How to Become a Lifeguard
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How to Become a Lifeguard


TYR Lifeguard Swimsuits

So, you want to be a lifeguard? Whether you're looking for summer work between classes or to make a career where you're out of the office and in the warm sun, lifeguarding can make for very rewarding work. However, being a lifeguard is more than working on your tan. Like the name says, you are literally guarding swimmers' lives. As such, there is a fairly demanding training process that you must complete before you can wear the red swimsuit.

To see if you have what it takes, read on!

Step One: Decide Which Lifeguard Certification You Want

While it seems like “lifeguard is a kind of catch-all term, there are actually different types of lifeguards and different types of certifications required for each. Before enrolling a course, you need to first decide which type of certification to get:
  • Lifeguarding - The most common type of certification, where you can work at pools.
  • 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.
  • 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 beachfronts with surf, like the ocean. 
Note: The names of certification types vary by location and by company offering the certification. 
For Surf Lifeguarding, the process is far more rigorous than that of the other four, and can only be done at specialized centers. 

Step Two: Enroll in a Certification Course

Now that you know what kind of lifeguarding you want to get into, you need to enroll in a certification course. The American Red Cross is the most well known organization for this, but other organizations such as Ellis and Associates and Nasco Aquatics offer certifications as well. However, the American Red Cross certification is for two years, while Ellis and Nasco is for one. 
 
Depending on where you get certified and from what company, the course length can vary. Generally, it is between 15 and 30 hours. Some courses are even online! Cost of the courses can vary as well, but you're looking at between $100 and $300 dollars, generally. 
 
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.

Step Three: Pass a 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.
 
For a Typical Lifeguard Test:
Note: The following describes a typical test and may vary depending on your certification location.
 
You must be able to swim 300 yards without stopping according to the following guide:
  1. Freestyle (or front crawl) for 100 yards.
  2. Breaststroke for 100 yards.
  3. Either Freestyle or Breaststroke for 100 yards.
For information on how many lengths of a pool that is, see our article How Many Swimming Laps are in One Mile?

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.
 
For a Waterfront Lifeguard Test:
Note: The following describes a typical test and may vary depending on your certification location.
 
You must be able to swim 550 yards without stopping according to the following guide:
  1. Freestyle (or front crawl) for 200 yards.
  2. Breaststroke for 200 yards.
  3. Either Freestyle or Breaststroke for 150 yards.
For information on how many lengths of a pool that is, see our article How Many Swimming Laps are in One Mile?
 
You must also be able to complete the brick 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.
 
For a Surf Lifeguard Test:
Note: The following describes a typical test and may vary depending on your certification location.
 
You must perform a long-distance swim in the ocean or other surf-environment, generally 500 meters in 10 minutes. 
 
You must also be able to complete the brick test, which consists of the following:
  • Start in the water without goggles.
  • Swim to where a 10-pound brick or some other weight has been deposited.
  • Surface dive to retrieve this brick.
  • Swim back to where you began, keeping the weight above water.
  • 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.
Once you are certified for Ocean Lifeguarding, the training does not stop there. You will likely be required to participate in further training on the job, consisting of:
  • Long-distance runs.
  • Long-distance swims.
  • Paddling in a kayak.
  • Weight training.
You will also be expected to maintain your lifeguarding knowledge and skills including:
  • Practice rescues.
  • Patron surveillance.
  • Review of unsafe water conditions and rip tides.
 
If you're up for the challenge, go for it!

Step Four: Get a Job

Once you are certified, the hardest part is done. Now you need to find a job. Ask around at your local community centers and pools, or, if you are certified, seek out the local water parks. Using job hunting sites like Indeed.com may be useful as well. 
 
If you have surf certification, look for ocean breaches that have lifeguards posted and see how to get a job there. 
 
While you will not need to supply your own equipment, such as rescue cans or rescue tubes, for your work, you may need to buy your own lifeguard specific swimsuit. This will vary depending on the job. If you need a swimsuit, we at SwimOutlet.com have plenty to choose from!

Step Five: Take Your Job Seriously and Enjoy the Work

Lastly, remember that you are guarding lives, first and foremost. Your job is to ensure that everyone at the beach enjoys their time and remains safe. That's not to say you can't work on your tan while you work, but you must remain vigilant at all times. People depend on you, after all. 
 
If you think you have what it takes to be a lifeguard, go for it! Lifeguarding is a great summer job or a full-time career, very rewarding and comes with plenty of fresh air to enjoy. Just don't slack off and you'll be fine. 
 
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