Sport and leisure

Career outlook for lifeguard

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would keep people safe at swimming pools, beaches, rivers and lakes. You’d take charge in emergencies and rescue people from drowning.

You’d observe and supervise swimming areas to prevent accidents. You would make sure swimmers are aware of dangerous situations and avoid hazards.

You’d need to be able to concentrate for long periods and act calmly and decisively in emergencies. People in an accident might be scared or panicking so you’d calm them down and communicate with them as clearly as possible.

As a pool lifeguard you would:

  • Patrol the edge of the pool or watch the swimmers from a chair raised up on stilts at the poolside
  • Advise swimmers about using the diving boards and slides
  • Stop behaviour which could be dangerous
  • Look out for swimmers who get into difficulties
  • Give first aid
  • Use life-saving techniques in emergencies
  • Check water temperature, pH and chlorine levels
  • Set up pool equipment

As a beach lifeguard you would:

  • Be a point of contact for people on the beach
  • Advise people where and when they can swim safely
  • Supervise users of beaches and inland waterways
  • Monitor sea conditions and set up appropriate safety flags
  • Make sure people stay in safe areas
  • Give basic first aid if necessary
  • Use life-saving techniques in emergencies

Sometimes you would tell people to stop breaking the safety rules; you’d need to be tactful and polite but also firm.

Working conditions


As a full-time lifeguard, you would usually work around 37 hours a week, including weekends, evenings and public holidays. There are lots of opportunities for part-time or casual work. As a beach lifeguard you would work seasonally, between May and September when the beaches are busy, and usually only during daylight hours.


You could either work at an indoor pool or at a beach, river, lake or outdoor pool.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Positive attitude
  • Taking responsibility
  • Making decisions
  • Risk taking
  • Self esteem
  • Attention to detail
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Cooperating
  • Empathising

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You would need a lifeguard qualification:

  • the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) from Lifesavers, the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS)
  • or the level 2 Certificate for National Rescue Standard - Pool Lifeguard (NaRS PL) awarded by the Swimming Teachers' Association.

Every candidate attending a NPLQ course must be 16-years-old at the time of taking the NPLQ final assessment. Once you gain a lifeguard qualification you must renew it every two years. 

To be submitted for a renewal assessment you must provide written evidence of having completed a minimum 20 hours lifesaving, CPR and first aid training within the two year validity period. Ongoing training should be provided by employers.  

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths 
  • Physical education
  • Health & food technologies
  • Science subjects such as human biology

You will also need

To be a strong confident swimmer.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that demonstrate physically fitness (particular swimming ability), helping customers and the ability to deal with emergency situations such as Skills for Work Sports and Recreation (SCQF level 4/5).