How Old Do You Have to Be to Be a Lifeguard

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By Jacob Maslow

Becoming a lifeguard is a rewarding job for young individuals, providing them with valuable life skills and the opportunity to make a difference in their community. Aspiring lifeguards must be prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with the position, including ensuring the safety of swimmers and responding to emergencies.

The minimum age requirement for lifeguards varies depending on the organization or facility and local laws and regulations. In some cases, prospective lifeguards may be eligible for certification and employment as young as 15. However, lifeguards must commonly be at least 16 years old to pursue certification and job opportunities. Meeting the appropriate age threshold is just the beginning, as candidates must also successfully pass a series of tests and training courses to become certified.

In addition to age requirements, other qualifications and skillsets are necessary for prospective lifeguards. These include strong swimming abilities, completion of lifeguard certification courses, and capabilities in first aid and CPR. These qualifications ensure that lifeguards are well-equipped to handle the demands of their role and provide a safe environment for all.

Lifeguard Age Requirements

General Age Requirement

The minimum age requirement to become a lifeguard in the United States is 15 years old. This standard is set according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which contains child labor provisions that determine when and under what conditions minors can be employed. However, it is important to note that age requirements may differ by state and specific employer requirements.

Differences by State

New York (NY): In New York, the minimum age requirement to work as a lifeguard is 16 years old. Potential lifeguards in NY must complete a specific lifeguard certification program and are subject to lifeguard competency tests and additional training.

New Jersey (NJ): In New Jersey, the minimum age requirement to become a lifeguard is also 16 years old. Like in New York, prospective lifeguards must complete relevant certification programs and meet local and state requirements, which may include additional training and passing specialized tests.

In some states, the Department of Labor offers work permits for minors who want to start working early in occupations such as lifeguarding. However, it is important to consult the state regulations and employer requirements before pursuing a career as a lifeguard at a younger age.

Overall, the minimum age for lifeguards tends to be higher in densely populated states or states with stringent labor laws. Aspiring lifeguards should always research local and state requirements to ensure they are eligible to work in their desired location.

Lifeguard Training and Certification

Lifeguard training and certification are crucial in ensuring the safety of beachgoers, pool visitors, and other water enthusiasts. The training covers essential skills such as lifesaving techniques, CPR, first aid, and using an AED. The American Red Cross is a well-known organization that offers lifeguard training courses in the United States.

American Red Cross Courses

The American Red Cross offers several lifeguard certification courses tailored to match the specific needs of different aquatic facilities. These include:

  • Lifeguarding: This course teaches essential skills in water rescue, CPR, and first aid for both pool and waterfront lifeguards.
  • Shallow Water Lifeguarding: Targeting lifeguards working in water depths up to 5 feet, this course covers the necessary skills for shallow water environments.
  • Waterfront Skills: Building upon the standard lifeguarding course, the waterfront skills module prepares lifeguards for open-water environments such as lakes and ocean beaches.
  • Waterpark Skills: Focused on lifeguards working at waterparks, this course delves into the unique challenges and skills required to ensure safety in waterpark facilities.

The American Red Cross courses also feature a blended learning option, which combines online and in-person training for added convenience and flexibility.

Additional Certifications

Beyond the primary lifeguard certifications, lifeguards often need other certifications to be optimally prepared and comply with local regulations. Some of these additional certifications include:

  • CPR/AED: Lifeguards must have up-to-date CPR and AED certifications, as they are responsible for administering emergency care in case of cardiac incidents.
  • First Aid: A critical component of lifeguard responsibilities is administering first aid for injuries and illnesses that can occur in aquatic environments.

Lifeguards should continuously update their skills through recertification programs and regular practice. Most courses require a swimming test to assess participants’ skills, ensuring that they are physically capable of performing rescues and other lifeguarding duties.

In conclusion, proper lifeguard training and certification are vital to ensuring the safety of those enjoying water-based activities. Lifeguards need to maintain their skills and certifications to manage aquatic risks effectively.

Workplace and Job Opportunities

Aquatic Facilities

Aquatic facilities provide lifeguard jobs across various community settings. These facilities can offer both full-time and part-time positions and are often considered great summer job opportunities. Aquatic facilities typically have seasonal hours, which can vary depending on the location and type of facility. Employers at these facilities require lifeguards to hold appropriate certifications and may also prefer those with prior experience.

Water Amusement Parks

Water amusement parks offer lifeguard jobs with a unique work environment. These parks typically provide seasonal hours, making them an attractive summer job option for many. Lifeguards at water amusement parks are responsible for monitoring a diverse range of pools and attractions. These employers often seek candidates with strong swimming skills, lifeguard certifications, and experience working in high-pressure environments.

