How to become a lifeguard: Lucia's story

Meet Lucia, 17, from Sussex. She's a lifeguard at a swimming pool at King's Leisure Centre. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Lucia smiling at the camera.
"I’ve had to learn how to deal with people in stressful situations."

What is your job?

I watch the pool most of the day. I clean and occasionally I make rescues. When I first come in, we do a sweep of the building to make sure everything is safe and clean. You can lifeguard from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, until someone comes to cover you. We look after the whole building here.

What skills do you use in your work?

We have to do a course to become a lifeguard called the NPLQ, which I did when I was 16. You don’t have to be the most amazing swimmer – as long as you have the right techniques, you’ll be fine. You need to make sure you’re on time, because if someone has been on shift for an hour and a half, then you need to be ready to take over! Communication is really important. I used to be quite shy before working here, but now I’m fine speaking to people! Teamwork is also crucial because you have to rely on everyone in your team, especially during rescues.

What are you studying in school?

For A-levels, I’m doing Spanish, PE and Psychology. I was also doing Biology but, with everything else I was doing, it was too much!

How did you get into your job?

I saw an advert for the Level 1 Swimming Teaching qualification and I took the course here. The instructor on the course is a duty manager at the pool and she offered me the lifeguarding job. I shadowed a few shifts before I got started. I now do swimming teaching here too. I can’t be on my own yet, but I can be with a Level 2 teacher. I am hoping to do a Level 2 Swimming Teaching qualification.

Was this a job you always knew you wanted to do?

I’m part of a swimming club, and when I was younger, I remember seeing the lifeguards singing in the changing rooms and I thought: "I want to be part of that!"

You hope to be a paramedic in the future – how does being a lifeguard feed into that?

A lot of this job is about helping people, and we’re First Aid trained here. One of the rescues I made was someone having a seizure in the water, so I’ve had to learn how to deal with people in stressful situations.

Lucia on duty on the lifeguard chair.
Lucia is on duty from thirty minutes to an hour and a half at a time.

Top tips

  • I think this is a good ‘deciding job’, because there are a lot of elements to it and there are a lot of skills you can pick up. Even if, like me, you have a different career in mind long term, you can learn so much from being a lifeguard

  • Jobs like this can boost your confidence. Mine has given me the courage to speak to people – if I had been interviewed for this article a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do it

  • Just do what you love. I love being here, because it makes me happy - and I’m getting paid for it.

What to expect if you want to be a lifeguard

Lifeguards look after swimming areas, help swimmers to stay safe and carry out rescues in emergencies.

  • Lifeguard salary: £13,000 to £29,000 a year
  • Lifeguard working hours: 30 to 40 hours per week. You may need to work evenings, weekends and bank holidays
  • Typical entry requirements: You may be able to work as a pool attendant or assistant, for example in a leisure centre, and take lifeguard qualifications on the job. You can complete a leisure team member intermediate apprenticeship to get into this role. To get onto an apprenticeship, you'll find it useful to have some GCSEs (or equivalent), usually including English and Maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship. If you want to work as a pool lifeguard you'll need one of the following qualifications: National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ), Level 2 Award for Pool Lifeguard
    To be a beach lifeguard, you'll need to complete the National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ).
    You can complete the qualifications by joining a local club as a volunteer and training with them or training with a professional body. Once you're qualified, you can also apply to work with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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