Swim InstructorSwim Instructor

What is it like to be a Swim Instructor or Lifeguard?

What to Expect

Being a swim instructor can be a very rewarding job, but a stressful one. If you are more inclined to teach, becoming a swim instructor might be better suited, but if you are more disposed to watch out for the safety of others, a lifeguard role may be the better position.


Either way, if you enjoy being in the pool all day, learning new skills, and helping children, teenagers, and adults learn to be comfortable while staying safe in the water, then this is the profession for you!


Instructor Certification


Becoming a swimming instructor requires certification. The YMCA offers lifeguard and aquatic safety training, and the Red Cross offers swim instructor certification.

Skills you might learn during this training include water safety at public and backyard pools and natural bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, rivers, or oceans.

You will also learn basic safety, such as survival and swimming skills, to help people gain water competency. Hydrodynamics is part of the lesson too, such as why some things float and others sink, and the resistance to movement/creating movement in the water.


Lifeguard Training


Generally, to be a lifeguard or an aquatic safety assistant, it is recommended to be at least 16 years of age. The YMCA training course includes certifications in CPR/AED, Basic Life Support, First Aid, and Oxygen Administration.

You will also be trained in equipment-based rescues for aquatic environments, accident prevention, and decision-making skills to prepare for the job. Be prepared for both performance and written tests before being awarded the certification.



Tips and Tricks


While this job may be rewarding and fun at times, it can also be challenging. Here are a few tips and techniques to help.

  • Focus on safety. Learning water safety and the proper technique is the most important part of the job. If the swimmer learns proper technique and gains knowledge of water safety, then you have successfully done your job.
  • Be patient. It can be frustrating or scary for new swimmers to be in or around the water so much. Try to see it through the eyes of the swimmer, and how new everything looks to them. If you are patient and use a firm voice with positive reinforcement, there is nothing the swimmer won’t be able to accomplish.
  • Have fun. After you’ve taught water safety and proper swim techniques, making the pool a fun place to be is important for the swimmers. Have fun in the water, play games, and encourage play among friends to teach new swimmers how enjoyable an afternoon at the pool is.


Overall, while there may be challenges as with any job, being a swim instructor or lifeguard is a rewarding and fun profession.  The YMCA is a great place to get your lifeguard or swimming instructor certification, and if you are interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity, check out our program listings.

YMCA of Greater Cincinnati