How to become a lifeguard
You can get into this job through:
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
- training with professional bodies
You can complete a leisure team member intermediate apprenticeship to get into this role.
To get onto an apprenticeship, you'll find it useful to have:
- some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
You may be able to work as a pool attendant or assistant, for example in a leisure centre, and take lifeguard qualifications on the job.
If you want to work as a pool lifeguard you'll need one of the following qualifications:
To be a beach lifeguard, you'll need to complete the National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ).
You can complete the qualifications by:
- joining a local club as a volunteer and training with them
- training with a professional body
Once you're qualified, you can also apply to work with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
You may find it helpful to have a first aid qualification when applying for jobs.
You can find out more about training to be a pool or beach lifeguard from:
Dream Job: Lifeguard
Guardian Angels of the Sand
Next time you’re out strolling the beach, stop and take a good look around. For up beyond the sand and surf, you – and everybody else out there – are being watched. Not by some sneaky Big Brother, but by the tan hardbody in the red trunks. From a small post tower, a lifeguard peers through binoculars, anticipating the inevitable. And no matter what dangerous predicament we get into, this guardian angel of the sand is there to fish us out.
Life Guards in Los Angeles form a division of the County Fire Department, made up of highly trained men and women who protect the coastline. Or perhaps, more accurately, protect beachcombers from themselves. More than 60 million people visited L.A. County’s 31 miles of beaches last year, and thanks to the brave efforts of on-duty lifeguards, about 12,000 rescues were made. Although the work is far from the silly glamor of Baywatch, there’s still no other job they would rather do.
Captain Steve Mosley has been a lifeguard for 20 years, yet like many others, he didn’t choose it as a career initially. “I became a lifeguard to help pay for college,” Mosley said. “I figured I’d do it for two or three years, then I was going to go get the big financial job.” Which is exactly what he did. After graduating, Mosley worked in property management, but still couldn’t escape the lure of the beach.
“I’ll never forget the moment. I was stuck on the freeway, on my way to deal with these burned-down crack houses. It was hot, I was in a coat and tie…I looked over and saw these kids with boogie boards and ice chests, and just then the surf report came on the radio. It said ‘it’s as good as it’s going to get; if you’re not here, you’re an idiot.’ And I thought, he’s right, I am an idiot. So, I dealt with all my problems, then went back to the office and quit.”
Mosley’s been a lifeguard ever since. He started as a part-time seasonal, as most lifeguards do. Over the years he moved up the ranks to his current full-time position.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Every September, LA County holds a 1,000-meter ocean swim, basically the lifeguard’s equivalent of an entrance exam. Of the 200 to 300 people who compete, only the fastest 80 swimmers are chosen. The physical aspects to the job are so demanding that only someone highly skilled in the water can make the cut. From there, applicants take a series of tests, including written and physical fitness. Fifty are chosen to enter the academy, where they undergo an intense 10-day, 100-hour training course before being assigned to their post.
Training covers how to spot and make a rescue; how to enforce city ordinances, such as patrolling alcohol use; missing children; watercraft distress; and most importantly, first aid. Lifeguards must have extensive knowledge of first aid, including CPR. Many are Emergency Medical Technicians and the county encourages this by offering a higher rate of pay to those who have certification.
Seasonal lifeguards make anywhere from $16 to $20 an hour. Full-time lifeguards, known as permanents, make up to $27 an hour. A permanent oversees a couple of miles of beach, and other lifeguards assigned there. A captain oversees a group of permanents. “It’s a lot like being a fireman or policeman, in that you have great job benefits, great retirement, and good worker’s compensation,” Mosley said. “It’s also a job that encourages you to stay in shape.” Every June all lifeguards go through a recertification process to make sure their skills are up to par.
Danielle Yardley is one of 580 part-timers in LA County who patrols LA beaches during the summer. For Yardley, a 24-year-old high school teacher during the rest of the year, this is certainly a dream job. Despite her swim team and water polo background in college, it took her three years to beat out hundreds of others in the ocean swim to qualify for the rigorous training academy.
Yardley’s eight-hour shift begins with setting up her tower and checking the conditions for the day. Her main task is to watch and make sure every person in her area is safe. Some days are busier than others. “On Memorial Day, I had 11 rescues,” she said. “All day long I was trying to move people out of dangerous situations.” But for Yardley, that is its own reward. “It’s exhausting to have days like that, but a lot of people went home having had a great day at the beach, not knowing the danger they could have been in,” she says.
Although the job is physically and mentally demanding, one look at the orange sun sliding into the Pacific makes it all worthwhile. “It doesn’t feel like a real job,” Mosley said. “I’ve been doing this since 1981, and I still keep wondering when I’m going to have to wake up, put on a tie and go to work!”
So if you can swim fast and dream of a job that’s a day at the beach. . . dream on!
The average wage for a lifeguard in the United States is around
Lifeguards earn an average hourly wage of $10.33.
Salaries typically start from $7.86 per hour and go up to $13.56 per hour.
67% below national average ● Updated in 2019
Lifeguard earnings by seniority
Approximate values based on highest and lowest earning segments.
Lifeguard salary by state
|State Name||Average Salary|
|District of Columbia||$37,570|
How do lifeguard salaries compare to similar careers?
Lifeguards earn 6% less than similar careers in the United States. On average, they make less than janitors but more than cashiers.
Source: CareerExplorer (Aggregated)
Average Lifeguard Hourly Pay in South Africa
Avg. Base Hourly Rate (ZAR)
The average hourly pay for a Lifeguard is R53.68
What is the Pay by Experience Level for Lifeguards?
An early career Lifeguard with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of R32.00 based on 25 salaries. A mid-career Lifeguard with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of R55.96 based on 10 salaries. An experienced Lifeguard with 10-19 years of …Read more
What Do Lifeguards Do?
A lifeguard is responsible for ensuring swimmers' safety and well being in swimming environments such as public pools and beaches. Lifeguards hold a physical job that requires the ability to swim and perform rescues for individuals in distress. Proper knowledge of AED, CPR and similar life-saving techniques is needed; proper first aid skills are mandatory, as is lifeguard certification. The lifeguard's environment is predominantly outdoors with the exception of indoor swimming pools. Coworkers …Read more
This data is based on 11 survey responses. Learn more about the gender pay gap.
Common Health Benefits
Wage lifeguard minimum
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