A lifeguard sits in his tower and looks out at the ocean

How to Become a Lifeguard

Lifeguards carry a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, so naturally the training and certification process is quite demanding. Some lifeguards choose to only use their certification for a summer job, while others turn it into a rewarding career. No matter which path you choose, here are the steps you need to follow to start saving lives.

Train your body.

Swimming on its own requires a considerable amount of strength and energy, and lifeguarding requires even more.  You will obviously need to be a strong swimmer to be able to rescue swimmers in need, but you will also need to train your body out of the water. Running, lifting weights, and other exercises will help increase your stamina and speed in the water.

Take a swimming class.

You may have taken swimming lessons when you were a child and learned all of the correct techniques, but you may have forgotten some of the details by now. It’s a good idea to take a class with a professional to make sure your technique is correct, and if it’s not, they can help you improve it.

Take a lifeguarding course.

Courses are frequently offered at your local Red Cross, YMCA, or other swim schools, so check around to see what course fits your schedule and your budget. These courses usually last around six weeks and will teach you CPR, rules to follow, warning signs to watch for in swimmers, how to effectively and efficiently perform a rescue operation, and more.

Practice on your own.

To increase your chances of success, you will also need to practice everything you are being taught outside of class. Memorize the safety protocols, practice using the safety equipment (like the tubes and buoys so you are more comfortable with them), and most importantly, keep up your routine of swimming every day to stay in shape and keep up your technique.

Take the lifeguard certification exams.

You will be required to take a two-part exam, written and physical, to determine if you have the skills necessary to become a lifeguard. For the written portion, you will be tested on surveillance techniques, victim assessment, CPR, care for head, neck, and spine injuries, and general swimming safety protocol. Physical tests can vary by location, but most require you to swim at least 300 yards, tread water for two minutes without using your arms, hold your breath for one to two minutes, and dive to a depth of 10 feet.

Find a lifeguard job.

Call around to your local water parks, swimming pools, or beaches to see if they are hiring. At the beginning of the summer, lifeguards will be in high demand, so try to complete your training before then. You can also check out a website that advertises lifeguarding openings, such as or

Last Updated: July 08, 2024