How do I Choose the Best Lifeguard Classes?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2019
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There are many things that you should take into consideration when choosing lifeguard classes. Your current knowledge base, the type of lifeguarding you hope to do, and the availability of courses are all a concern. Smaller communities may not offer multiple locations for lifeguard classes, but larger areas typically offer choices through the Red Cross and adult education classes. Some pools even offer lifeguard classes to ensure that they have lifeguards available when the swimming season starts.

There are two general classifications of lifeguarding certification, a shallow water lifeguard, and a certification for both shallow and deep water. Shallow water rescuing is less intensive than deep water, but includes the same first aid and rescue requirements. The testing often covers both shallow and deep water rescue, however, if the participant does not pass the deep water part of testing, they can still earn shallow water certification.

For people who are already strong swimmers, a short course that covers the specific skills necessary to become a lifeguard may be ample. The course typically ensures that swimmers can cover the basic swimming requirements, such as swimming 300 yards (274 meters) continuously, and the ability to complete a 7 to 10 foot (2-3 meter) surface dive and retrieve a 10 pound (4.5 kilogram) brick. The instructor will also teach general first aid skills, stabilizing a victim on a backboard, CPR, and the use of an automated external defibrillator.


People who are less confident with their swimming may choose a more intensive course that focuses on teaching the swimming skills that are most used by lifeguards during a rescue. They include the front crawl and the breast stroke, as well as slide in and jump in entries. These classes also cover the same first aid and rescue training as the less intensive lifeguard classes.

Those interested in working on the beach will require more intensive training, and may be interested in an open water training course. Open water lifeguarding certifications are much more demanding, because of the ever changing conditions in the water. These lifeguard classes will prepare applicants to swim 500 meters in 10 minutes or less, and provide Red Cross first-aid and CPR training. They may also offer SCUBA certification, which is required in some open water lifeguarding positions.

For many people, the more intensive classes are beneficial, even if they are strong swimmers. The atmosphere of a lifeguard certification test is different from casually swimming with friends or even competitive swimming. Swimming-intensive lifeguard classes provide you with an opportunity to practice the exact scenario used during the lifeguard certification process.



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