an exam. This exam includes a swim portion in addition to the CPR/AED test and the First Aid test. But do not be afraid! The swim test is very straightforward, and with a little practice, you’ll have no trouble passing. At the end of your certification course, you will be required to pass an exam.
This exam includes a Swim portion in addition to the CPR/AED test and the First Aid test. But do not be afraid! The swim test is very straightforward, and with a little practice, you’ll have no trouble passing.
You must also be able to complete the brick test, or submerged object retrieval test, which consists of the following: Start in the water without goggles. Swim for about 20 yards to where a 10-pound brick or some other weight has been deposited. Surface dive to retrieve the brick. Swim back to where you began, keeping the weight above water. Exit the pool without using the steps or ladder. Lastly, you must be able to tread water for 2 minutes.
You must be able to swim a total of 550 yards without stopping according to the following guide:
- Freestyle (or front crawl) for 200 yards.
- Breaststroke for 200 yards. Either Freestyle or
- Breaststroke for 150 yards.
In a pre-test for becoming a Certified Lifeguard, Course Instructors look for how people in the class are able to move through the water. This important to ensure the overall safety of the class. The students need to have some qualifying performance level to be able to keep up with the rest of the class and its class and the curriculum The students that can’t handle this requirement are taken out of the class. This video explains the process of the Lifeguard Pre-Test
Instructors look for people that demonstrate that they can a natural ability to move through the water. You need to have a rhythm movement swimming and be comfortable with your face in the water breathing from the side.
Pool conditions do not differ markedly. But surf conditions are variable depending on the beach, the state of the sandbank, and the waves.
- First, the prerequisite test is swimming a 300yd or meter swim (6 laps).
- The second is to swim about 20 yds to retrieve a 10lb brick from deep water and swim to the start place with both hands on the brick in under 1:40.
- Lastly for the test, you have to tread water with your legs for 2 minutes.
- As for the rest of the course, you may have some classroom training that goes over all the things that a lifeguard is and how a lifeguard does what they do.
- You will have to practice rescues and learn CPR/AED.
To start out there is a “weeding out” pre-screening process that will help instructors to determine what people don’t belong in the program right before the start of the training. The location of the training for the Lifeguard Certification Programs has a lot to do with what the requirements are demanded from trainees.
Consult and contact the necessary agencies in your area for their requirements which might be different than other localities close by. According to age or the cost, each program will differ. You will need to bring proof of your age to the training, “which can be a driver’s license, state identification, birth certificate, or passport.”
National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ)
You can gain certification through:
- The YMCA
- The Red Cross
- The United States Lifesaving Association
- The Jeff Ellis Association
The testing for the Lifeguard Certification Exam called the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ). is meant to be difficult and is a serious test that produces professional specialist at the end of the training. You’ll find it’s devised into three sections: First Aid training, a pool test, and a verbal test. All three assess different skills and test the potential lifeguard in their physical and mental capabilities.
You need to be physically fit and a strong swimmer. Yes and no. It depends on a lot of things. The instructor teaching the course and your swim ability. If you can not swim nor tread for like 10 minutes no problem you are going to have a problem.
To prepare for the exam there are many courses you can take to ready yourself. Some are 5-day classes or made up of 1 class per/week for 5 weeks ending with the Certification Examination along with some schools offering a job opportunity after you graduate. The course work in content is very similar in the United States preparing for jobs anywhere around the Country.
Pool conditions do not differ markedly. But surf conditions are variable depending on the beach, the state of the sandbank, and the waves. More victims are recorded in Beach Lifeguarding than Pool/Lake Lifeguarding. The job is more stressful and there is less downtime.
Learning about Lifeguard equipment and how it’s used is another vital instruction that can come in handy before your next renewal test Rescue Tubes like Lifeguard Master Rescue Tube – 50 INCH – w/Guard Letters & Strap sold on Amazon through MyWaterEarth&Sky. The rescue tube is used at pools, watermarks, and most non-surf waterfronts. It is a 45- to 54-inch vinyl, foam-filled tube with an attached tow-line and shoulder strap. A rescue tube is capable of keeping multiple victims afloat. When performing patron surveillance, always keep the rescue tube ready to use immediately.
