Types of Lifeguard Certification

While planning your career as a lifeguard, you’ll need to be aware of the different types of lifeguard certification.  Each prepares its students for a different lifeguarding environment with various difficulty levels.  Before you enroll in a certification course, it’s best to first decide on the aquatic setting where you want to work.  Then you won’t have to pass another course to get additional qualifications later.

The American Red Cross offers four types of lifeguard certification and many other aquatic facilities offer similar areas of specialization, especially if they are a Red Cross certified institution.

  1. Lifeguarding – This is the certification you need to work at a typical pool.
  2. Waterfront Lifeguarding – This certification is for nonsurf, open-water areas like lakes, ponds, and rivers.
  3. Waterpark Lifeguarding – This will qualify you to work at waterparks.
  4. Shallow Water Attendant – This is the least demanding of all the courses and only allows you to work in water environments that are up to 4 feet deep.  Some examples include kiddie pools, winding rivers, zero-depth pools, or the shallow pools at the bottom of water slides

You’ll notice that none of these types of lifeguard certification qualify you to work at a beach.  Beaches are called “surf” environments and the Red Cross’s “Waterfront Lifeguarding” course only prepares you with the skills to supervise “nonsurf” bodies of water like rivers and lakes.

Becoming a surf lifeguard is more demanding than being any other type of lifeguard because the surf environment has dangers not present in any of the other water environments.  As a beach lifeguard for example, you will need to have a knowledge of rip tides and currents that can easily overpower swimmers if they wander into dangerous areas.

If you think that you’re up for the challenges of working at the beach, you’ll need to look for a program that specifically certifies you in surf lifeguarding.  These courses are a little more difficult to find because the majority of training facilities do not have the resources to offer them.

If you are interested in becoming certified in the surf water environment, then you can probably find a local school through the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA).  They have a page on their website with USLA certified agencies that are all over the country.

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