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Head Lifeguard Duties and Responsibilities

While the day-to-day duties of a head lifeguard are determined by their employer, there are many core tasks associated with this role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these may include:

Oversee Safety A head lifeguard constantly observes swimmers in their jurisdiction, protecting their safety, making sure rules are followed, giving first aid, and using the rescue techniques prescribed by the American Red Cross when needed.

Organize Aquatic Activities Head lifeguards organize and oversee various facility events. These can include swimming lessons, parties, swim team competitions, and more. The head lifeguard ensures a staff lifeguard is present to observe activities for the full duration of an event.

Train Staff Head lifeguards may be expected to conduct weekly in-service trainings, evaluate and give instruction to lifeguards to improve techniques, and perform CPR audits.

Maintain Swimming Facilities Head lifeguards may be expected to keep the facility they work at clean and up to safety standards. This may include adding chemicals to a pool according to safety guidelines; ensuring beach paths are clear of any hazards; and maintaining the trash and locker room areas.


Head Lifeguard Skills and Qualifications

As strong and confident leaders, successful head lifeguards think proactively on their feet to resolve any issues that may arise. They thrive in high-stress environments. Additionally, employers prefer candidates who possess the following abilities:

  • Swimming – head lifeguards must be extremely strong swimmers. They are expected to swim well even in undesirable conditions, such as strong currents and rip tides. They are also expected to swim strongly while pulling or carrying another person
  • Communication skills – it’s crucial that head lifeguards communicate issues or emergencies to peers and management clearly and effectively to ensure an individual is brought back to safety as soon as possible. Head lifeguards are also expected to answer any questions or concerns that patrons may have
  • Organizational Skills – it’s expected that head lifeguards maintain records and reports regarding daily attendance, water quality and condition, and incidents and accidents
  • Observation skills – head lifeguards constantly scan their work area to detect safety concerns and practice preventative lifeguarding

Head Lifeguard Education and Training

No formal education is required to become a head lifeguard. However, previous experience is typically required, and lifeguards are expected to maintain current certifications for CPR, first aid, automatic external defibrillator (AED), and oxygen administration. Hands-on training, especially for specific rules and facility protocols, is typically offered by employers. Candidates are usually expected to pass a timed physical fitness test.


Head Lifeguard Salary and Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups lifeguards with other recreation workers, who earn a median hourly wage of $11.80. The BLS also notes that many recreation worker positions are part time or seasonal, so actual earnings may vary based on the length of the season and number of shifts a lifeguard works. The BLS expects recreation worker employment to grow 9 percent by 2026 and notes that the seasonal and temporary nature of this field contributes to frequent job openings.


Helpful Resources

There are many helpful resources available for those interested in careers as head lifeguards. Please review the links below for valuable information and the latest industry news:

American Red Cross Lifeguarding: Manual – designed to simplify learning, this manual reinforces key points from the American Red Cross lifeguarding course

Lifeguard Training Activities and Games – this book is a complete resource for aquatics managers or lifeguard supervisors responsible for conducting site-specific on-the-job training for lifeguards. The compilation of games, skill drills, activities, and guidance enhances the training and conditioning of lifeguards and creates a high-performing staff

Lifeguard Training: Best Career Tips and Practical Advice from a Top Lifeguard – this book is a complete introduction to becoming a lifeguard, getting the best jobs, and enjoying a responsible, fun, and healthy career. It’s ideal for those looking at summer jobs for lifeguards, jobseekers thinking about training to be a lifeguard, and anyone keen to know more about possible career opportunities

American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification – lifeguard certification is a vital step in finding a job in this field, and the Red Cross offers classes throughout the year in a variety of settings