How Do You Become A Lifeguard?

How Do You Become A Lifeguard

For most people, spending a day in the water during the summer is something they look forward to. Whether you’re at a beach or a pool, though, there’s always a lifeguard there making sure all of the swimmers stay safe. Read on to learn how one becomes a lifeguard and the differences between the lifeguard at your local pool and the one at the beach.

Responsibilities of Beach Lifeguards

Although it may look as though they spend most of their time sitting under an umbrella, beach lifeguards have many important responsibilities. In order to become a lifeguard, one should be familiar with the tasks that they may have to complete every day.

Take Santa Cruz, California, for example. These are some of the duties that lifeguards in this popular surfing city can expect to have:

  • Guards a designated section of the beach from a tower
  • Protects the public and warns them of any hazardous conditions
  • Rescues any beachgoers in distress
  • Renders emergency medical aid, including CPR
  • Removes hazardous objects from the sand and water
  • Takes charge of lost children
  • If needed, teaches, educates and coaches children ages 6-17 in ocean awareness and aquatic safety as part of the Junior Lifeguard program

Of course, lifeguards aren’t going to have to perform every single one of these tasks each day, but it goes to show that lifeguarding is a multifaceted job.

Responsibilities of Pool Lifeguards

Just as important as the ones out on the beach, pool lifeguards also have plenty of duties. Some of these responsibilities are similar to beach lifeguards, while others are quite a bit different.

Here’s a list of the duties that your average pool lifeguard is tasked with:

  • Monitors activities in and near water
  • Prevents injuries by limiting or eliminating hazardous situations or behaviors
  • Enforces facility rules and regulations and educates patrons about them
  • Recognizes and responds quickly and effectively to all emergencies
  • Administers first aid and CPR, including using an automated external defibrillator
  • Works as a team with other lifeguards, facility staff & management
  • Maintains logs and records of activities
  • Maintains pool and restroom areas in a safe and clean condition
  • Assists and aids in swim lesson programs

As you can see, there is some overlap between the roles of a beach lifeguard and a pool lifeguard. Pool lifeguards are usually tasked with more jobs because they work in a less dangerous and smaller area than beach lifeguards.

Qualifications for Beach Lifeguards

Think you can handle all the tasks that beach lifeguards have to perform? Great! Now, let’s take a look at the qualifications necessary to become one.

Generally, lifeguards must:

  • Be 16 years of age
  • Have good vision
  • Possess the ability to swim 1,000 meters in the ocean at all times
  • Be able to pass a physician's medical exam certifying fitness for the position

In addition, lifeguards must have CPR, First Aid, and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) certification. AEDs are for use in emergency situations where someone is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Applicants qualified as EMTs are also sought after, but it's not a requirement.

In terms of training, those looking for a lifeguard position are expected to complete a mandatory Lifeguard Training course. The course is usually 50+ hours in total. Applicants can also expect to have their swimming skills tested. A common test is having to swim 1000m within 20 minutes. An interview will typically follow the physical test.

Qualifications for Pool Lifeguards

The application process and qualifications necessary to become a pool lifeguard are very similar to those for beach lifeguards. Applicants must be at least 16 years old by the time classes end, be physically sound, and possess good vision.

The only major difference between pool lifeguards and beach lifeguards is the distance in swimming required. Pool lifeguards are expected to be able to swim across the water for up to 300 yards and underwater for 15 yards. This is due to the fact that pool lifeguards don’t have to guard a long stretch of water like beach lifeguards have to. A swim test will determine whether or not an applicant meets the swimming requirements.

After the swim test is the certification class. By the end of the class (so long as one passes), the prospective lifeguard will be certified in lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR, and AED.


Most local pools or parks will offer lifeguarding classes to those interested. Be aware, however, that these classes are typically not free. Cities charge fees to participate in these classes, but residents of the city can usually pay less than those that don’t live in the city. The cost of classes is typically around $100 in total.

Another alternative is the American Red Cross. While mostly known for its humanitarian work overseas, the American Red Cross also provides lifeguarding classes for those interested in the position. They provide online and in-person options for certification.