A career as a lifeguard may have become more popular thanks to Baywatch, but we're sorry to tell you, it’s not just running across a sun-kissed beach in a bright swimming costume rescuing beautiful people.
You need to be fit, focused and ready to carry out first aid in an emergency. So, with that in mind, could you be a lifeguard?
So, what will I actually be doing?
In a nutshell, it's your job to watch over people to ensure they're safe in the pool or at the seaside, and going in to rescue them if they get into trouble...you're like a swimming superhero.
Lifeguards in the UK are either based in leisure centres and private clubs or at beaches and water parks. Duties are likely to include:
- Supervising swimmers
- Spotting hazards and preventing accidents
- Giving advice on water safety
- Controlling unruly behaviour
- Water rescue
- First aid including CPR
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The nitty gritty
Ideal if you want to avoid the mundane 9-5 routine, lifeguards usually work in shifts as swimming sessions at pools and beaches operate from early in the morning to late in the evening, although weekend work is also common.
You're certainly never be alone during your shifts, as working as a lifeguard is very sociable. Not only will you be in a team with other lifeguards, but you'll also have lots of contact with the public.
What's next on the lifeguard-shaped career ladder? Plenty of leisure centre managers started off as lifeguards and worked their way up. Or you may want to become a swimming or fitness coach.
Money, money, money
Lifeguards bring in around £11 - £13k per year. You'll get paid hourly, so can expect to earn between £6 - £9 per hour.
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The good points...
“I get to meet and work with many interesting people,” says Ian Prosser, lifeguard and technical officer at Royal Life Saving Society UK. “I like helping customers stay safe and enjoy themselves at the same time. Working as a lifeguard enables me to keep fit and to progress to other roles within the leisure industry.”
...and the bad
“The job can be boring when the pool is quiet and sometimes scary when the pool is very busy.”
Is there study involved?
“We are highly trained in resuscitation, first aid and water rescue skills,” says Ian. To learn these skills and qualify as a lifeguard you need to have successfully passed the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) awarded by the Royal Life Saving Society. To enrol on the course you need to be at least 16 years of age and be able to meet certain criteria, such as being able to:
- Jump/dive into deep water
- Swim 50 metres in less than 60 seconds
- Tread water for 30 seconds
- Surface dive to the floor of the pool
If the poolside isn't for you, and you're looking at working down the beach instead, you'll need to take the National Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NBLQ) and meet criteria such as:
- Jump/dive into deep water
- Swim 400m in a recommended time of eight minutes
- Run at least 400m
Alternatively, you could take the NaRS (National Rescue Standards) Pool Rescue Programme awarded by the Swimming Teachers Association, the NaRS Beach Lifeguard qualification or the Surf Life Saving GB qualification (SLSGB).
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
You’ll need to be energetic, approachable and calm under pressure to be a great lifeguard. Also, if you're not the biggest fan of the public, you'll hate this job, so stay clear if you're not very sociable.