How to Become a Lifeguard
When people envision lifeguards, they may picture a bored teen in a chair at a pool, or the bouncing… er, hair… of the babes in the beach-rescue show of their choice. However, lifeguarding is a serious business that requires training and dedication as well as the right personality to respond well in a crisis.
What will I do in my day-to-day job as a lifeguard?
Most facilities are small enough that they don’t have dedicated lifeguards whose job it is to guard the pool or amusement park rides all day, every day. Chances are, you’ll also be helping customers, manning the till, wiping up watery floors, taking out the trash or cleaning the bathrooms. Most places that hire a lifeguard are physically large spaces with a limited profit margin, meaning that their handful of employees will have to wear a lot of hats.
When you are on the clock, it is your job to constantly scan the area, spotting those in trouble quickly and sometimes intervening before real issues occur. Most days will be without incident, and you’ll have the privilege of being out in the sun surrounded by (mostly) happy people having a nice time. Once in a great while, though, you could help someone who is injured, or even save their lives.
How much can I earn as a lifeguard?
According to Glassdoor, most per-hour lifeguarding positions make $8 – $11.50 per hour. If you land a position at a wealthier theme park, or end up as both a lifeguard and a manager, you could make as much as $22 an hour.
There are full-time lifeguarding positions as well, if you choose to make a career of it! These are mid-range salaries for the most part, but in the San Fransisco Bay area, it can be quite lucrative.
What training do I need to become a lifeguard?
The American Red Cross, American Pool, the American Lifeguard Association, the YMCA, and many other organizations offer training programs to become a lifeguard. You may be surprised to know that there’s more than one program – because there’s more than one type of way that we chill out around and in water, and each presents its own unique challenges.
The American Red Cross, for example, offers two main courses - Lifeguarding, and Shallow Water Lifeguarding - as well as optional add-on modules like waterfront and waterpark skills. Your training will include not just rescue techniques, but injury assessment, first aid like CPR, and care for head, neck, and spinal injury.
You must be at least fifteen to apply for lifeguard training, and you must already possess certain rudimentary swimming skills. Before you can start the test, you will have to prove that you are able to swim, and that you have a strong enough ‘kick’ to be holding someone in your arms while swimming to safety.
A course takes about twenty-four hours total to complete. Then, you must pass a test to prove that you are worthy of the whistle!
Keep in mind that those who complete the course are not guaranteed a job. If you feel the course is going well, you might want to send out resumes or start beating the streets before you’re all the way through the coursework, so that you get a head start.
The Bottom Line
Lifeguarding can be a great way to earn some extra cash this summer and put an impressive bullet point on your resume, but it does require some initial investment to take a class, and a responsible, alert person to cash in. Who knows – you could fall in love with the job and choose to make it your career!