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Summary of occupation

Lifeguards look after the safety of people in aquatic environments, such as beaches, swimming pools and some amusement parks. Lifeguards perform a variety of roles in addition to providing rescue services to swimmers in danger. They may also take part in programs to educate the public in water safety, identify potential hazards and take appropriate action to minimise the danger, care for lost children and maintain the condition of rescue equipment.

ANZSCO description: Looks after the safety of people at beaches or swimming pools through accident prevention and rescue, and educating the public on water safety. This occupation requires high levels of physical fitness, sporting ability and personal commitment as well as, or in place of, formal qualifications or experience. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Lifesaver, Pool Attendant
Specialisations: Pool Lifeguard, Surf Lifeguard
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A lifeguard needs:

  • a high level of physical fitness
  • to be able to work well in a team environment
  • to enjoy working outdoors
  • to be able to remain calm in an emergency situation
  • to be observant, and able to identify risks and hazards in and around the water.
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Working conditions

Most lifeguards work outdoors, in all weather conditions, ranging from extremely hot conditions to cold and windy. Some pool lifeguards work at indoor pools, where it can become very humid. Lifeguards generally work long hours, which includes early mornings, evenings and weekends, and especially during peak seasons, such as the Christmas holidays.

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Salary details

Earnings for lifeguards can vary depending on their level of experience, the demand for their services, and the seasonal nature of their work. As a lifeguard develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase. 

Contact your preferred place of employment, such as  an aquatic centre or a lifesaving club, to find out more regarding current salary conditions.

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Tools and technologies

All lifeguards, regardless of where they are working, make use of general first aid equipment and wear easily identifiable uniforms (though pool lifeguard uniforms vary between individual venues). Lifeguards working outdoors also require appropriate protection from the sun, such as hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.

When carrying out general maintenance duties, pool lifeguards use water-testing equipment, lane ropes and cleaning equipment. Some surf lifeguards use specialised vehicles to assist in patrolling beaches and carrying out rescues - these include, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), surf-skis and small power boats. They also use the distinctive red and yellow flags to mark out areas of water that are safe to swim in, and two-way radios to keep in contact with other lifeguards.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a lifeguard you need to obtain special certifications from the relevant body.

To become a pool lifeguard you need to complete a Pool Lifeguard certificate issued by the Royal Life Saving Society – Western Australia, and hold a current Bronze Medallion Certificate.

To become an ocean lifeguard you need to hold a current Bronze Medallion, and complete courses in Provide Advanced Resuscitation Techniques, Provide Emergency Care for Suspected Spinal Injury, Basic Beach Management (Silver Medallion). You will also need to have a current driver’s licence (provisional or higher). You may also require a motorised rescue craft licence.

Ocean lifeguards require this additional training in order to be able to deal with the unique challenges posed by working in a dynamic and changing ocean environment. Ocean lifeguards also require a high level of physical fitness and are required to undertake a fitness assessment.

Contact Royal Life Saving Society of Australia, the Australian Lifeguard Service or Surf Life Saving WA for more information.

To complete any lifeguard training you must be at least 17 years old and hold an Apply First Aid certificate.

To work with children in Western Australia, you must obtain a Working with Children Check issued by the Working with Children Screening Unit of the Department of Community Services.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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Related links

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Pool lifeguard Video Pool lifeguard Occupation

A pool lifeguard must have knowledge of water safety, first aid, resuscitation and rescue techniques and public safety requirements.

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