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How do I Become a Lifeguard?

By Ken Black
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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While it may seem some of the requirements to become a lifeguard are needless and burdensome, the job is a very serious one. Even though many in high school and college cannot think of a better way to spend the summer than hanging out at a pool, lake or ocean, the job has very serious responsibilities. Often, the steps needed involve rescue work, first aid, along with swimming skills.

The first and often the easiest part of the tasks required to become a lifeguard is that of getting certified in first aid and CPR. While most lifeguards may never need to use CPR and that certainly is a worst-case scenario, there could be a few times when it is needed. First aid is certainly a more commonly used skill and anyone wanting to become a lifeguard should understand the basics. Pools and other recreational areas are common places to get lacerations and other injuries.

Once the CPR and first aid classes are out of the way, more specific lifeguarding skills can be worked on. The next step may involve lifeguard classes by the employer a prospective guard wants to work for. This may vary from employer to employer. For example, there may be specific procedures at a municipal pool that are different from the procedures in place at a private water park. Therefore, lifeguard classes, or some sort of lifeguard training, is needed. Further the skills needed to become a pool lifeguard versus those needed to become a beach lifeguard may be somewhat different.

A water skills test, which is used to judge the strength of the swimmer, will likely be required either before or after such classes. In some cases, the test may given to those who want to become a lifeguard before the classes begin. Then, if it is failed, the skills needed can be worked on and the test tried again at the end of the class. Failing it again often means the person will not be eligible for lifeguard jobs, at least with that employer, for a certain period of time.

The water test is often the most difficult part of the requirements that must be met in order to become a lifeguard. This test requires the user to swim a certain number of laps and perform a mock rescue. In the case of the rescue, the event will often be timed and may include a person who is instructed to struggle, much like a person experiencing true panic may react in the water. This often requires very good swimming skills.

It is also important to note that some jurisdictions may require special certifications, sometimes those from the Red Cross or other such group, in order to become a lifeguard. If these are achieved, they may be accepted at virtually any facility as a good standard. Therefore, other classes or tests may not be needed. This can significantly streamline the application process.

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