- Keep the strap of the rescue tube over the shoulder and neck.
- Hold the rescue tube across your thighs when sitting in a lifeguard chair or across your stomach when standing. You get these on Amazon that is very useful even at private pools Kemp EMS Fluid Resistant Backpack
- Hold or gather the excess line to keep it from getting caught in the chair or other equipment when you
move or start a rescue.
Skills of a Lifeguard
Pool conditions do not differ markedly. But surf conditions are variable depending on the beach, the state of the sandbank, and the waves. The two jobs are actually very different, despite both being considered lifeguarding. In general, beachfront is the more rigorous of the two, but there are many other differences as well. rescuing victims that are drowning is difficult enough without having crash waves to deal with changing currents, and riptides. The fact is the Skills of a Lifeguard are varied and knowledgable. A highly important tool used by Beach Lifeguards is called Aquamentor Inflatable Lifeguard Rescue/Paddleboard like this Board kept at the Lifeguard Shack.
A positive in the situation is the fact that Lifeguards on Beaches are rarely alone and work in groups. While the danger of working alone at a pool or a lake is dangerous by itself the area is smaller and there are fewer people that can be potential victims. They both have pros and cons but the result is the same. There is a chance someone could drown. Beachfront Lifeguards need to receive extra training.
When you get a beachfront lifeguarding job, you are expected to participate in extra training to ensure you remain at the top of your game. While the certification is enough for pools and lakes, beachfront lifeguards often must receive additional training while on the job. They are often expected to:
- Practice Rescue Techniques
- Review First Aid and CPR training in addition to more severe injuries such as spinal damage.
- Practice patron surveillance techniques.
- Practice using ocean lifeguarding equipment such as all-terrain vehicles, rescue boards, buoys, kayaks, paddleboards, masks, fins, snorkels, etc. Ensure knowledge of unsafe water conditions such as rip tides and dangerous wildlife is up to date.
In general, the Certification for Beachfront Lifeguarding is harder and more strenuous than the Certification for Lake/Pool.
- You must be able to swim 300 yards without stopping according to the following guide:
- Freestyle (or front crawl) for 100 yards
- Breaststroke for 100 yards.
- Either Freestyle or Breaststroke for 100 yards.
- You must also be able to complete the Brick test, or submerged object retrieval test, which consists of the following:
- Start in the water without goggles.
- Swim for about 20 yards to where a 10-pound brick or some other weight has been deposited.
- Surface dive to retrieve the brick. Swim back to where you began, keeping the weight above water.
- Exit the pool without using the steps or ladder.
- Lastly, you must be able to tread water for 2 minutes. To be certified in beachfront lifeguarding:
- Lastly, you will have to perform a timed short-distance and long-distance run on land.
- The short-distance run is likely around a quarter-mile and the long-distance run could be a full mile.
The Brick Test
According to the American Red Cross Lifeguarding Manual–Being, a lifeguard carries a significant professional responsibility, but lifeguarding also offers opportunities for personal growth. Experience as a lifeguard can help one develop professional and leadership skills that will last a lifetime—through college, career, and family.
There are a half-million American Red Cross-trained lifeguards working at swimming pools, waterparks, and waterfronts across our country. Every day on the job, these lifeguards are part of a critical force for good—ensuring the safety of patrons and protecting lives.
As you can see being a Certified Lifeguard is not the gravy job that anyone can do. It’s constant instruction physically and mentally on an important job of saving people’s lives that holds a lot of responsibilities that come with it. Did I mention the lifeguard refresher course!!
This field of Study and Certification is based on decades of real-life professional rescue experience and updated frequently to better promote national public safety
SwimOutlet article How to Become a Lifeguard