written by
Team Propel

How to Become a Lifeguard and Swimming Instructor

Teach 5 min read
Lifeguard watching a swimmers in a waterpark.
This could be you in no time at all.

Are you interested in becoming a lifeguard and swimming instructor? Have you been researching what courses to take or how to apply for aquatics jobs? Ever wonder how private instructors make $45k/year working just 16 hours a week? If so, then we made this resource just for you!

In this article I’ll teach you how to become a lifeguard and swimming instructor in four easy steps. Within a few minutes you’ll learn how to get the experience you need to land your first job. As a bonus, you'll also learn how to fast-track your way to the highest paying job in aquatics and earn more than your managers all within a few years!


1. The Path to Become a Lifeguard and Swimming Instructor

2. What Skills and Courses Do I Need?

3. How to Get Experience and Apply for Jobs

4. The Biggest Secret to Getting Hired

BONUS: How to Start Teaching Private Swimming Lessons

The Path to Become a Lifeguard and Swimming Instructor

A graph shows the trajectory various paths you can take to become a lifeguard or swimming instructor.

The path to becoming a lifeguard and swimming instructor is relatively simple. You’ll start by signing up for the certification courses that all lifeguards and swimming instructors are required to have. These courses may seem like an expensive investment but they will pay off in the long run when you land a high paying job. Once certified, you should consider getting some volunteer experience, especially if you have never had a job before.

Once you’ve landed your first job, your pay and shift options will be tied to your level of seniority. These tend to increase slowly with time or the number of hours you've worked. After you’ve worked for at least one year, you should consider teaching your own private lessons. You can even do this while you continue at your current job. Platforms like Propel provide everything you need to get started including access to local private pools, insurance, a booking page, along with a steady stream of potential clients.

What Skills and Courses Do I Need?

Before you can get a job in aquatics you’ll need to get properly certified. As a general pre-requisite, you will need to be a good swimmer.

It’s important to know that unless you are qualified as both a lifeguard AND a swimming instructor your chances of getting hired are slim. That said, since facilities make money by running courses, they’ll often tell you to take every possible course to “improve your chances of getting hired”. To save you some money and keep you from taking courses you’ll never use, we’ve set aside courses that should be considered optional.


All of:

  1. Bronze Medallion
  2. Standard First Aid & CPR-C
  3. Bronze Cross
  4. National Lifeguard

Swimming Instructor

One of:

  1. Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Instructor
  2. Lifesaving Society Swim Instructor
  3. YMCA Swim Instructor


  • Lifesaving Instructor
  • First Aid Instructor
  • Examiner Courses
  • Aquafit*

*Aquafit is in high demand and can help get you a job much faster.

How to Get Experience and Apply For Jobs

A woman is teaching swimming as a volunteer to get the experience required to become a lifeguard or swimming instructor.
Volunteer instructors practice under the watchful eye of a manager.


Having already certified, you will know the principles of safe lifeguarding and swim instruction but without real world experience, most employers will not hire you. To get more experience, apply to shadow a current staff member so that you can watch how they put those learned principles into action. After observing for awhile, you should be able to start guarding or teaching, usually under the watchful eye of a manager.

Throughout this process you should be asking for feedback about how you are doing and relaying that into a conversation about when you’ll be able to start in a paid position.


Applying to aquatics jobs is just like applying to any other job. Make sure you create a resume that is well formatted, free of spelling errors, and highlights that you have all the necessary certifications. Feel free to drop by your local pool or swim school with printed copies of your resume and ask to speak to a manager if possible. This approach is much better than just handing in your resume and hoping for the best.

If you can't meet managers in person, then your next bet is to engage with them online. Check out the aquatic networking groups below and watch for job opportunities that managers post there. After applying for a job, make sure you follow up with a comment on their post asking relevant questions. This will allow you to start a dialogue with them and demonstrate your genuine interest in the position.

Most public and private pools have one large hiring once per season. If you miss the cutoff for a season, apply anyways and ask when you can expect to receive a follow up. If you do get a call back, you will likely need to attend a job interview and a wet screening. These will be opportunities for managers to get to know you better and test your abilities in the water.

Apply Again, And Again

If you don’t receive a callback or you don’t get offered a job after a wet screening, don’t give up! Ask the management for feedback about your performance and let them know that you intend to work on it. Then re-apply each season. If they say that you lack the necessary experience, ask if you can volunteer teach or guard to make up for it.

While persistence is important to getting hired, so is proximity...

The Biggest Secret to Getting Hired

Swimmers whispering secrets about how to become a lifeguard or swimming instructor.

Like any industry, landing a job can be less about what you know and more about who you know. If you've been applying to online job postings, asking relevant questions, and engaging with the aquatics community at large, then the next time a manager is desperate to find coverage for a shift, you may be the first person they reach out to.

Vancouver Aquatics Network (Greater Vancouver)

Toronto Aquatics Network (Greater Toronto)

These two communities are jam packed with essential resources like job postings, volunteer opportunities, social events, and community discussions about the aquatics industry in your city! Becoming an active member in these groups is a great way to get involved in your local aquatics community and get to know the very people you will be working with once you get hired.

How to Start Teaching Private Swimming Lessons

Many people eventually stop working as a lifeguard and swimming instructor to pursue a full time career after college. Instead of throwing away the skills you’ve taken several years to learn, a much better option is to starting teaching private lessons as a side gig.