Traditional Swimming Pools

Traditional swimming pools, such as those found in schools, community centers, and private clubs, also offer lifeguard job opportunities. Depending on the facility, these positions may be seasonal, part-time, or full-time. Lifeguards at traditional swimming pools are responsible for supervising swimmers and ensuring a safe environment. Employers generally require a lifeguard certification and value candidates with prior experience in aquatic settings.

In summary, lifeguard jobs can be found in various environments, including aquatic facilities, water amusement parks, and traditional swimming pools. These positions offer valuable summer job experiences and often require certifications and relevant experience.

Skills and Requirements for Lifeguards

Swimming Abilities

A crucial skill for lifeguards is excellent swimming abilities. They must be able to swim efficiently and quickly to perform rescues. This includes mastering various swimming strokes, such as the front crawl, breaststroke, sidestroke, and backstroke. Lifeguards must also complete a timed swim test, typically covering a specific distance in a limited time. Maintaining endurance and strength in the water is essential to ensure successful rescues.

Maintaining Water Safety

Lifeguards are responsible for enforcing water safety rules and regulations at their facility. This can include:

  • Monitoring the pool or beach area for hazardous conditions
  • Observing swimmers closely
  • Handling emergencies and providing first aid
  • Communicating effectively with patrons

They are also required to hold a valid lifeguard certification. This certification involves completing a comprehensive training program covering water rescue techniques, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and first aid procedures. Regular recertification is necessary to maintain up-to-date skills and knowledge.

Preventing Drowning Incidents

Preventing drowning incidents is a top priority for lifeguards. They must be vigilant in observing swimmers and identify any potential drowning risks. Some strategies for drowning prevention include:

  • Enforcing the use of life jackets for weak swimmers or in specific water conditions
  • Educating patrons about water safety and the risks of drowning
  • Recognizing and responding to signs of distress, such as panicked behavior, gasping for air, or struggling to stay afloat

By combining their swimming abilities, emphasis on water safety, and drowning prevention strategies, lifeguards play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of those they watch over.

Additional Information

Young Lifeguard Initiatives

Many organizations have initiatives to encourage teenagers to become lifeguards. These initiatives highlight the important role that young lifeguards can play in ensuring the safety of swimmers. These programs often provide training and support for young people with a drive to learn and master the skills necessary to become effective lifeguards. Additionally, teenagers can gain valuable work experience and interpersonal skills as lifeguards.

Organizations Offering Lifeguard Courses


The YMCA is one organization that offers comprehensive lifeguard training courses. These courses are designed to help individuals develop the necessary skills to ensure the safety of swimmers in various aquatic environments. YMCA lifeguard courses often include:

  • Classroom sessions: Trainees will attend first aid, water safety, and CPR classes.
  • Practical training: Trainees will participate in hands-on training sessions where they practice rescue techniques, proper use of equipment, and other essential skills.
  • Written exam: Upon course completion, trainees must pass a written exam to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of course materials.

With a strong focus on providing quality lifeguard training, the YMCA prepares its students to respond to emergencies in aquatic settings confidently.


How old do you have to be to be a lifeguard?

In most cases, one has to be at least 15 years of age to qualify for lifeguard certification. However, age requirements may vary depending on the organization providing the certification and the specific lifeguard position sought.

What are the basic requirements to be a lifeguard?

To become a lifeguard, candidates must:

  • Be of the minimum age required by the certifying organization
  • Possess strong swimming skills
  • Complete a lifeguard certification course, such as the American Red Cross Lifeguard Training or the YMCA Lifeguard Certification.
  • Be certified in CPR and first aid

Some facilities may require lifeguards to undergo a background check and obtain further certifications, like a water safety instructor or pool operations certification.

Which organizations offer lifeguard certifications?

Some well-known organizations that offer lifeguard certifications include:

  • American Red Cross
  • YMCA
  • Ellis & Associates

Candidates should research local certification providers and choose one recognized by the facility where they plan to work.

How long does it take to become a certified lifeguard?

The time required to complete a lifeguard certification course depends on the specific program, but most courses are typically completed in 25-40 hours. Some organizations offer accelerated courses or blended learning options with both online and in-person components.

How long is a lifeguard certification valid?

Lifeguard certifications typically remain valid for two years. To maintain their certification status and skills, lifeguards should renew their certification through a recertification course before expiration. Recertification courses often require fewer hours than the initial certification training.

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