A lifeguard is a person who maintains safety for people enjoying a body of water, generally at a pool, ocean beach, river or lakeside, or water park. A lifeguard is generally an employee of the area, and as a result requires a lifeguard certification to be hired. Lifeguards must have certain basic skills and knowledge to ensure that they can best look after the wellbeing of all swimmers at a specific location.
There are seven distinct forms of lifeguard certification within the United States, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Each form is generally accepted by employers as being a valid recognition of certain basic skills. The American Red Cross, the Starfish Aquatics Institute, the Boy Scouts of America, the National Aquatic Safety Company, the YMCA, the City of Los Angeles, and Jeff Ellis and Associates all offer a form of lifeguard certification. Of these, the American Red Cross most likely has the most recognized name and certification, and many people choose to attend their Lifeguard Training Program if they are pursuing a career in a competitive region. Those looking for work in Los Angeles or nearby environs, however, may find the certification through the City of Los Angeles to be preferable, as it is generally recognized as the best lifeguard certification in the region.
The first steps to getting a lifeguard certification are to obtain the base line first aid certifications. A First Aid course is a must, with courses offered through the American Red Cross in most locales. Next, you’ll want to follow this up with a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), through either the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Any other wilderness first aid or aquatic first aid classes you can find will give you a deeper body of knowledge to draw from in your later work.
Physical fitness is an important part of being a lifeguard, and before actually pursuing a lifeguard certification many people take time off to ensure they are fit. Swimming regularly is, of course, a must, and swimming with weight to work on building muscles needed to haul unconscious people out of the water is an excellent idea. Building strong endurance and a comfort level with the water will ensure that you are able to deal with the high-stress situations that can arrive while service as a lifeguard.
Once you have your preliminary certifications and feel like you are in shape, you are ready to take your actual certification. Classes are offered in most regions, especially through the American Red Cross, and they focus on all of the basics of being a lifeguard. Skills taught include the fundamentals of water rescues and how to handle emergencies, and how to best observe to spot dangerous situations as they are occurring. More advanced classes are often offered as well, and although these may not be necessary to receive a lifeguard certification, they can make you a better lifeguard, and are highly recommended by most organizations.