Lifeguard Certification Requirements

The 3 Lifeguard Certification Requirements

There are 3 certificates that you will need to become a lifeguard.  You will be required to renew each of these when they expire:

  • Basic Lifeguard Training
  • CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer
  • First Aid

Some classes, such as the lifeguarding courses through the American Red Cross, cover all 3 of the certifications and will generally be valid for 2 years.

Course lengths are usually about 25 hours spread out over a scheduled number of days or weeks.

If your lifeguarding course does not offer first aid or CPR/AED training, you will need to take these classes elsewhere.  For example, the American Heart Association offers CPR certifications and you can take a first aid class by itself at the American Red Cross.

The Swim Test

These are the typical swim test requirements for American Red Cross courses, but please note that this information could vary from school to school and even within branches of the Red Cross.  If you can do the below test, we’re sure you’ll be fine for pretty much any basic lifeguarding class!

If you can answer yes to the following questions about the swimming test, you should pass this portion of the lifeguard certification requirements.

  • Can you swim for 300 yards without stopping using the following 3 strokes in this order and with the proper form?
  1. Front crawl (freestyle) for 100 yards
  2. Breaststroke for 100 yards
  3. Either the front crawl or the breaststroke for the final 100 yards
  • Can you pass a test in which you must retrieve a weight from the bottom of the pool and can you do this within the 1 minute, 40 seconds time limit?  It begins with you in the water.  You must swim for 20 yards using either the front crawl or the breaststroke.  Then you must complete a surface dive in order to “rescue” a 10 lb weight that is 7-10 ft below the water’s surface.  Once the weight is retrieved, you must swim back to the point where you started (a distance of 20 yards) and then get out of the pool without using steps or a ladder.

A standard pool length in the United States is 25 yards which means that you’ll have to swim 12 pool lengths total (each stroke is 4 lengths) for the 300 yard endurance test.  Olympic-sized swimming pools are about double the size of a standard swimming pool and are measured in meters.  They are 50 meters long which is approximately 54.68 yards.

If you’re looking to get a certification as a “Waterfront” Lifeguard for lakes, rivers, and non-surf beaches (see Types of Lifeguard Certifications for more information), the requirements are a little more rigorous with the swim test.  In addition to the weight retrieval test, you will generally be required to swim 550 yards total:

  • 200 yards of front crawl
  • 200 yards of breaststroke
  • 150 yards of front crawl, breaststroke, or a combination of both

For more information about you can expect to learn during the course, check out some of these pages:

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