Becoming A Lifeguard: What You Need To Know
Working as a lifeguard can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience--especially for those who love helping others and enjoy spending time at the pool or beach. However, not just anybody can be a lifeguard. In the United States, lifeguards must be at least 15 years of age and be certified in order to have legal working status. If you're considering a job as a lifeguard, there are also some other things you'll need to know and do before you can don your whistle.
Before you pursue certification as a lifeguard, make sure that this job is right for you. First of all, understand that you don't necessarily need to be a great swimmer right off the bat; you'll learn to improve your swimming skills during your certification training. However, you should at least be able to swim short distances and keep yourself afloat. Furthermore, make sure you're comfortable with the salary you'll be receiving as a lifeguard. Most lifeguards are paid hourly, but the hourly rate can vary greatly depending on where you work. Typical hourly pay for a lifeguard in the United States, however, ranges between $7 and $12 per hour.
Once you've decided with confidence that working as a lifeguard is right for you, it's time to get certified so you can get hired. There are many different courses you can take to earn your certification; the American Red Cross, for example, offers a renowned course that will teach you patron surveillance (how to detect signs of distress among swimmers), rescue skills, victim assessment, CPR/AED, and how to handle victims with potential head, neck, or spinal injuries. Once you've successfully completed a lifeguarding course, you'll earn your certification from the instructor(s) and can begin looking for work.
What to Expect
Once you begin working as a lifeguard, be prepared to work long hours in potentially uncomfortable situations (extreme heat, humidity, rain, etc.). Also, understand that your role won't always be that of a lifesaver; you may also be assigned to complete other tasks around the beach/pool, such as removing trash, enforcing safety rules on the premises, cleaning up vomit or other bodily fluids, and even disinfecting bathrooms. In other words, being a lifeguard isn't always a glamorous job, but it can be a lot of fun--especially when you take into consideration all the great people you'll get to meet and work with along the way.