Is Lifeguarding The Right Summer Job for Your Child?

Lifeguarding Is a Great Job, But It's Not for Everyone

teen boy lifeguard looking over lake
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If your child loves summer, the water, and being in charge, lifeguarding might be the perfect job. Being a lifeguard on a beach or at a pool can be a deeply rewarding experience.

What Does It Take to Be a Lifeguard?

Lifeguarding is not an "off the street" kind of job. That's because a lifeguard is, quite literally, guarding lives. An untrained, unprofessional, or inattentive lifeguard could mean the difference between life and death.

With that in mind, here's what's required:

  • Excellent swimming skills. Potential lifeguards will be tested on their abilities to swim a significant distance, tread water for long periods, and handle tricky swimming situations (waves, quick drop-offs, etc.).
  • Life-Saving credentials. Most lifeguard jobs are available only to those who are credentialed in life saving through an accredited organization such as the Red Cross or the YMCA. Earning such a credential is not simply or easy: you must be able to safely use lifesaving equipment and actually pull a struggling adult through deep water to the shore.
  • CPR and First Aid training. All lifeguards must know how to apply basic CPR (chest compression and mouth-to-mouth) and understand some medical basics. They must also know how to apply first aid when required -- which could include anything from a band-aid to a tourniquet to an epi-pen.

In addition to these requirements, a lifeguard must be capable of staying attentive and focused on the waterfront for long periods of time, even when the experience is boring-- and even when friends or family come by and want to chat.

 

Finally, a lifeguard must have the emotional stamina to cope with angry parents and kids who want to swim in deep water, roughhouse, fight the current, and otherwise engage in dangerous play.

Lifeguarding Pros:

  • The Great Outdoors: A lifeguard is one of the only jobs that allows employees to wear bathing suits and flip flops on the job. Even better, rainy days can mean a day off.

  • Responsibility: Kids learn a lot about responsibility when lifeguarding. They are within their rights to discern whether a certain activity is safe and are authorized to take action as they see fit.

  • The Pay: Working as a lifeguard is often more lucrative than many other jobs for kids.

  • Exercise: Lifeguards need to be proficient at swimming and must exercise to stay in shape

Lifeguarding Cons:

  • Temporary: Unless you live in a warm climate year round or can find a job at an indoor pool, lifeguards are not needed all year long. Kids will have to find another part-time job (part-time or on weekends, since they will be in school) or activity once the swim season is over.

  • Not enjoying the beach: For a lifeguard, time on the beach is not time for fun. Lifeguards must scan the beaches to make sure everyone is safe. They do have some time to interact with others, but their primary goal while on the beach is to ensure everyone's safety. After 4-5 hours in the sun that can be a little tiring.

  • Emergencies: There is a possibility that your child will be called to rescue someone. If the outcome isn't successful, you child could experience trauma. 

What Kids Learn About Money

  • Training: To be a lifeguard, one must be certified. Your child may have to pay for lifeguard training, although some employers provide it onsite.

  • Variable Pay: Some children may be offered an hourly, weekly, or full season salary. However, it's often impacted by the rainy days off.

  • Incentive Pay: If paid per hour, they may receive extra financial incentives to work past their shifts in the form of overtime pay or other bonuses.