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Last Updated: April 25, 2022

Lifeguard Certification

Lifeguarding is mostly a seasonal profession or a summer job that one can easily do if they are willing to learn the safety aspects of being in the water and other lifesaving skills. Aspiring candidates will be able to take a lifeguarding program along with programs for CPR and AED to get certified as a lifeguard. This will allow them to work in water parks, beaches, public and private pools, etc. based on their comfortability level in the water body of their choice.

Getting certified as a lifeguard will also require one to have soft skills apart from swimming and diving expertise. Since the profession includes patient communication and calmly dealing with emergencies, one will have to remain composed at all times. They might be required to stay in the sun for hours and mainly work during weekends and other public holidays instead of weekdays. The certification programs that are offered now are either fully in the offline mode or they are provided in a blended mode.

Eligibility and Requirements

The eligibility requirements to enroll in a lifeguard certification program are mostly based on the age of the candidate and their swimming expertise. Before one can fully register for the program, they will be required to take a pre-registration test where they will have to show their excellence in swimming and diving. The requirements include-

Popular Lifeguard Certification Programs

A few of the most popular lifeguard certification programs include-

American Lifeguard Association

With a history of 30 years, this association provides lifeguard certification to people who wish to work in places like beaches, water parks, and swimming pools. They provide training not only in groups but also to schools, individuals, universities, etc. This association covers lifeguarding courses, training programs, and classes that come with two separate certifications. The two different certifications offered are for shallow and deep waters with only strong swimmers being allowed to opt for the latter.

The Shallow Water Lifeguard Certification is relatively easier when compared to the one in Deep Water since one is only required to swim for 50 yards straight for the former instead of 300. Candidates who enroll for Deep Water Lifeguard Certification but could not pass the strenuous requirements will be provided with the Shallow Water Lifeguard Certificate if they pass all other parts of the training. Candidates will mostly learn rescue skills, caring for the head, neck, & back injuries, CPR/AED, and first aid as part of the training.

The cost for first-time Lifeguard Certification with CPR/AED and first aid is $285 whereas the recertification costs only $185.

Local YMCA

This non-profit association focuses on providing lifeguarding programs to students who wish to be lifeguards and professional rescuers. They will be taught to react appropriately in aquatic emergencies by training them in CPR, AED, oxygen administration, and first aid. The main turfs that this program covers include water pools, lakes, beaches, water parks, and rivers.

They have different home branches which provide lifeguard certification programs and students will be able to find the YMCA in their city or state while applying. For instance, the lifeguard certification programs offered in Greater New York can be taken by candidates by applying for the pre-test that is scheduled from time to time. This program is offered free of cost as a spring session and a June break session both of which have virtual and in-person classes.

The YMCA programs offered differ from one branch to another with the course description and course components being set by the respective branch. While some of these programs are offered free of charge, others can cost between $200 to $600 based on the branch at which it is offered.

The American Red Cross

This is the best place for one to take a lifeguard program. They provide programs for lifeguarding and lifeguard management with the latter being most popular among candidates. The Red Cross also has programs for basic swimming and water safety that students can take up. They provide both offline programs and programs in the blended mode.

The lifeguard training here includes both CPR/AED and first aid which are all common and important parts of lifeguard training. They will also learn about injury prevention, victim assessment, cardiac emergencies, etc. as part of the program. The fee for the lifeguard management program which is offered online is $120.

United States Lifesaving Association

This is a non-profit association that provides lifeguard programs both nationally and internationally. The programs they provide are for agencies and not individuals. These programs include Lifeguard Agency Certification Program, Aquatic Rescue Response Team Certification, Personal Rescue Watercraft Certification, and Lifeguard Emergency Vehicle Operations Certification.

Most of the programs here are for ocean/open water which will require excellent swimming ability, health, and fitness, along with other CPR, AED, and other medical aid. The cost for each of these four certification programs is $500.

International Surf Lifesaving Association

They offer lifeguard certification programs for both agencies and individuals. The programs they provide include Basic Open Water Lifeguard Certification, 1-Day Lifeguard Workshops Certification, Intermediate Open Water Lifeguard Certification, and Advanced Open Water Lifeguard Certification. They also offer first aid, CPR, and AED courses separately. The course duration is dependent on the program and ranges from 6 to 30 hours.

Candidates who wish to take the Basic Open Water Lifeguard Certification will need a valid CPR & First-Aid certification since it is not part of the Lifeguard Certification program. The cost of the programs varies from one another.


This non-profit organization offers certifications that are accepted in all the states and territories of the US. It is also accepted by the UN Multinational Peace-Keeping Forces along with various pools, water parks, and even swim schools. They provide separate programs for Shallow pools, Swimming Pools, Waterfronts, and Deep Pools based on which the requirements change.

This association also offers group courses to agencies that they can use to train their instructors. The programs have a home-study option that candidates can take before they enroll in the instructor-led training. The cost of the program ranges between $199 to $239. The cost for recertifying oneself is only $99.

Taking Lifeguard Certification Online

Most of the lifeguard certifications programs are offered in a blend mode where students will be able to study the theory parts of the program online. They will be required to fulfill the prerequisites including continuously swimming for 300 yards, treading water for 2 minutes, etc. as the course suggests. After this, they will be able to take the online program where they will be able to learn from training videos and lectures. Once they have completely watched and read all the necessary material, they will be able to take an online test.

A few programs also provide an at-home study session that students can do online after which they will be allowed to be part of an instructor-led program. Such programs aim to ensure that students have understood the theoretical aspects of the program well enough before attempting the practical. If a blended program has a total duration of 30 hours, around 7 hours will be provided for online learning.

Lifeguard Certification Validity and Recertification

The validity of lifeguard certification programs is for 2 years with sub-programs like Basic Life Support generally having validity of only 1 year. Certified lifeguards will have to renew their license before the expiration of their current license or within the grace period offered by the institute, which is usually 30 days. If they fail to renew their license within this timeframe, then they might have to take the entire course altogether.

Candidates will have to enroll in a lifeguard recertification program at the same institution they took their certificate from and retake the tests to regain the certification. Recertification programs are charged lesser than original certification programs. Candidates who wish to change the institution in which they previously enrolled will have to provide their expired certificate to the new organization of their choice and pay the cross-over fee.

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