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Becoming a lifeguard in the UK

Careers Advice

Becoming a lifeguard is a route to a fulfilling job that could lead to you saving someone’s life one day.

Lifeguards are an integral part of the staff at a swimming pool. They keep an eye on everything happening from poolside and are qualified to intervene if a person is in trouble.

Roles are often available on a full- or part-time, seasonal or casual basis, and this flexibility means lifeguarding can be undertaken as a career choice or alongside other commitments.  It’s possible to work flexible hours to fit your home life or other commitments, keep active during retirement, or earn whilst studying at college or university.

For many, becoming a lifeguard provides an excellent foundation for a career in the leisure industry. Many pool managers began their professional careers lifeguards.

The life skills learnt can be widely used and transferred to other jobs. Becoming a lifeguard is an excellent career choice at whatever stage of life

Becoming a lifeguard: first steps

All public swim sessions will have a lifeguard on duty so why not ask them if you’re curious?

Alternatively, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) has lots of information on their website.

Becoming a lifeguard: qualifications

Qualifying to work as a lifeguard is a relatively simple process.

The RLSS National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) is the most widely recognised lifeguard qualification in the UK & Ireland and is a requirement for most lifeguarding jobs in the country.

The core course duration for becoming a lifeguard is 36 hours. Once completed, candidates will be fully qualified to work as a pool lifeguard in the UK and Ireland.

Requirements for qualification

  • You must be 16+ years of age at the time of taking the final NPLQ assessment.
  • You must be able to jump / dive into deep water, swim 50 metres in less than 60 seconds, swim 100 metres continuously on front and back in deep water, tread water for 30 seconds, surface dive to the floor of the pool and climb out unaided without ladder / steps and where the pool design permits.

Courses are held nationwide – click here to find out more on the RLSS website.

Becoming a lifeguard: costs

Training costs for becoming a lifeguard can vary from between £200 and £300 depending on the provider and location.

Funding is available for some courses – speak to the course provider to find out more information.

And once I’ve qualified?

Once you’ve completed your National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ), you’re fully qualified and ready to find a job as a pool lifeguard. So head over to our jobs page and look out for vacancies.

Does my NPLQ mean I can work as a beach lifeguard?

No, if you want to work as a lifeguard at a beach, there is a separate qualification in the UK – the RLSS UK National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ).

You can search for courses on the RLSS website here.